DEAR CAL -- Do batting gloves have any real use other than as a fashion accessory? Now that metal bats have grips already on them to help hold onto the bat and soak up some of the shock, it doesn't seem like the gloves are necessary. Plus, they're expensive!
Don Marti, Triadelphia, W.Va.
DEAR DON -- It is true that aluminum bats have grips, and I would imagine that a connection could be made between an aluminum bat grip and a tennis grip. You don't see too many tennis players using batting gloves. It comes down to a personal choice. Batting gloves do give you a better grip when you are holding a bat, so they are a function of hitting.
Years ago, a lot of big league players chose not to use batting gloves. Over time, they found that with the combination of sweat and dirt, it is critical to be able to hold the bat in such a manner that you can swing it quickly enough to get the head of the bat to the contact point
Any slip in your grip can cause you to not hit the ball squarely, so the gloves can be important. I do realize that they are expensive and the choice to use them is a personal one. But they do serve a purpose - even with aluminum bats.
DEAR CAL -- When is too much playing and practicing a problem?
Bill Kellner, Marriottsville
DEAR BILL -- The answer to this question lies in the appropriate age for certain activities. If you are talking about kids who are very young, then certainly the obsession with playing and practicing can create imbalance in one's life, which is something that should be taken into consideration. As kids get older, depending on what they are trying to accomplish, playing and practicing become necessary components of becoming good.
We all need balance in our lives. If an obsession with something begins to serve as a replacement for other things that are necessary in their lives, then parents might need to step in and correct the situation.
On the flip side, I think the establishment of a good work ethic and developing an ability to make a connection between practice and success can be very healthy.
You really have to take this on a case-by-case basis, and those who know the most about what is best for each kid are the parents. Logically speaking, if it is not creating a problem with the rest of their lives - like preventing them from getting homework done or causing them to be unhappy - then you can probably let it go. Certainly I would start by looking at the balance in a particular kid's life.
That really gets to the heart of the mental or emotional component of your question. In a physical sense, by repeating the same action, a young player can cause his or her good habits to deteriorate.
For example, after taking 400 ground balls, a kid's good form and enthusiasm might be replaced by sloppy form, which could lead to the development of bad habits. Additionally, an obsession with repeating the proper form perfectly over and over could lead to wear and tear on the body and potential injuries.
Pay attention to kids' bodies. Any time we practice, we want to practice the right way so that it carries over into the games. That goes back to my father's philosophy that only perfect practice makes perfect.
Kids should practice the proper way and build good habits, knowing that too many ground balls and too many swings can actually create bad habits.
Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.