Severna Park's fall baseball program stresses learning, not winning records

The Baltimore Sun

You always hear how playing a sport shouldn't be about winning or losing, but the Greater Severna Park Athletic Association's fall baseball program really means it.

Coaches do not record scores or victories and losses, instead keeping the program focused on teaching the fundamentals.

"Since there are no scores or standings, they are under no pressure to win games," said Ron Schuh, assistant commissioner of Severna Park baseball and director of fall baseball.

This is the fifth full season for Severna Park fall baseball, which started with a small group of children in 2002 going over to the Lake Shore fall program but became independent the following fall.

Of the 18 fall baseball programs in the county, Severna Park's is the biggest. The approximately 275 children ages 7 to 16 who enrolled get a practice, clinic and game each week. About 700 children are in the spring baseball season.

Fall baseball is considered an "off-season" program, so it's less competitive than its spring counterpart. Teaching and coaching are the big components, helping children prepare for moving to the next age level or improving their basic skills.

"It's very laid-back," said Todd Frady, commissioner of Severna Park baseball. "It keeps them involved and keeps them focused."

The Friday evening clinic has brought in some big names in local baseball, including former Orioles Scott McGregor (now the Bowie Baysox pitching coach) and Al Bumbry, as well as players on the Navy team, to work with the children.

The coaches also do their part. Dave Lewis works with 12-year-olds and uses video to go over fundamentals. He'll film hitters and go over the mechanics of batting, noting how the athletes stand in the batter's box and swing. Lewis does the same with pitchers.

"This is our biggest teaching" time, Lewis said. "We're teaching more now than we do in the spring."

The teaching helps the children start the transition to older age groups.

Various field dimensions, such as the distance from the pitching rubber to home plate, change as the kids get older, and players use the fall program to get used to those changes before spring ball starts in April.

On my team "they all came in from the 9-10 group, but they'll be 11-12 in the spring and it's good for them to learn now," said Mark Muckelbauer, who coaches an 11-12 team.

Fall baseball also opens the door to children who want to play other popular spring sports like lacrosse, Schuh said. "Now they can play lacrosse in the spring and roll to baseball in the fall; they can do both sports."

In addition, the baseball games are scheduled for Sundays so children who want to play other fall sports like football or soccer can do so without a problem, as those games take place on other days.

Schuh said the growth of the fall program continually helps Severna Park be a better feeder program to the Severna Park High School baseball teams.

But in the end, the lack of pressure has been the major factor in its growing popularity.

"This is my first season doing fall ball," Muckelbauer said. "I coached spring baseball for five years and, even as a coach, there's less pressure. You still want to make sure the players learn and advance their skill level. But the lack of pressure ... there's no harm, no foul and it probably does make their lives easier."

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