Polk: Young players should focus on basics
By By Jeff Byrd
Learning the game should be the focus of youth baseball. That's the message Mississippi State University head baseball coach Ron Polk was striving to share here at a banquet Friday night at the Frank Cochran Center for the Cal Ripken10-year-old State Baseball Tournament.
Eight of the 10 teams in the tournament were on hand to get autographed balls, pennants and baseball camps from the 34-year coaching veteran. Polk just completed his first season back at Mississippi State since returning from a two-year stint with the University of Georgia.
The tournament gets under way with six games scheduled for today at Phil Hardin Park beginning at 9 a.m. when Ripley faces Orange Grove.
Taking to the road to talk about baseball is nothing new for Polk.
"I actually do about 100 a year, when you count Bulldog Club and alumni functions," Polk said. "But I usually don't get to see these types of tournaments. What we're after is the high school and junior college kids. But I have been impressed with the interest at this level both here and in Georgia."
For Polk, the biggest reason for success for a youth program starts with the coaches.
"These are guys who are devoting their free time to do this," he said. "And this (10-year-olds) is not an easy age of kids to handle."
The basics of baseball are the keys to winning on the field.
'They need to learn the basics at this age," Polk said. "How to throw, how to hit and how to field. Don't try to get it too involved. They are too young to worry about how to turn a double play."
One of the great concerns at the all-star level for the youths is pitching.
Little League Baseball has undergone serious studies charting pitching injuries and arm soreness. The goal was to implement pitching rules that would erase or limit wear-and-tear on youths' arm.
"What they should do is go with pitch count limits," Polk said. "I know teams have an ace and they want to use him, but I believe pitch counts is the way to go. To use an inning format is not very good because you may have a kid throw 50 pitches in one inning."