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Experts offer tips for safety, parenting, coaching and having fun

Rocklin, Calif.- Whether you’re coaching or watching from the bleachers, there’s a lot involved in getting your child ready for baseball, whether it’s his or her first year or fifth. Bill Randell is the owner of Rocklin”s Extra Innings (now Designated Hitter), the nation’s premier indoor baseball and softball training chain.

‘The two most important things to consider with young kids and sports is to make sure they are safe and that they are having fun,’ says Randell. ‘Sports are meant to be fun, and you don’t want to ruin the enthusiasm for the game early on with injuries, bad coaching or bad sports parenting.’

Extra Innings (now Designated Hitter) was founded in 1996 by former minor-league baseball players Joe Luis and Rob Nash. Today, the company provides specialized coaching and instruction for thousands of young athletes across the country every year. Luis and Nash, along with the owners of the nearly 40 Extra Innings facilities across the country, offer the following advice to get the most out of baseball season this year:

Get the right gear

Generally, leagues only provide batting helmets and catcher’s gear, but many parents choose to buy their own. In January, Little League baseball placed a moratorium on composite bats. This means your child’s bat from last year may not be allowed this year. Extra Innings will be making regular announcements on bat regulations on Facebook. Most leagues will provide appropriate batting helmets for kids, but if you are concerned about your child’s safety, buy your own. You’re guaranteed to get a good fit and can opt for additional protection with a face guard. Visit an Extra Innings to get fitted by the pro staff for helmets, bats and gloves.

Take coaching seriously, but not too seriously

What parent doesn’t want to their kid to experience the Little League World Series? Parents appreciate coaches who volunteer their time, but they also want coaches who teach fundamentals, encourage good sportsmanship and are compassionate because the saying ‘There’s no crying in baseball,’ doesn’t always hold true in Little League. Keep in mind that Little Leaguers don’t have the same emotional IQ as a high school or college player.

Be your kid’s best cheerleader

You don’t want to be “that” parent, the one who makes their kid cry by yelling and criticizing them from the sidelines. Not only is it not healthy for your child, other parents won’t want to be around you. Keep your emotions in check and praise your child for his or her on the field performance. If you have constructive criticism, do it in a tactful way after the game and work with your child off the field before the next game.

Get proper instruction to avoid injury

Young bodies are still growing and an early injury can sideline a child permanently. This is especially true with pitchers. Tennis elbow and tendonitis of the bicep and the biceps tendon are common injuries due to poor throwing mechanics and overuse or a combination of both. It is very important for a coach or parent to recognize a pitcher with arm problems or pain. Don’t allow kids to pitch through the pain. If there is any question of injury, parents should seek medical attention and force the child to rest until the injury is healed.

Be realistic about your child’s ability

Not every kid has what it takes to make it to the Big Leagues. Many will never even play at a varsity level in high school. If your kid is determined and committed to improving his or her game, there are plenty of options for extra coaching and instruction both in season and off. On the flip side, know when not to force the issue.

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