Baseball is America’s national pastime, but that doesn’t mean we’re all born naturals. Kids of all ages (and their parents) are eager to improve specific skills, and now they can learn from one of the most respected baseball families in history. Cal and Bill Ripken have written a thoroughly illustrated instructional book that clearly explains proper baseball fundamentals—hitting, fielding, baserunning, pitching, and much more.
Based on the teachings of the late Cal Ripken, Sr., a player, coach, manager, and scout in the Baltimore Orioles system for thirty-seven years, Play Baseball the Ripken Way shows players just what they need to do to be their best while maintaining a sense of fun and accomplishment with every new lesson. The Ripken Way consists of the following principles:
*Keep It Simple: Teaching that is too complicated is difficult to remember and can result in frustration.
*Explain Why: A teacher who cannot explain why is not truly teaching. Lessons that make sense will stick with players.
*Celebrate the Individual: No two players are alike, so why treat them as if they are?
*Make It Fun: The game gets serious enough quickly enough on its own. Drills and instruction should be structured so that players can enjoy themselves while learning.
The book also includes tips for parents and coaches, practice workouts, and drills for players of every level.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
1ST INNING TH E R IPK EN WAY Our Teaching Philosophy
By Cal Ripken, Jr.
There has always been something special about the game of baseball. That something is hard to define, or maybe the things that make it so special are so broad and deep that what appeals to one person is completely different from what appeals to another.
The game is complicated by the nature of its skills, rules, and seemingly endless strategies. We as people help to complicate things. We’re always trying to figure out how to do things better. Baseball, by its sheer nature, demands to be figured out. That’s the part that appeals to us.
We’ve spent our entire lives trying to figure out the game of baseball, and it continues to teach us the same way it taught our father, Cal Ripken, Sr. We have a couple of generations of knowledge and experience, from the earliest levels to the most advanced. Our whole family has a passion for the game and a deep understanding of it. We know of the simple joys and the simple fundamentals as well as the most complicated strategies and the most sophisticated instruction. We can’t say we know everything about the game (no one can make that claim), but we know a lot, and we have a great love of the game.
Before I get into the Ripken Way, because my job here is to introduce that, let me say one thing: The whole idea of having a Ripken Way bothers me a little. To me baseball is a great game that has certain rules, and the nature of the game allows us all to play it. There are no size restrictions or age limitations, and best of all there’s not one way in which you must go about playing this game. Dad used to always say that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Well, maybe this isn’t the most modern of sayings, but it’s the meaning that counts. It was a philosophy that Dad believed in, and he basically lived his life that way.
So you can see that when we talk about the Ripken Way there’s a potential conflict. On one side we’re saying that there’s more than one way to do things, and on the other side we’re implying that there’s this one way to teach and play baseball. But here’s why there is not a conflict: Part of the Ripken Way is to recognize and understand that there’s more than one way of doing things. We celebrate the differences in people; we think that makes the game better. We encourage you to tap into your own set of talents, because the goal is to make individual contributions for the good of the team. By tapping into your specific skill set, not only will you make contributions to the team, you might even make a bigger contribution to the game itself. You might change the way it’s played or the way it’s viewed. You might make it better for everyone.
If I were to explain in one sentence what the Ripken Way means, it would be this: Be yourself, be open to the experience and wisdom of others who have played the game, apply the proven fundamentals of the game, keep things simple, and remember that baseball is a game and it’s supposed to be fun. Okay, it was very hard to put that into one sentence without making it a compound sentence, and I still left out a big part of the Ripken Way. We think it’s very important to explain the why. I was a Why Kid growing up. I always drove everyone crazy by asking them “Why?” but I discovered that real learning takes place when someone explains the spirit of a decision or a lesson. Dad explained everything. He had the patience to explain because he knew the value of the explanation. We value that as well, and at our camps and clinics we encourage the kids to ask us and our instructors “Why?” If we’re teaching things a certain way, we should know why.
To give you a little context about the Ripken Way: Our Dad, Cal Sr., was a major part of the Baltimore Orioles organization for thirty-seven years, as a player, manager, coach, and scout. During that period the Orioles were considered a model organization. Because of their success over a long period of time, the Oriole Way developed. It was a formula for playing solid, fundamental baseball, but at its core it was nothing more than a lot of good baseball people doing their jobs on a daily basis. Through trial and error, and by keeping what worked and discarding what didn’t, the Orioles developed a system. The key to this system was the people. There was tremendous stability in the personnel. I remember Dad saying that for a period of seven years virtually everyone served in their same role. Dad was one of those people.
But over time, as things changed, what was once known as the Oriole Way became diluted. Dad passed on many of the principles of the Oriole Way to Bill and me and to a great many members of our instructing staff. Over the years, as Dad added his own views and philosophy from his vast experience in the game, it became known as the Ripken Way. Bill’s and my success added to the meaning of the Ripken Way—among the two of us and Dad we have eighty-eight years of experience in professional baseball, fifty of them in the big leagues—but it really came from a bunch of good baseball people, especially Dad, passing on what worked and what didn’t. We’ll take the credit on Dad’s behalf, and through the Ripken Way we’ll continue to pass on that wisdom of baseball.
The Ripken Way consists of four basic points:
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Basic lessons are critical for allowing a young person to develop a foundation on which to build. Teachings or drills that are too technical and challenging can frustrate and confuse a young player.
Fundamentals are the building blocks for playing the game of baseball at any level. If a young player has not been introduced to the fundamental skills—and has not had the opportunity to practice those skills over and over—when it comes time to introduce more advanced concepts, such as turning the double play, the player is inevitably going to struggle and become frustrated. Bill often tells our campers that he can watch teams warm up before a game and pick out which team is going to win just by watching them play catch. The team that plays catch the best will win. While that may be an oversimplification, it’s not far from the truth.
The word “play,” as in play catch, is important. You don’t go out and do baseball. You play baseball. Dad used to emphasize the playing aspect. It’s very simple: To play baseball, you need to throw, catch, hit, and run. The more you play, the better you get. Playing, by definition, is meant to be fun. Young people by nature are eager to learn and improve. With proper guidance and an emphasis on fundamentals, they will continue to improve as they play. The improvement results in a natural progression in which young players can complete more difficult and complicated tasks on the field. That success quenches their innate desire to learn and improve and keeps them coming back for more.
However, it’s not enough just to play. Without a foundation on which to build—fundamental lessons—simply playing can lead to frustration. To be successful on the baseball field, you don’t have to do anything extraordinary, though. Dad always talked about making the game look easy. If you catch a ground ball and make a strong, accurate throw to retire the batter, you’re doing your job. Because you made the “routine” play look routine, your efforts might go unnoticed. But Dad would say that you did it the right way.
Dad loved to analyze the game of baseball. He was a great thinker. Fortunately, he passed that ability on to both Bill and me. There are times when you can overanalyze and get bogged down in analysis. Dad did not analyze the game to make it more complicated, though. It was his mind-set to break the game down to its fundamental bases. His style of teaching was to reduce a complicated topic to something simple and then articulate it point by point. If you can break the game down to its simplest skills, baseball becomes easier to understand—for the eight-year-old, the eighteen-year-old, or the twenty-eight-year-old.