August 23, 2013

Orioles Photos

Yesterday I blogged about our visit to the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, where the top juniors from MDTTC and I played most of their players. Here are the photos I promised! (I should have video of the Orioles pre-game show that featured table tennis next week.)

Here are two photo albums. All the photos in both albums were taken either by Qiming Chen or someone using his camera.

Most of the players in the pictures are identified by the photo name/caption, though you might have to click on the picture to see the full name/captions. In the second album there are two group pictures. Here are the captions for those two photos.

Kids Post, L-R - Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, U.S. Open Under 12 Table Tennis Champion Derek Nie, Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter, Orioles ping-pong table. Background - Chris Davis (back to us), Brady Anderson, Ryan Flaherty

Group picture, L-R - Darren O'Day, Tong Tong Gong, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Larry Hodges, Adam Jones, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie (in front), JJ Hardy (in back), Qiming Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Pearce, Alexi Casilla, Manny Machado, and Troy Patton

The Atmosphere Inside the Orioles Clubhouse

Here's another article on the Orioles and Table Tennis


Yesterday was Day Four of Week Ten of our ten weeks of camps. The focus was the backhand attack, mostly backhand looping. It was a breakthrough day for some. One girl who struggled all week with backhands and forehands sort of figured out the backhand today, though she's still struggling with forehands. Two others have transformed from passive get-the-ball-on-the-table backhands to serious topspinning backhands.

It wasn't all great - the natives were restless yesterday, as they often are on Thursdays. It's four days into the camp, but not the last day, so the day sort of drags for some of them. I pretty much accepted I'd have to say everything three times to get heard.

Here's something you don't do too often: yesterday I taught a 73-year-old man to backhand loop. He started off slow and awkward, but after time was smacking them in like a 14-year-old.

Today is the last day of our summer camps. It's been ten weeks and fifty days of non-stop action. Alas, I'm totally exhausted - and Raghu Nadmichettu is substituting for me today, so I'm off today, for a change. It's really a half day for coaching since we'll have a practice tournament in the afternoon.

Playing Well 90% of the Time

We have a top junior who's been struggling recently. Sometimes he's on, sometimes he's off. He's sort of in that class of player (like most players), who's at his best 1/3 of the time, plays average 1/3 of the time, and poorly 1/3 of the time. This is a common philosophy, and is serious mental mistake. Top players don't do this; in any important match, a top player is probably at his best 90% of the time. (My percentages are rhetorical, not exact.) Assuming you are playing regularly, and unless you have physical reasons not to be at your best - and many physical reasons are actually mostly mental - players should be at their best nearly always. It's all in the mind. Timing doesn't just come and go, but the mind does. If you are focused, the rest will come.

Here's a shortcut to playing strong mentally. Just think about the best match you ever played. Close your eyes, and get into the mental focus you had in that match. Then use that same focus in your current play.

The Making of Butterfly Blades

Here's a video (13:09) that shows how Butterfly blades are made. It's in Japanese, but you can still follow the video and images.

Lupi versus Rafa

Here's a video (22 sec) of table tennis star Ilija Lupulesku playing table tennis with tennis star Rafael Nadal (far side) in a battle of lefties.

Adizero Shoes Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video (1:14) of a Adizero shoe commercial that features table tennis.

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August 21, 2013

Exhibition and Challenges with the Baltimore Orioles!!!

Today I'm leaving the MDTTC camp at 11:30 to pick up some players so we can go to Orioles Park at Camden Yards (about an hour away), where from 2-3PM we're giving a demo for and taking challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team! They have a huge clubhouse which includes a nice table with lots of room. We'll be surrounded by (on average) 6'3" 230lb multimillionaires. (Average major league salary in 2012 was $3.4 million; the Orioles are a little above that. Here's their listing.)

This all started in May when Orioles star shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder and now vice president of operations Brady Anderson visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I gave each a lesson and then they played our local juniors. (Here's my blog on that.) They, along with Jeff Lantz, the Orioles Manager for Media Relations, invited us for a return visit. It took a while, but we finally got it arranged. We even had to get approval from Manager Buck Showalter - who I'm hoping to meet, along with a few others, such as Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and others.

