Youth Hitting – Part 2 – Swing Fast

Under the post Hitting Part 1, I explained why swinging faster is what I consider to be the most important when training/developing youth hitting so lets big deeper.

Swing Fast – Build a Better Engine

The first thing to understand is knowing what intent basically means in terms of training/developing. Intent is short for intention – what are you trying to do? From a psychological and physical stand point, intent is a very powerful tool. It may be the most fundamental aspect in development – it should never be taken for granted. Yet sadly, in youth sports it is often either knowingly or unknowingly ignored, demeaned or used incorrectly; all of which is to the detriment to the player.

Swinging fast does not mean the player should try to lose their balance or fall down although this may very well happen early in training/development of the very young. “Swing fast while keeping your balance” or “swing as hard as you can and hit the ball” often work as a cue. The point of telling a youth player to swing fast is not just trying to create the physical external feeling of bat speed. It is not just the classic, funny saying “swing fast in case you hit it” – I like that saying by the way. But when a player is told to “swing fast” the brain subconsciously kicks in and activates the central nervous system to recruit the big muscles to become more involved in producing the desired intent – to move the bat faster. Getting the bigger muscles to fire faster is development. Speed can and should be developed in youth. Not only is there anecdotal evidence of intent being very powerful development tool but also piles of scientific evidence going back decades.

The next important concept in developing a faster swing is swinging more. There are no quick “fixes” in development. Want to get better at reading? Guess what? Reading more gets you better at reading. In the context of building a better engine, better hitters tend to become better hitters because they spend more time hitting/swinging than their average piers. And for the record, swinging at a wiffle ball on a T into a net or fence can work at the youth level. I’m not saying that hitting a wiffle ball off a T is the only way to get better. A player has to start where they are at and with the tools available. And no, that does not mean a 10-year-old needs to take 10,000 hacks over a period of 3 months. Think of it this way, take two youth players (Burt and Ernie) that are identical in all aspects physically, in playing experience, and currently have the same average bat speed. Bert spends the next 6 weeks, not swinging a bat. Ernie spends the next 6 weeks doing this homemade bat speed program: trains at least 2 – 3 times a week taking 50 fast swings at a ball sitting on a T for 3 weeks. The next 3 weeks Ernie increases the number of fast swings to 75 each session. Over those 6 weeks this would total approximately 700 – 800 swings. Guess what happens to Ernie’s bat speed as compared to Burt? Now, what if Ernie did this 6 week bat speed training twice a calendar year? Now keep in mind, the numbers I’m using above are scalable, up or down, to the player’s age or physical ability.

Related to swinging more is the concept of swinging at balls in different locations of the strike zone. If hitting off a T, move it either up, down, left or right every 5 – 10 swings. Getting better at hitting is about bat control – “know” where the barrel is – creating a feel for barrel control. Grooving a swing to hit a ball in the same spot will look good on video but that does mean it will pay in a game. Hitting better in-game is the only standard that matters. Hitting a ball that was tossed under hand (soft toss), overhand (pitched) or from a machine is better batting practice than off a T. The benefits of hitting a moving ball, even if moving relatively slow, should not be underestimated. Of course practicing/training should include hitting a ball at game speed but there is physical developmental benefit to “getting your swings in”. The best hitters on the planet warm up using a batting T. They also train hitting a moving ball. Hitting in games is a very dynamic environment. No two pitchers are the same, no two pitch types are the same, and locations vary from one pitch to the next – train dynamically according to the players capability/level. So what happens if we take Ernie from the previous paragraph and during his 6 weeks of bat speed training we moved the T every 10 swings or so. So that after 10 swings with the ball and T sitting in the same position, we moved it to a different spot in the strike zone (up, down, left or right). After the next 10 swings we moved it again and continued this process while still having the focus to “swing fast and hit the ball” on every swing. Do you think this may help Ernie get better at hitting? Stay with me – we’ll put things together at the end.

