30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 8 — The ‘how to’ guide, for kids of all ages

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The book: “Baseball: How To Play The Game: The Official Playing and Coaching Manual of Major League Baseball”

The author: Pete Williams

The vital stats: Universe/Rizzolui, 320 pages, $29.95.

Find it: At the publisher’s website (linked here) as well as Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: Start with page 59: “An athletic supporter and protective cup are not just necessary for catchers and pitchers. No matter where you are playing on the field — even the outfield — there’s the potential for injury. It takes just one sharply hit ball to do serious damage. Even younger male plyaes need to protect their sensative groin region by wearing both an athletic supporter and a protective cup at all times on the field.”

You gotta start with the basics. That, and a lot of nice big color photos.

It’s suprising that an MLB-endorsed “how to” book hasn’t been done sooner, but maybe there’s some liability factors involved. Considering how many players and coaches put out their own training manuals on the right way to do things, this compilation of everyone’s talent and advice into one catalogue-sized paperback makes far too much sense.

Maybe because the introduction is done by Darrell Miller (Reggie and Cheryl’s older brother, a former Angels player who now serves as director of the MLB’s Urban Youth Academy), you get a sense this is a book that will now be given to as many prospects who come through the organization’s training facility as must reading.

“Perhaps more than any other sport,” Miller writes, “baseball is a game in which the fundamental skills are crucial at every level of the game. From Little League to the Majors, the game remains the same.”

There are 18 chapters devoted to everything, and before you’re done, you’ll have enough in your head about basic fundamentals, conditioning and equipment as much as mechanics, positioning, hitting the cut-off man, framing a pitch, tagging up, video work and knowing the rules.

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A vital excerpt:

Page 266, the Angels’ Torii Hunter, on throwing from the outfield: “Before the ball is hit, you’ve got to know what you’re going to do with it once you catch it. Right before the ball is in your glove, peek and see if the runner is tagging up or going halfway. If he tags up, you’d better make a quick throw to the next base. If he goes halfway, you’ve got to hit the cutoff man.”

Simple enough?

There’s nothing really new or provocative here. But with the way it’s laid out and with key advice from those who play the game, it’s a book that a kid can’t start reading soon enough — or a coach who’s trying to know what he’s talking about.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Can someone drop off a copy of this — it doesn’t even have to be anonymous — in Matt Kemp’s locker?

Bring it out to the Little League field this weekend and see how well it goes over.

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