I discussed with Jeff the idea of bringing in a large contingent of players, who'd get a tour of the Orioles clubhouse, then stay for the game, with a few of us giving the demo and exhibition. However, he and Buck discussed it and decided it'd be better to keep it a smaller affair so it wouldn't be a big distraction, and suggested we bring in three top juniors. So I invited Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie. (See listing below.) Tong Tong, Derek and I plan to stay for the game - they're giving us free tickets. Nathan had a previous commitment; he'd volunteered as a guide for the incoming freshman class at his high school. (Bravo!) So he has to leave as soon as we're done at 3PM. His mom quickly recruited Qiming Chen to give him a ride to and from the event since she'd be out of town at the time. I explained the situation to the Orioles, and they agreed to add him to the list.

A number of locals (both juniors and adults) had asked if they could go on the reciprocal visit to the Orioles park, and I'd hoped I could, but it was not to be.

MASN TV (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network), home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals, is planning to do coverage and turn it into a pre-game show. One thing we hope to catch on video - JJ Hardy and Jeff are planning a "surprise" for one particularly brash player (the Orioles third best TT player after JJ and Brady), who won't know what he's getting into when he agrees to play a "friendly" game with a visiting kid, Derek Nie, 70 lbs, rated 2291.

Since all four of the players I'm taking are Chinese (and at least two have parents from Taiwan), they were pleasantly surprised to learn that Wei-Yin Chen of Taiwan will be pitching for the Orioles in tonight's game. (Well, Tong Tong and Derek were, since they're staying to watch with me.)  We're playing the Tampa Bay Rays, with who we're in a pennant/wild card race.

Players going with me:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland (U.S. citizens)
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 

I'll write more about this in my blog tomorrow.

Speaking of the Orioles, there was an article in the Washington Post Sports section on Monday that said, "[Adam] Jones has at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to accomplish the feat."

On Tuesday there was a correction: "An Aug. 19 Sports article about the Baltimore Orioles' 7-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies incorrectly said that Adam Jones joined Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to hit at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Eddie Murray also accomplished that feat."

I just sent in a correction yesterday: "Dear Washington Post, the correction in the Post this morning (Aug. 20) about Eddie Murray also hitting 25 or more home runs at least three consecutive seasons for the Orioles (as well as Adam Jones and Frank Robinson) left out Cal Ripken, who did it six years in a row (1982-1987), Rafael Palmeiro four years in a row (1995-1998), and Lee May three years in a row (1976-1978). Jim Gentile and Miguel Tejada both missed it by one home run."

As of this morning, they haven't run my correction  For the record, Ripken from 1982-87 hit 28, 27, 27, 26, 25, and 27 HRs. Palmeiro from 1995-98 hit 39, 39, 38, and 43 HRs. Lee May from 1976-78 hit 25, 27, and 25 HRs. How could they miss this? Especially Hall of Famer Cal Ripken??? (Who, by the way, used to play table tennis with Brady Anderson; both have their own sponge rackets.)


Yesterday's focus was the backhand. We had some interesting sessions. One kid had pretty good control, but kept sidespin swiping the ball; I finally took him aside for 15 minutes and straightened that out. Another also had good control, but had a very backhand grip and just jabbed at the ball. I also took him aside for a while and straightened that out. Both had some difficulty making the change as their old stroke was pretty ingrained. It's always easier when working with someone who hasn't played much. One older player had a pretty good backhand but almost no forehand; we worked on and off all day on his forehand, and it's gradually improving.

There's one girl who's a complete beginner, and perhaps the only one who can't really play games yet. All day long for two days she's struggled to hit forehands or backhands. Then, late yesterday afternoon when we played the "cups" game, where we stack the cups and let the kids take turns knocking them down, something happened. Out of the blue she kept smacking them, over and over! Before this she had about a 20% success rate in hitting the table, not to mention a three-inch wide cup. This time she knocked more cups off the table than anyone else (about ten players) two games in a row!

USATT Tip of the Day - Serve Violently!

Here's a tip on serving from Dan Seemiller, five-time USA Men's Singles Champion and former USA Men's Coach.

Table Tennis Good for the Brain

Here's a nice compilation of articles on this from Table Tennis Nation, with five links and a video (4:26).

Ping Pong Only Gets Better When You Add Crazy Visuals

Here's a video (1:12) of some serious psychedelic ping pong.

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