Snapshot 3 (12-14-2018 8-51 AM)

The final concept to discuss in developing swing speed is swing more than just one bat. In fact, swing more than just a bat. This is not as complicated and nor as expensive as most think. There are weighted bat training programs available and products available commercially. If you have the means, I suggest you check into them. If not, here is some fundamental training tools you can use to build your own you hitting system:

  • Your child’s “old” bat that’s too small or beat up – keep it.
  • Look for cheap bats at your local big box store that’s doesn’t have any pop or is a bit too heavy or a bit too light or is at a discount during the off-season or find a used/second-hand one.
  • Youth wooden bats are excellent for training.
  • Buying tip: Every year from October – November is the best time of year to buy baseball equipment. Manufacturers are clearing inventory for next years products and warranties for new products begin at purchase date, not the date made.
  • A roll of athletic tape. The athletic tape can be used as bat grip or used to add weight to a bat.
  • If you don’t have access to one for free, go at a local hardware, home improvement store purchase (or find) 8 foot of 3/4 inch or 1 inch PVC pipe.

If you purchase everything above brand new, you should be able keep it under $75. For less than the cost of a couple of lessons you now have 2 – 3 bats (includes your game bat), and a piece of PVC pipe that you can cut to fit your player. I go into greater detail on this concept including videos/demonstrations on a previous post: CLICK HERE

The next piece in improving youth swing speed is the basic, broad concept of swing mechanics. Improving a players individual swing mechanics has two big impacts: 1) it unleashes more bat speed a player already has inside of them (swing efficiency), 2) it produces a better chance of making solid contact (more line drives). These two concepts of an individuals best swing mechanics and hitting more line drives is so interrelated they will be covered in greater detail in my post Youth Hitting Part 3.

To summarize increasing youth bat speed:

  1. Intent to swing fast
  2. Swing/hit more often, this includes more than just “in season”
  3. Swing/hit at balls in different locations
  4. Swing/hit with different items/bats

In my next youth hitting post we will put it all together and show an example of a youth hitting program using the concepts above while combining it with mechanics that you can scale up as needed.

Get Better.

Best Player Development? – You Need A Passport

Don’t pack just yet but numbers tell a story.

There is no doubt historically that the odds of developing from youth ball to a professional baseball player were greatly enhanced if the child was actually born in and/or was raised in the USA. Baseball is America’s pastime; this is where you learned to become a better player. But what if I told you that currently a child born and raised in some other country has a 6 – 10 times more likely a chance to become a professional baseball player than one born and raised in the USA?

Regardless if you or your child has any desire to play ball beyond the high school or college level, the point is there are countries presently during a better job of developing youth players than the USA. How is this connected at the youth level? The totality of athletic development (structured and unstructured) of a future college or professional athlete is not just a year or two. We could be talking a decade or more of overall physical activity to develop that level of athleticism. The point is something different either is or isn’t happening in these countries at the youth level that has impacted the numbers. Now don’t knee jerk your response that these players/parents from other countries just want the “American dream” – that dynamic has existed longer than baseball. So something has changed and you don’t have to take my word for it …

A blog post on Thread Athletics website includes these quotes: (Click For Full Post)

“In 2015, 83 out of 750 players on opening day were Dominican (compared to 520 US-born), accounting for roughly 11 percent of the major leagues. To put this in perspective, there is one Dominican big leaguer for every 63,000 people, compared to one American big leaguer for every 307,000.”

“In the minor leagues, it’s not uncommon to see even higher numbers. By my count, 44% of players in the first two levels of the White Sox minor league organization are Dominican-born, and that number climbs to well over 60% at these early levels if you take into account other foreign-born players as well (Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc…).”

“However you slice it, these numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the sheer amount of resources and coaching available to the majority of American-born athletes.”

“So how does the Dominican Republic produce MLB talent at 5 times the rate of the US (and pro talent at closer to 10 times the rate), all while spending easily 10 times (and probably more like 20 or 30x) less per year on the athletes’ development?”

A March of 2018 article on Major League Baseball’s website has the following information: (Click Here For Full Article)

“A total of 254 players represented an all-time record 21 different countries and territories outside of the 50 United States on 2018 Opening Day 25-man rosters … the Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 84 players born outside the United States. Venezuela ranks second with 74 players, while Puerto Rico places third with 19 players, its highest total since there were 20 in 2011. Rounding out the totals are Cuba (17); Mexico (11); Japan (8); Canada (6); South Korea (6); Colombia (5) …”

Here is a comment from a current professional infielder from Dominican Republic talking to kids and parents at a youth camp in the USA. The player is responding to a question about the difference between youth ball in the USA and the Dominican Republic. He responded, “USA kids spend way more time and money playing and traveling to games. We played one game a week on the same field and practiced or did some kind of fun physical activity 4 – 5 days a week my whole childhood – this is the norm in my country.”

