By Jimmy Cox
School teams have one coach who directs all play, offensively and defensively. He usually sits on the bench and gives signals to the first-base and third-base coaches, who in turn pass them on to the batter or base-runner.
The head coach of a team is responsible for planning all the pre-game strategy and the tactics during the game. He makes up the lineup, placing his hitters in the batting positions he believes will bring the most runs. In planning the lineup, he must also consider which players are hitting the ball well, which players are in a slump and which players do well against the pitcher they will have to face.
Batting Order. - Most coaches stick to the same formula in making up a batting order. The No. 1 hitter is fast afoot, an excellent judge of a ball and a strike, and a player who is hard to pitch to because he is small or has an unusual stance. This player should have the ability to draw a great number of walks, thus getting in position to start his team toward a run.
The No. 2 hitter should have about the same qualifications as the lead-off man, but he should be good as a bunter and a batter who can hit to right field. A single to right field by the No. 2 batter, if the lead-off hitter is on base, most likely will result in a first-and-third situation.
The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 batters should be the power hitters. There is really not much difference in whether the No. 4 hitter should bat third, or vice versa. However, it is good policy to have your strongest batter hit in the No. 3 spot. In this way he is certain of getting up in the first inning, and over the nine innings may get more chances to bat than the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters. It's interesting to note that Babe Ruth, baseball's greatest slugger, batted in the No. 3 spot throughout most of his career.
The No. 6 hitter should be a bit stronger than the No. 7 batter since he may have more opportunities to drive in runs than the No. 7 man. The No. 8 batter is perhaps the weakest hitter in the lineup, with the pitcher following in the No. 9 position.
Many school coaches who have a pitcher who is also a fine hitter, will place the pitcher much higher in the lineup. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, particularly if the pitcher is strong and physically able to carry the hitting, as well as the pitching burden.
Signals. - Each hitter should know just when to be alert for a signal. Sometimes the situation is so obvious that the hitter automatically knows he is on his "own" at the plate.
With bases empty and one or two strikes on the batter, it's quite obvious that the coach is not going to tell him to "take" a pitch. To take a pitch means to let one go by. This signal is usually given when the batter is ahead of the pitcher in the ball-and-strike count, or if the coach wants the batter to take the first pitch from the pitcher in the hope that it will be a ball.
Don't be discouraged if you are ordered to take a pitch as you get to the plate. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, especially if the pitcher is inclined to have a little control trouble. A pitcher who gets behind in the count constantly is in trouble, and when the count gets two balls and no strikes, or three balls and one strike, you may then get the pitch which you will be able to drive out for a safe hit.
Follow your coach in all things, and your baseball will only get better!
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