Sports

Fundamentals: not fun, but vital

NOT EVERY good outfield play has to be spectacular, like Reggis Willits making this catch for the Angels back in 2007 (File photo)

Did you ever watch a football or baseball game, see some millionaire athlete blow an easy play and think (or say) to yourself, “I could do better than that!’

Well, maybe you could. We don’t mean you could dunk on LeBron and take Clayton Kershaw deep on the first pitch. You can’t, or you’d be doing it now instead of reading this.

What I mean is doing the “little things” and executing simple plays right that don’t require genetic superiority or Hall of Fame talent to accomplish.

In today’s Los Angeles Times there’s a feature by Jack Harris about Sam Suplizio who years ago wrote a 20-page booklet on outfield defense. Under manager Joe Maddon, the article goes on to say, the Angels are trying to improve their chances by playing solid, fundamental baseball.

Even Mike Trout, arguably the best centerfielder in the MLB admits he needs to focus more on those “little things” which can have a big result.

If you’ve followed slowball (our name for baseball) recently, you know what I mean. Outfielders who make a catch lazily with one hand instead of securing the ball with the second. Outfielders who bobble the ball and see it roll all the way to the wall because his millionaire teammates didn’t bother to back him up, an act of indolence that leads to untold extra bases and runs.

Suplizio’s book – here comes the pun – covers all the bases of details of outfield play from pre-pitch stance to how to hit the cutoff man. These are things that big league players were taught – or should have been taught – since Little League, but have somehow been forgotten or at least neglected by the time these guys spend a couple of seasons in The Show.

This lackadaisical approach is evident in other sports, too. How can a football player who has been smashing shoulder pads since he was in second grade keep forgetting to not line up offside.

How about all the plays that are blown when there are too many players on the field? Surely somebody on the team or on the sidelines can count to 11.

Basketball has more than its share of players who treat free throw shooting the same way one might flip cards into a hat: an amusing pastime that doesn’t really mean much.

A world of attention and cash is devoted to getting great talents in hopes of winning more games. Maybe getting more good players with great effort and smarts will get you just as much success at a bargain price.

Pete Zarustica writes “Sports Monday.” And he types with both hands.

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