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Timely Bunting

Most baseball players who move up to Rick Rambo’s team have never bunted before. Rambo changes that pretty quickly.

Rambo is the coach for 10U kid pitch, working with players 8 to 10 years old, for the Prosper Little League in Prosper, Texas. He believes teaching kids to bunt at 8 is the perfect age, because by then the players are coordinated. 

“I think as soon as kid pitch starts, there’s a real opportunity … to teach the kids to bunt,” Rambo said, noting that some kid pitchers are much harder to hit than the coach pitchers had been. “I think kids get up to bat and end up striking out a lot. I think giving them an opportunity to bunt gives them a chance to still get the bat on the ball and feel like they accomplished something.” 

 

Rambo teaches the same bunting technique and drills to an 8-year-old as he does to a player who is two years senior.

“The 8-year-olds really look up to the 10-year-olds, and 10-year-olds really relish that role of being the older kid on the team and the role model for the 8-year-olds,” Rambo said.

Rambo hopes that three years of engraining the bunting process in their heads gets the kids fully prepared for 12U kid pitch.

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Getting Started, Rambo Style

At the opening practice of the season, Rambo will jump right into bunting.

The first thing he teaches the players is how to properly hold the bat. When the top hand moves to the barrel, the bottom hand slides up. And “Don’t put those fingers in front, put those fingers behind the bat,” Rambo said. “I don’t want any broken fingers.”

The next step is squaring up at the plate. Kids are told to get into position, keep their feet shoulder-width apart, have their hands adjusted on the bat, and then squat. Rambo wants his players to bend at the knees, keep the bat straight, their head up and their eyes on the ball.

“What I don’t want them to do is immediately get into a bad habit of using their arms to drop the bat to get the hit,” Rambo said. “I want them to move their whole body, because that’s the most effective way to bunt. It’s not to just drop the bat down or lift the bat up.”

In warm-ups, kids grab a bat and do squats. It strengthens their quads and makes sure they stay in the correct bunting position.

During the second practice of the season, players are able to practice squaring around and having a player or coach soft toss balls directly in front of the batter.

By the fifth or sixth practice — the team practices twice a week — Rambo is having the players start from their regular batting stance, pivot on their front foot, square up and lay down a bunt.

“I don’t want the pitcher to know we’re going to bunt,” Rambo said. “A lot of coaches feel they should; I’m not one of them. I’m a bit of a rogue, I guess. I don’t believe that even at this young age they should be teaching (the kids) to walk out and square up in a bunting position.”

Rambo’s Go-to Bunting Drill

Once his players feel comfortable with bunting, Rambo implements his go-to bunting drill.

Every kid on the team heads to one of the four bases, and each base is treated as home plate. One player at each base will be on offense and another kid on defense.

The base lines and foul lines are used as boundaries, and cones are set up six feet from the lines. The offensive player attempts to bunt the ball between the line and the cone, which Rambo calls the “right zone.” This teaches the players to drop a bunt down either the first or third base line, and to not bunt directly back to the pitcher.

When the offensive player executes a bunt, the defensive player runs up and fields the ball.

“If they’re able to bunt it accurately between the cone and the baseline, then that counts as a plus,” Rambo said. “Then at the end of practice, I always give the kids brand new baseballs for the kids who have performed the best.”

From GameChanger and Greg Bates, a freelance reporter for Red Line Editorial, Inc.

 

Baseball, baseball hitting drills

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