How to Make a Digital First Aid Kit

I Use This: Gear Ties, Sea To Summit Ultra Mesh Bag, Jabra Drive

I have been traveling a lot lately and as I sit here in my LA Hotel room, I reflected on several things that make my road warrior lifestyle a little easier. Perhaps the most important one, is my Digital First Aid Kit

Tired of always scrambling to find a charger or cable in my backpack, I decided to get organized. I went to REI and picked up a 6.5L Sea to Summit Ultra mesh bag – think of a scuba net bag only much, much smaller. These are also called “Ditty bags” by campers and they are meant to keep small loose things organized in your backpack or rucksack. I have round they work great for cables.

The big advantage with this kind of bag is that you can see everything inside of it without opening it. What’s more, being mesh, it is stronger and less split-prone than a clear plastic bag.

Full Bag

Then I assembled:

  • one colored usb car charger
  • one colored usb “wall wart”
  • an ipad caliber usb wall charger (for fast charges)
  • Two USB to lightening adapters
  • Two USB to Micro usb cables
  • A PNY spare battery
  • Spare set of earbuds
  • Spare Aux cable

Travel Bag

And then I tie all my cables together with Gear Ties. Gear Ties by Nite Ize are extremely useful rubberized reusable twist ties. They make it easy for me to keep all my little cables together and keep them from doing the “tangle dance”.

In truth my bag has gotten slightly more cluttered with a few more odds and ends like my Jabra Drive Speaker Phone (Best bluetooth speaker phone I have ever seen. Check it out on Amazon, it has like 1200 reviews) and a spare superman led flashlight I got from Magic Mountain in California, but all in all this bag holds what I need to charge anything, any where and let me hook my phone up to virtually any rental car.

So far my favorite use for a Gear Tie is to make my cheap knock-off FitBit HR Charger work. The springs are too strong or the pins are too long so it’s always popping out and I’m too lazy to order a new cable from Fitbit itself (for $20). So one Gear Tie and voila, the cable works as intended. Cost? about 75 cents and some stubborn ingenuity.

FitBit Charger

So far having everything organized and at my finger tips has saved me countless hours of heart burn, but I think the real advantage is that now I am like an electronic medic. People are always forgetting this stuff, their batteries are always running down, they always need a charge, or a cable or a something and I usually have what they need in my travel bag. It feels good to be helpful.

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I Use This: How To Break In a Baseball Glove Fast

How To Break In a Baseball Glove Fast

Wouldn’t it be great if your young son or daughter could effortless catch a baseball?  Wouldn’t it be nice if they could catch with confidence, stepping into each throw and grabbing the ball out of the air and enveloping it in the web of their glove?  If you want your young player to catch like this, then they will need a glove that is well broken in.  In this post, I will share with you my experience in how to break in a baseball glove fast.  It worked for me every time, I believe it will for you too.

There are lots of ways to break in new gloves, but there is one way in particular that I have found to be super effective for breaking in a new baseball glove for young kids.  In this article I will show you how to break in a baseball glove fast, the right way, so your young player gets the most out of it.   A well broken in glove is perhaps the most important tool your child will need to learn to play catch with confidence.

There are three keys to breaking in a youth baseball mitt.

  1. Choosing the right kind of glove
  2. Using the right kind of glove conditioner
  3. Flexing and Fitting the glove for maximum “catch-ability”

A Glove Like Butter

To begin with, we need to know what kind of finished glove we are after.  Different positions use different gloves.  What’s more different ages, expect different things from their gloves as well.  Catchers obviously use a different glove than everyone else, but so does a first baseman.  At the high school level infield mitts are different from outfield mitts. This can all be very confusing to parents.

What we are after is a general purpose all around glove that feels soft as a fleece blanket when it’s finished. It is thick enough to protect the player’s hand, but soft enough to envelope the ball and “absorb” the ball.

The final result is a glove that is so easy to close, it is not fighting the player.  This gives him more confidence in his  ability to catch the ball.  This is what young kids need.  They need to be able to catch effortlessly, every time.

Note: At higher levels, you may hear just the opposite.  For example, high school middle infielders are taught to keep their gloves ridged like a paddle.  They rarely close their glove, trapping the ball in there like a marble in a bowl.  Outfielders in contrast use HUGE gloves, ones that are soft and designed to be like fishing nets.  This is often confusing for parents.  Here we are focused on what young kids need.  When they get older they can deal with that level of specialization.  For now we need to keep it simple.  A small, soft glove the kids don’t need to fight to close.  That is our goal.

Choosing the Right Kind of Glove

Typically, as I pointed out infield mitts are small and hard, outfield mitts are large and soft. For the youth baseball player, we are looking for two key attributes when we pick a glove. We want the right size glove, and we want the right material for quick break in.

Picking the Right Size

What we want for the youth player is a small soft mitt. We want a mitt that is just a little larger than their natural hand.  This is typically a 10 1/2 inch glove.

Why? Because most youth players are trying to transition from “grabbing” the ball with the palm of their hands, much like you or I would grab the hand rail on a boat, to catching the ball between their thumb and index finger. The web of a glove resides between the thumb and index finger and believe it or not, this is not the most natural place to try and catch something.  By choosing a smaller mitt, it is easier for the player to see the ball going into their glove the right way.

Pick a larger mitt and they lose sight of the ball, but more importantly they lose the feel for it as well. This “blindsiding” can lead to confidence problems and ultimately stifle a player’s development as they try to protect themselves when the ball passes out of their sight into their oversized mitt.

 

It is much easier, safer, and more fun to track the ball all the way into the mitt.

