Around the horn: Position flexibility needed for youth athletes

Learning a new position on the baseball diamond produces its own unique set of challenges, even for professional athletes.

When the Detroit Tigers signed first baseman Prince Fielder in the offseason, team management knew that it would need to move perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera across the infield to third base – a position he had not played in years. Making matters worse is the fact that his weight has increased to 240 pounds, making him less mobile than he once was.

During a spring training game yesterday, Cabrera was struck in the face by a batted ball that took an awkward bounce in front of third base, causing him to bleed profusely from his cheek. He required stitches for the injury, but walked off on his own power.

While even a Gold Glove third baseman may have had difficulty handling that type of in-between bounce, this incident highlights the importance of making sure athletes practice adequately at other positions before playing them during a game.

At the youth level, players are not yet attached to one position, as even pitchers and catchers play in the infield or outfield from time to time. Coaches may need to rotate players through different positions to determine who has the tools needed to succeed at different locations on the diamond.

Parents and coaches need to make sure youth athlets have a variety of baseball gloves available for use at different positions. A first baseman's mitt, generally larger than other gloves, is unlikely to work very well for outfielders, while a youth catchers mitt will never be seen anywhere but behind the plate.

With the right baseball equipment and the skills to match these positions, players should become defensive wizards at multiple positions, giving coaches the flexibility they need to get more youth athletes in a game while still remaining competitive.

Defensive drills that will help players learn to play new positions can be found at YouthBaseballPlans.com.

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