Our 2015 series on learning baseball from those who teach it best continues with this week’s feature on being defensively sound…from University of Dayton coach, Tony Vittorio.

In all of sports there is a saying that states, “offense wins games and defense wins championships.”  I am a believer in this statement in the game of baseball.  Why? Because in the game of baseball, offense comes and goes as defense must stay consistent.

Let’s look at a couple of numbers.  We will use the common number of .300 for a good batting average.  What this means is that a hitter is failing 70% of the time.  As a matter of fact, these numbers state that offense goes way more than it comes.  Now, to be a good defender you must field at a .960 average.  This means that a defender is only failing 4% of the time.  So, let’s take a look at the difference between these numbers, .300 and .960.  Basically the difference between these two numbers means that we do not have much control on how the ball comes off of our bat but we do have control on how we defend.

I know that if I can control something constructive that I am in charge of controlling, then I am going to control it.  There is no substitute for hard work.  The way to control something is to work at it.  The problem exist, especially in cold weather states, that we do not control how we defend because we do not work on it enough.  Everybody wants to’ hop’ in the batter’s box or batting cage and hit, hit, hit.

Because of this, I am a firm believer that 2/3 of every team practice should be spent on individual or team defense.  I know that during individual development, whether with our coaches or on their own, that our position players are going to be working on their swing.  I know that they will wear out the batting cages in the off season and before and after practice.

To be good at anything you do, one has to be fundamentally sound.  To be great at something , you have to be fundamentally sound plus have “other intangibles.”  If one is coachable and wants to put in the necessary work to be fundamentally sound, I believe coaches can make somebody good.  It is the coach’s responsibility to teach the proper fundamentals and processes associated with the game of baseball for somebody to be good at what they do.  It is the player’s responsibility to be coachable and put the necessary work in to become good.  After this happens, and somebody becomes good at what they do, then we can start talking about greatness.

Fielding starts with an “F”.  When somebody receives an “F” in a subject in school, than that person is simply not working on the proper fundamentals to be successful in that subject.  We need to work on our fielding to be a good defensive player and to reach a championship level of baseball.

In the next article we will talk about becoming fundamentally sound from a defensive standpoint and start out with the three good “F’s” – Fielding, Funneling, and Footwork.

Until next time………………………

Tony Vittorio
Baseball Coach
University of Dayton