Glove Material

Now I have some sad news for you. No matter how good the glove is you pick, your little player will grow out of it in a year. You are lucky if a glove will last more than a season. With that in mind, it does not make a lot of sense to buy an expensive glove. What’s more, we don’t have to worry so much about what we do with the glove. This is good because the process I will show you will definitely shorten the life of the glove.

I find that the best gloves for youth sports are the Mizuno Prospect gloves with the Power Close technology. I have never had one of these gloves wear out. The Power Close is nothing more than a notch cut in the palm of the glove making the glove much easier to close.

Mizuno Power Close

However, another excellent and inexpensive choice is the Wilson EZ Catch synthetic youth gloves with the oversized basket. While synthetic gloves can feel a little cheesy, they break in incredibly fast producing a soft, supple mitt that is the Venus fly trap of mitts.

 

Once you have your mitt selected, it is time to break it in.

Glove Conditioner

The very best glove conditioner I have found for this process is Hot Glove Treatment.

It is essentially a custom mix of shaving cream, designed to bake for a few minutes in the oven.  The combination of heat and lanolins in the foam (skin softeners)  accelerates softening the vinyl or leather.

The instructions are on the can, but essentially  you warm the oven.  Then put a dish towel on a cookie sheet.  Next smear the foam all over the glove coating it completely. And finally you bake it in the oven for 4 minutes.  Then voila! Your glove is now soft as butter when it comes out.  It is also hot as a fresh boiled egg so be careful!

Forming the Glove

Once the glove comes out of the oven, here is the important part. You flex the glove like you would not believe. I even turn mine inside out inverting the pocket (not the part where the fingers go – the part where the ball goes! )

You rub in the remaining of the white foam into the glove material while you careful flex it open and closed, loosening up the leather and feeling the glove move freely.

Don’t put your hand into the mitt until it has safely cooled down!

After the glove is cooled, I repeat this process 2-3 more times (for a total of 3 or 4 runs).

Review

Just as a quick review, here are the steps:

  1. Make sure the glove is clean.
  2. Smear the glove with Hot Glove Treatment, coating it white
  3. Bake it in the oven, the  recommended number of minutes
  4. Being careful of the heat, take the freshly baked glove and flex it virtually every way you can conceive of

Finishing Up

After the last pass of loosening up the glove, I would wrap a softball inside the glove and wrap the pinky over the thumb. This creates a large pocket inside the glove and gives it a bowl shape which is more likely to direct a bouncing ball back into the pocket.

Nothing kicks a ball out of a glove faster than a flat pocket. People who don’t put a ball in their glove are ruining their gloves faster than baking them in the oven in my experience.

I have wrapped my glove with a belt, or with cellophane wrap. Anything to hold it together. I usually leave it overnight, but in truth it is ready to go immediately upon cool down. I have gone out and played catch with a glove like this as soon as it cooled enough for me to safely put my hand inside.

Summary

And that is it. If you pick the right size glove, one that is small like an infield mitt, then we can break it in to be soft like an outfield mitt, your young player will have a much easier time catching baseballs thrown to him (or her).

If the glove closes effortlessly, and it is easy for the player to track the ball into the pocket of the glove they are going to catch more balls and develop more confidence in their playing ability.

True Story: My oldest son got his nickname Spider, because when he was 6 years old, he was the only player on his team who could catch a fly ball. Spiders catch flies.

It worked for us, I hope your success is even better.

I Use This: Teach Baseball Power Hitting with Muhl Balls

One product I have used to help my team develop baseball power hitting is the Muhl Ball.

What are they?

A Muhl Ball is a heavy wait training ball designed to teach hitting power. They are 20″ in diameter, rubber coated one pound foam balls. These things are spongy – but extremely durable. The set I have now I have used for 3 years with no sign of cracking.

What do they do?

The idea of a Muhl ball is to teach a batter to hit the ball as hard as they can. If you hit a Muhl ball with a weak grip on the bat or loose wrists your bat will deflect and the ball will go no where. The weight of these things reveals swing defects that are hard to see any other way. Very often when players are “swinging for contact”, they do not drive the baseball, they just meet it. A common swing defect is players stopping as soon as they make contact. After all that’s meeting the baseball right?

But if you do that with a Muhl is will be really obvious. This means the feedback is instantaneous, which is what you want. With a Muhl ball, players learn to keep firm wrists and expect resistance when they hit the ball. I tell them, “If you can drive a one pound Muhl ball, what will you do to a 5 ounce baseball?” The kids think for a second then actually smile.

MuhlBalls

The other great thing about Muhl balls is that they don’t travel very far, plus you can catch them without need of a glove. Though be careful. As the boys get older and stronger they can really drive these things. You don’t want to catch one with your face. I find these are perfect for:

  • Batting practice at my house. I only have one cage so this gives me a another station for the boys to hit at and they stay in the yard.
  • Pregame warm ups. They don’t travel far so they don’t take a lot of space
  • Making BP more interesting.
  • They are safe enough to let kids pitch to each other, so they make a game out of it.

How do I use them?

The images show players hitting them off a Tee but one of the best hitting teams I’ve ever seen is the Stetson Hills Stealth club and they were the first time I saw them. The Stealth coaches lobbed them underhanded to batters so that’s how we have been using them ever since.

The one thing I know about baseball is the harder you hit the ball, the bigger the holes in the defense seem to get. So we have found this to be a great training aid for teaching players a powerful swing.

Where can you find them?

You can find them on Amazon. They are made by Muhl Sports Tech I’ll admit they are a bit pricey. However, over the course of the years I have found them to be a great value. You can get them at Amazon.com or via Muhl Tech Directly.