Why the Name, Elbow Up?

Why I chose the name Elbow Up, and Reviewing the Base Path Rule

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At the risk of offending some of you, I wanted to explain why I chose the name Elbow Up for this newsletter.

‘Get that back elbow up!’

If you spend as much time at the ball field as I do (and I assume many of you do), you’ll hear this phrase coming from the stands or the dugouts quite often as a young hitter steps to the plate.

This is a microcosm of the youth baseball environment we find ourselves in today -well-meaning parents and coaches providing advice that is either ineffective, incomplete, or just wrong.

I want to emphasize well-meaning. While the name of the newsletter is meant to poke a little fun, it’s the larger issue I’ve set out to address!

Much of the instruction I hear is given to obtain short term success that is not sustainable as the child gets older and the game gets more advanced. This means short term gain, long term pain.

Please understand the best thing you can do for your child or young player is to spend time with them! I applaud EVERY parent and coach who invests their time and energy into their kids, and my primary objective is to HELP!

Instead of just repeating sound bites picked up along the way, we will seek to educate parents and coaches on the why behind the instruction, equipping them to help their young players get the most out of their experience.

What’s the Real Scoop on the Elbow?

Where the elbow is at the beginning of the swing sequence isn’t super important. Where the elbow is during other parts of the swing does matter though, so starting with a really high elbow could negatively impact those parts of the swing.

Some hitters begin their stance with their elbow in a higher position, and that’s okay.

But forcing a young hitter’s elbow higher than what is comfortable and natural can cause problems later in the swing and just doesn’t make any sense.

Think about where the back elbow goes in a really good swing (see below):

It’s certainly not up. Then why would we want to start with it up? There may be a good reason for some hitters, but generally speaking a really high starting position for the elbow will spell disaster for a young swing.

It’s not comfortable, it makes it difficult to hold a correct grip on the bat, and it requires additional movements to get the hands into a good powerful position.

While some hitters can do it and be successful, there’s no real benefit to a really high elbow.

Also, please beware of the danger of imitating Major League hitters you see on TV. Many of those guys are physical freaks of nature, and what works for them will not work for a young hitter.

We’ll cover swing mechanics over time, but I wanted to start out in Week 1 with the reason behind the name, Elbow Up.

Baseball Rules 101: The Base Path (base line)

The runner and the base path comes up almost every single tournament we play in, and is rarely interpreted correctly, even by coaches (and sometimes by umpires).

What is the base path?

The first thing you need to understand is there is no such thing as a base path or base line until a play is made on the runner.

Rule 5.09(b)(1) says:

“A runner's base path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.”

Technically, and in most cases, a runner could run all over the field with no consequence. At the time a play is made on the runner, the base path would be established.

When is the runner out?

The sentence directly before the definition of the base path says:

“A runner is out when he runs more than three feet away from his base path to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball.”

This means the base path is not necessarily a direct line between two bases. It also does not mean a runner cannot attempt to avoid a tag.

One situation where this can get tricky is in a run down, which at younger ages can get crazy.

When a runner is caught between bases and fielders have the runner in a pickle (a rundown), each time the fielders exchange the ball and the runner reverses direction, the runner has created a new base path . Each time you have this reversal you have a new base path because you have a new fielder attempting to make a tag (and therefore a new "straight line to the base"), and so you have to adjust your view of the base path accordingly.

Next time you start to yell about a runner running out of the base line, make sure

  • the base line you are referring to is the one the runner established;

  • the runner was more than 3 feet outside of that path;

  • and the runner was not trying to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball.

If you have a question about something in the newsletter, or you have a topic you’d like covered in a future edition, I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply to this email and it will come directly to me!

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Until next time, GET YOUR ELBOW UP!