The why and how this has happened might be subjective but the reality of the current youth sports culture in the USA is not – and therein might be an answer. If you are over the age of 40 and have at least a current passing interest in youth baseball or softball in the USA, there is a good chance you have a good idea of at least one thing that has changed. Two best-selling books on player development entitled “The Talent Code” and “Outliers” both recommend a practice to game model that is roughly 85% practice/free play/develop athleticism to 15% games(includes travel time to and from games). The current norm in youth ball in the USA basically reverses these proportions. A kid under the age of 13 playing 50 – 100 games over a year is not exactly rare these days. While this level of repetitions annually does increase visible game skill it does so at the expense of overall athleticism over the course of time – which is the difference maker after a player starts shaving. Less than 15 years ago it was nearly possible for most youth kids in the USA to play the same sport (official/formal games) 10+ months every year. Now a great many parents have “bought into” the though this has to be the norm or their child will fall behind or need to keep up with the Jones. Athletic early bloomers will always be more dominant in youth sports no matter how many more games they play but it this late bloomers that dominate when things matters most.

So the question may not be how these other countries have “passed up” the USA in youth player development but more about how the current USA youth culture has regressed in long-term player development. Maybe back-in-the-day when more USA kids experienced varies types of free play, spent less time doing the same structured activity over the course of a year, played different sports, and so forth was actually the better way to increase long-term athletic development – in any sport.

Get Better.

Youth Hitting – Part 1 – Know the Why

Hitting a moving round ball with a round bat is not easy. But getting better at the youth level does not have to be hard or expensive. It is not uncommon for parents to view development of youth hitting (and pitching for that matter) in extremes: 1) do basically nothing or next to nothing or 2) over coach, over talk, frustrate the child, etc. Neither extreme is ideal and 2) is most likely the worst option over the long-term. But the training/development focus at the youth level should only come down to 2 basic components and both are highly teachable/trainable:

  • Swing Fast
  • Hit line drives over the infield

I did not say “swing level”. I’m not sure what swing level means. I know what most people think it means but practically speaking how do you “swing level” at a low strike? Swing level to what? The ground? In baseball, you will never see a pitched ball that travels level to the ground – more on that later.

Swing Fast

It is not an accident that I put swing fast as #1. At the youth level, developing/training bat speed is the most important element in hitting. Nothing adds more fun to playing the game than driving a ball into the outfield and there is no feeling quite like hitting the hard and on the sweet spot. The facts are clear, the faster a ball comes off the bat, the better chance it has of being a hit.

Of course “how fast” is relevant to the age of the player. Naturally, the average bat speed of a 7-year-old is less than the average bat speed of a 15-year-old. But increasing the body’s ability to generate more bat speed is always relevant.

There are two basic ways to increase bat speed: 1) increase the players physical ability to generate bat speed and 2) move better (basic swing mechanics) to make better use of a players current ability to generate more bat speed. Even though 2) sounds easier or faster to produce on the surface, in reality 1) is simpler to train and normally produces faster results. Here is the best part, a player can do both at the same time. Stay with me.

First, let’s go ahead and address some of the normal negative comments some will say about youth training/developing to swing fast. All push backs to training this way tends to sound like one of these: strike outs from over swinging, players hit better when you swing at 80% (or some such percentage).

In both of these cases the person saying these things is viewing training/development through the same lens as playing in a game. That is known as moving the goal post – changing the environment and the context of the point being made. On game day, it is time to play the game, compete, if its close to a strike, hit it. In short, the player has to react. Training and development happens before game day, in most cases weeks if not months before game day. The end goal is when a player plays the game (is reacting) his/her previous development/training (swing fast, hit line drives) is more likely to be the natural reaction. Playing in a game is about winning THAT game, development/training is about getting better at THE game – there is a big difference.

Also, a player may hit better in a game or team practice by feeling like they are swinging 80%, 50%, or whatever. If a youth player has developed the ability to swing faster, then regardless of the feel or percentage they will be swinging faster. Example, 80% of a 65 mph max swing is faster than 80% of a 55 mph max swing. All things being equal for an individual youth player, the faster the bat is moving at contact, the harder the ball will be hit. Hitting the ball harder over the course of a season is always better than not hitting it harder over the course of a season.

