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S&A Sponsors 9-Year Old H-Leaguers


            When 9-year old little leaguers reach H-League, gone are the days of being coddled with coach-pitch baseball when kid-pitch baseball is introduced for the very first time.  S&A returned for its fifth year in sponsoring youth baseball by sponsoring the H-League White Sox of the North Akron Baseball Association (“NABA”).  “H-League is the first time that little leaguers’ self-esteem will be bruised and confidence shaken”, stated Eric E. Skidmore.  Skidmore added, “To encourage the kids and promote the game of baseball, there needs to be a delicate balance between discipline, commitment, instruction and constructive criticism.”  The success or failure of striking this balance rested upon the coaching staff of these youngsters which consisted of Demetrius Armstrong, Anthony King and Mike Grimm. 


Armstrong’s (known to his players as Coach “D”), first line of business was to have the players and their families assist the NABA staff in cleaning up the baseball fields at Patterson Park Complex.  In the chill of the early morning in April 2006, the little leaguers picked up trash and raked leaves at the ball fields.  Armstrong’s philosophy was to teach our ballplayers respect and appreciation to the taxpayers for funding such a fine baseball facility.  If these youngsters appreciate the work it takes to maintain the ballpark, they would be less likely to litter during the season.


During the month of April 2006, the little leaguers practiced four to five days a week for two hours wherein Coach “D” encouraged the kids to balance baseball with their school work and that academics always come first.  Armstrong, King and Grimm donated approximately ten hours of their personal time a week to this demanding practice schedule.  If the little leaguers didn’t listen - they ran.  If they didn’t follow instructions - they ran.  If they didn’t run hard - they ran again.


“If these coaches were willing to contribute that much personal time to my son, I was going to make sure that he didn’t miss a practice.  The type of instruction that these little leaguers received was akin to attending a baseball clinic or academy”, Skidmore said.  If the fields at Patterson Park were too wet from rain, practices were conducted on the nearby tennis courts in an attempt to take advantage of all available time before the season started.


“These kids had a very concentrated level of proper baseball instruction”, Skidmore stated. The little leaguers were given detailed instruction on how to properly grip and throw the baseball; the pitching motion from the stretch; techniques of batting and weight distribution; base running at all bases; bunting; and all positions in the infield and outfield and the catcher’s position.  The youngsters were also tutored in situational play, like the bunt (with players on base), the rundown and hitting the cut-off man.  Whenever possible, parents would assist the coaching staff in conducting fielding and batting stations. “By the end of the season each of the youngsters had elevated their skills, confidence, and understanding of the game…I don’t believe I ever seen a team collectively improve like these kids did”, concluded Skidmore.