Local coaches strive for quality pitches in youth games

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 28, 2017

For coach-pitch softball and baseball teams around the Miss-Lou, success can rely on one thing — their pitcher.

The 7- 8-year old league common in many youth leagues gives players the chance to learn the fundamentals of the game, but can come with its challenges.

“Some of these girls are really talented and you don’t know it because of the pitching,” Luke Janette, head coach of Waste Pro in the Natchez-Adams Girls Softball League, said. “When you face a team that doesn’t have a decent pitcher, they struggle.”

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Janette has been pitching to youth players for four years, and with the help of assistant coach Brian Massey has led their team to a 9-1 record so far this season. He said between practice and games, the pitches add up quickly.

“It’s countless reps,” Janette said. “It comes out to be about 500-600 each week.”

For Brian Chandler, an assistant coach who pitches for UMB in Vidalia Dixie Youth Baseball, he sees each pitch as an opportunity.

“I feel like it is my responsibility to teach them the best I can to hit the ball,” he said. “Every kid is different, and no kid swings the same. In practice, I study where they like it. In the game you have to try to replicate it.”

Chandler, who has been pitching for three years, also said he treats the game as if its played at a higher level.

“I have to warm up every game. I can’t go out there and not have thrown,” he said. “A lot of the guys just go out there and just lob it up there. I don’t believe in that. The kids need to see the full motion.”

Another benefit of pitching, Chandler said, is it teaches players true action, as apposed to a pitching machine.

In the state of Louisiana, Dixie Youth has the choice of whether or not to use a pitching machine during the regular season, but must use a machine during postseason tournaments.

“This year when they gave the coaches the choice, it was unanimous. We all wanted to use a live arm,” Chandler said. “The kids get used to the sound (the machine) makes, and it shouldn’t be like that. It’s not doing them any favors.”

Massey agrees with the use of a live arm, and said Natchez-Adams softball has even started to pitch as young as T-ball.

“Hitting with a pitcher gets them more ready for kid-pitch, because they are used to seeing inconsistency,” he said. “With a pitching machine, they can hit it pretty much every time in the same spot. Everything is just a timed swing.”

Even with the wrinkles in each league’s coach-pitch, Chandler said he’s glad to do it.

“As long as I don’t hit them, I’m happy,” he said. “We are just trying to let them have fun with it.”