In the short-term, a player may swing and miss more often when they begin developing/training to increase bat speed. That’s ok – you gotta break some eggs to make an omelet. That’s why you don’t start developing/training for the first time an hour before a game. It helps if the youth player and parent think in terms of several weeks or a few months. If the desire is to truly get better at hitting a single hour of training is not going to help over the course of a season. But spending an hour (at home or batting cage or both), maybe 2 – 3 times a week, over a period of two or three months can and often does make a big difference when game day occurs.

Hit Line Drives Over The Infield

What is a line drive? Did you know Major League Baseball (MLB) actually characterizes EVERY ball that is hit in the field of play? And yes, they track and measure it. Per MLB – “Each ball that is hit into the field of play is characterized as a line drive, a fly ball, a ground ball or a pop-up.” The main thing most youth players and parents need to understand is a line drive is not just a ball hit relatively hard 5 feet off the ground. A line drive has a wider range (trajectory) than most people think. Visually, the range of line drives over the infield looks something like this:


A common negative push back on this is “youth players are not major leaguers”. Well, no kidding. But if you are implying that a 50 pound 7-year-old can’t hit a line drive in a youth game – you are simply wrong. If you are implying that any kid can’t train/develop to get better at hitting line drives – you are simply wrong. Another common argument is youth games can be won by hitting a ground ball or a bunt or “situational hitting”. Well, thanks for the news flash but once again that is moving the goal post.

'We can't discuss anything fairly - He just keeps moving the goalposts!'

Of course, taking advantage of poor fielding and throwing errors at the youth level wins most games. But why it is often used as an excuse to not get better at things that matter most over the long-term? Answer: it is easy, lazy thinking that is often sold to parents. There is no debate that being able to swing faster and hit more line drives during a season makes the game more fun to play and more enjoyable for parents to watch. There is no debate that increasing bat speed and the ability to hit more line drives helps win games.

I hope this gives you some understanding “why” developing a faster swing and hitting more line drives matters. The next post (Part 2) will be recommendations, pics, and videos of how to help a player get better at hitting. I’ll leave you with this vid of a line drive, wait for the slow motion of the hit/swing. Until next time, get better!

You Will Choose A Tiger. But Which One?

The attached video applies to way more than just youth sports and that is its true greatness. While the vid is easy to understand be sure to listen closely for the context of these phrases:

  • never struggles
  • same tools – different environment
  • no matter what we trying to learn … at the edge of our ability, a little outside of our comfort zone is where development (getting better) takes place
  • our comfort zone is the zoo … limits development
  • everybody knows this
  • understand fear

In less time then it takes to drive 20 miles, you can learn the benefits of being a jungle tiger. Enjoy!

Get Better At Fielding – Parents: You Can Do This

Fielding is the basic framework of playing defense in baseball or softball. In no other area does the old adage of “repetition is the mother of skills” is always relevant. Of course there are some fundamental techniques or mechanics that can be worked on but at the youth level getting better at catching/stopping the ball (get a glove on it) will never “not matter”. So parents, if you don’t know anything about the technical aspects fielding, footwork, etc you can still help your player get better. In fact, your acknowledgement of not knowing “how to” is a really good thing – by the way, this applies to all areas of life 🙂

In the videos below, you and your child do not have to go though all levels of these fielding progressions. We are talking youth here and you have to start where you and the player are “at”. Getting yourself or the child frustrated is counterproductive at this point. The point is the speed of a drill and how the drill is done needs to be doable for the player – reps is the training protocol. Too many think everything has to “hard” in order for it to work or to get better. Of course challenging an athlete is part of the long-term process of getting better. But don’t jump to the chase (talking to mostly dads out there) – practicing the fundamentals is what separates the good from the not so good. You don’t practice free throws by running at full speed, so to speak.

Also, you don’t need a bat. Being able to use a bat helps, you’ll get better at using a bat the more you use it but don’t let that stop you from putting in the time with your child at catching and getting a glove on the ball. Throwing the ball underhand or overhand works. And does not have to be a baseball or softball – cheap practice tennis balls work. Visually tracking any ball, improving hand-eye coordination, and confidence is the goal – not the particular equipment being used.

