In a previous post, I wrote about the effectiveness of Major League Baseball defensive shifts. This adjustment has trickled down to youth baseball where defensive shifts have become commonplace in high school baseball and even in youth travel ball teams.
I recently saw a team of 11-year-olds put on an extreme defensive shift against a big 11-year old left handed hitter. Almost every player was on the first base side of 2nd base. The second baseman was playing shallow left field, the shortstop was playing second base and the third baseman was playing behind the second base bag. The hitter ended up walking but it got me to think about the value of defensive shifts in youth baseball.
At a certain age – I believe defensive shifts have become an essential part of the game but I believe we are skipping a fundamental development if we start shifts too early in youth baseball for a variety of reasons.
- Shifts involve too much on field coaching from the manager.
- Kids have not taken enough groundballs in the shifts to where they will feel comfortable fielding a ball from this new and awkward spot.
- Kids have not thrown the ball enough from these areas that managers are putting their kids in to justify positive results.
- Pitchers are simply not refined enough to throw the ball to a spot where the sift would work
- Managers simply do not have enough research on each hitter to justify their defensive shifts.
Most importantly, we have to let kids play the game. Baseball can already be confusing and by adding these shifts to a young mind might confuse them to the point where success can become limited.
Let your shortstop play shortstop. If you want to move him or her a step or two to the right or left then that is fine but don’t make a spectacle of the game. Kids are still becoming comfortable with positions and throwing angles.
Let them understand the fundamental positions on a baseball field and if they progress to the upper echelons of baseball leagues then they will be ready for defensive shifts.