Just For Fun - Over The Line




Note to those who think conditioning for ball players is not that important: Ask pitcher Josh Hancock. The 2/20/06 issue of USA TODAY reports that Hancock, 27, was released by the Cincinnati Reds a day into spring training after the right-hander reported to camp overweight (I didnít think pitchers could be overweight!). He missed most of last season with a groin injury suffered in spring training. Hancock, 6í 3Ē and weighing 207 pounds, was 17 pounds too heavy for manager Jerry Narron. His 2005 salary was $325,000.

    It would appear that Hancock has a history of being out of shape, and it has cost him a big league job. Gee, (rhetorical question ahead) Ė do you think a regimen of strength, flexibility and conditioning would help this guy?

     And, in a somewhat related article in the July 12, 2005 USA TODAY, a front page headline reads: Childhood Pastimes Are Increasingly Moving Indoors.* The gist of the article was that more and more kids are opting to stay indoors to use their computer, the Internet, and play video games rather than fishing and other outdoor activities.

A few points from the article:

  • Children ages 8-10 spend an average of 6 hours a day watching TV, playing video games and using computers
  • There are 14 TV networks aimed at children, and the most popular show with children, American Idol, isnít on any of them
  • Since 1995, the portion of children ages 7 to 11 who swim, fish or play touch football has declined by about a third
  • Soccer participation has been unchanged in the past decade Ė about 28% of kids age 7 to 11 play the sport

This last part, to me, contains the saddest news [emphasis mine]:

  • Little League participation has fallen to 2.1 million children, down 14% from its peak in 1997
  • Overall baseball playing Ė pick-up games, catch, pickle Ė has declined nearly twice as fast

     No! This cannot be! The greatest game ever invented appears to be dying a slow death, and all of us who love this game must do what we can to stop the slide! As for how, I offer a few ideas:

      1) Parents, keep things simple. Your child DOES NOT have to be on a select travel team by age 5 to advance in the game. Any possible advantages that may accrue from an early start tend to even out with the introduction of testosterone or estrogen at puberty. Later entry into organized leagues may help slow the exodus of ball players to other activities. Perhaps by the time such ball players reach age 14 and 15, they wonít be burned out and will stick with the game.

Some numbers to consider:

ō About 5.6% of high school senior boys will go on to play menís baseball at a NCAA member institution

ō Less than 11 in 100, or about 10.5%, of NCAA senior male baseball players will get drafted by a MB team

ō Less than one in 200, or approximately 0.5% of high school senior boys playing baseball will eventually be drafted by a MLB team**

     So, parents, keep things in perspective and make sure your kids have at least a Plan B if not a Plan C and Plan D..

      2) Parents, have fun playing ball with your sons, daughters and the neighborhood kids in your yard or a nearby field. Teach them the rules and how to play, then leave them alone. If they want you to play with them, great. Itís always fun as a kid to get a hit off of an adult, or strike one out. But let them be in charge.

      3) While baseball gear can be expensive, it doesnít have to be. You can get balls, bats and gloves in good condition at low prices at used-sporting-goods stores like Play It Again. Be the mom or dad in your neighborhood who has the gear kids need to play with.

      4) I know the world has changed a lot since I was a kid, but children still need to PLAY, especially with their parents. A kidís first best coach is their own mom or dad. Many kids never progress past that level of interest and ability, which is perfectly fine. If a child wants to move on to organized play, thatís fine too. Just donít move too fast, thinking this will give your kid some great advantage over other kids his/her age. As I stated earlier, such early dominance tends to diminish with puberty.

      Iíve said all of this to get to this point Ė an introduction to the fun and useful game of Over The Line (OTL).

       OTL is a simple way for ball players to both learn the games of baseball/softball AND have fun in the process. While Iím sure some of you are familiar with this game, Iím amazed at the number of people Iíve talked to over the years who have never heard of it. It was a staple for me and my buddies growing up in Southern Cal.

A few facts about Over The Line:

  • The 53rd OTL World Championships will be played this summer on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, CA (near San Diego). The game is not new!
  • 55,000 thousand fans are expected to attend
  • 1,200 menís and womenís teams in nine age divisions will compete in double elimination tournaments of four-inning games

Benefits of this game are many:

  • Soft-toss hitting drill - Lots of at-bats
  • Ground ball fielding, ball off the bat
  • Fly ball fielding, ball off the bat
  • Defensive communication
  • Defensive field coverage is extensive
  • Lots of defensive chances

Click HERE for a diagram of the field and the rules of the game.

      As few as 4 kids can play this game. Use a softball or baseball, even a tennis or rubber ball. It doesnít take two full teams of 18 players to practice and learn the game. OTL keeps things simple, and, if all of us baseball fanatics introduce it to our kids, theyíll learn to love the game too.

      Who knows, maybe something this simple can help reverse the decline in participation at the Little League level. The real thing is way better than any video game!