Below are videos of Ron Washington, professional, major league coach, former manager. Ron is not only considered to be one of the best fielding coaches on the planet but also has earned the rep as being a good dude in the game and in life. That may not matter to some, but it does to me. Fun fact: If you say the movie Moneyball, Ron’s character was played by Brent Jennings . In the image below, Brent is on the left. Oh, the guy on the right is kinda famous as well …


Back to the vids below, the fielders are professional players. The drills are not necessarily targeted at the youth level. But the methodoly and the “how to” applies to all.

Next is a great vid bellow by Coach Trent Mongero from Winning Baseball (Click Here For Full Website) . From bare hands, to ground balls, to fly balls you can not get “to good” at these 5 drills regardless of the position played.

Take what you can from these videos, build upon it and start getting better.


Should I tell my child to throw/pitch fast or accurate?

Ask this type of question in youth ball circles and heated opinions are going to be coming in hot. But the issue might be the question doesn’t make sense … because the answer may not be one or the other, but more of a “when”.

In the context of playing in a game or in a team practice, I can promise you a very large percentage of youth coach cares about accuracy. This makes sense because team coaches are concerned about winning a game. In youth ball, making the fewest errors in a game almost alway results in a win. The kids should want to win a game. Moms and dads want their kid to play error free during practices and games. You will never hear me say winning a game shouldn’t matter to a coach, to a player, or to parents.

But let’s not pretend being able to throw a ball relatively fast is a very good thing. In fact, it is a difference maker between youth to high school – from high school to college. Anyone telling you velocity “doesn’t matter” in the big picture is simply wrong. It is true a 12 yr old kid can be successful “just throwing strikes”. It is also true that a very large percentage of those same kids can’t be an effective pitcher a season or two later because of the increase in distance of the mound to the plate. It is also true that a big drop in youth baseball participation occurs when they move up to the “big field”. The main reason for this drop off is not the lack of baseball knowledge or lost love for the game. It is because they can’t throw the ball fast enough or far enough to play effectively on the big field – so they quit.

Good news! Developing the ability to throw faster is profoundly trainable … even for moms and/or dads of a youth player that are willing to put in some assistance. Here are the basics of a 2-3 times a week for 3-5 week throwing process from USA baseball:

  • Players should start out throwing at short distances and gradually increase distance and intensity of throws over the course of each session and during the latter weeks of the progression.
  • Playing catch or throwing with a purpose to gradually warm up and increase your throws in terms of intensity and distance
  • Always gain forward momentum toward target with a crow hop at relatively longer distances
  • After reaching that maximum distance at which the player feels comfortable, make ten throws at that distance before gradually moving back toward your target area
  • Avoid throwing on consecutive days

This can be done with a throwing partner (mom or dad?) or against a wall, fence, tire hanging from a tree, whatever. Just throw with the intention of throwing “fast” for 20 – 30 throws after warmup throws. Accuracy is not matters most here, throwing with relative intent to throw fast is what matters.

Oh, you prefer a more full-blown researched process with examples of exercises and distances thrown? And you want a demonstrated result that an increase in velocity can be trained as compared to a controlled group that just “grew into velocity”? Oh, and you want that for free? Here ya go:

4 Week Throwing Program

What if we worked on increasing velocity during the off-season? What if we did this during the 3 – 4 month minimum break from playing youth baseball games as recommended by USA Baseball and recommended by college and professional coaches as well? Food for thought.

Now, what if after increasing the speed a player throws after training for 4-6 weeks you then shift over to more traditional “accuracy” type throws? Like just play catch for a week or two. Maybe aim for a spot at varying distances? Do you think that maybe a player could increase their throwing velocity AND accuracy over a period of 2 – 3 months? Hint – this kind of result happens more than most think and it occurs at all levels if you train accordingly.

So maybe developing a player to throw faster and accurate is possible but it’s gonna take more time than a weekend, a single lesson, or one drill.

Stay thirsty my friend.

#baseball #softball

Be Able to Hit With a Two-by-Four

An idiom for sure but the goal of getting better as a hitter can be found using something other than your favorite bat.

Changing the size, length, and/or weight of what is being swung, used as a rotational aide, or help training a feel does impact the bodies learning curve. It causes your brain and central nervous system to adjust and adapt to the tool or device being used. This is not theory. There is historical anecdotal evidence (informal) as well as scientific research. Want proof? Cool – Both the anecdotal/historical and scientific evidence can be found with a simple Google search using some of the words used in this post (and just watch the videos below). An example of scientific research can be found HERE. If reading scientific research is not your thing, here is a quote from its abstract:

“All three groups showed significant increase in bat swing velocity during the study (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the differences between pre- and posttest scores (delta scores) were significant between BP and control, between DS and control, and between BP and DS (p < 0.05). It is suggested that training with variable weighted implements will significantly increase bat swing velocity, and that the use of loads specific to the target activity but with sufficient variation about the standard load will induce further training adaptations.”

The point is it works. Like anything else, it takes a bit of judgment on how to use it – especially as it relates to each individual. Let’s press on.

PVC – yea, that plastic plumbing pipe at your local home improvement center. We had hardware stores back in the day kids, sorry old dude moment 🙂 It’s cheap, easy to cut to length, can add tape/weight, comes in variety of sizes and thickness. Some examples of use:


There are plenty of products/programs you can purchase from baseball training websites that can used to help improve a player. I am not saying you shouldn’t use, check into, or buy a more formal product/program. I encourage you to look into them. The end game here is to benefit the player. The point of this post is to make you aware that using something other than your game bat can be a real difference maker in any player – youth or otherwise.

Next, we will touch on weighted bat training. In simplest terms, these are bats that vary the targeted game bat weight by roughly 20% – heavier and lighter. Can be purchased as a set of bats or an individually adjustable bat – either way, they can help improve your hitting. With a little leg work and independent thought you can make your own:

For those with an analytical mind and want to know more about the “why” or “how” weighted bats work, here is an excerpt from Chad Longworth Online LINK TO FULL PAGE

“All human movement is governed by the central nervous system (CNS) of the human body. It acts as the command center for our movements and is responsible for all voluntary movement. It is very adaptable and responds quickly to changes in our environment to accomplish required tasks.

During movement, our body is heavily reliant on sensory information to create a roadmap of our surroundings. This helps us orient ourselves, and create a motor plan to solve the movement task in front of us.  Take riding a bike as an example.  In the beginning, the task is challenging.  Learning to keep the bike balanced as you pedal seems like an impossible task (which is why the most complex movements are determined from a young age, stubborn persistence).  But the more acclimated your body becomes to the task, “creating a roadmap,”  the more the CNS will develop an autopilot for the task to accomplish the outcome.

Now to hit a baseball.  It’s the most difficult skill in sports, and achieving it requires more than just simple “mechanics.”  At the beginning aiming a round bat at a round ball and making square contact in fractions of a second seems like an impossible feat.  But the more time you spend, the better and easier the task of hitting the baseball becomes.  This is the CNS adapting quickly how to do the task. As this process becomes easier, the hitter’s CNS can stop making changes because the body has developed a roadmap for the execution of the movement.  This roadmap then becomes a permanent fixture in the player’s brain and thus, efficient or not; it is there unless a new challenge is presented to the system.

The new challenge becomes a different weighted bat.  This wakes up the brain and forces the CNS to stop using “autopilot” so that new, better roadmaps are created within the brain to accommodate the change. Think of your practice process as a hitter; you go to the cage, hit some balls off the tee, do some front toss, maybe take some BP, and call it a day.  Not only is this boring to you, but it is also boring to your CNS not evening registering as a slight breeze to a flag on its flagpole (yawn). Now do that same process using weighted bat implements.  You now have new sensory information because you are using a heavy (end or knob) and/or a light bat. The CNS must go into overdrive to account for the new variables, and a new, better movement roadmap is created.  Effectively you are taking what used to be a two lane somewhat curvy road that your movement plan traveled upon and are turning it into an eight lane super highway. Because the challenge of the weighted bats is new, and the body realizes it’s new, additional movement compensations must be made to accomplish the task.”

As a player progresses up the levels of baseball, hitting becomes much harder. The best on the planet fail about 2 out of 3 times. The training window starts to close faster than most think. In closing, great hitters at any level have at least one thing in common – they can pick up pretty much any bat in the dugout and still be a dangerous hitter. Listen to exhibit A:


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