Have you ever watched a baby pick up a ball? If so, then you know what happens next…the baby throws the ball. It’s a natural progression and it is the basis for playing a game loved by millions all over the world – baseball!
From Little League to the big leagues and everything in between there are some rudimentary skills needed to play and many that are forged through hard work, dedication, and above all else, practice. Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
And although we will never be perfect at anything, especially trying to hit a baseball where even the greatest hitter ever to play the game, Ted Williams, failed 60 percent of the time, there are ways to improve. As we speak the Major League Baseball season is being conducted and there are MLB odds on every single game. Every one of these professional baseball players started from somewhere and although they were blessed with natural ability, it also takes tremendous devotion to their craft to become one of the best in the world.
Below we will discuss the skills necessary to compete and what we can do to elevate our game because you never know how much you can achieve unless you try!
First, you see, and then you throw, catch, or hit. That is baseball in a nutshell and in order to do it well, you must have excellent hand-eye coordination. Without it, baseball is tough to play. But even if your eye-hand coordination isn’t what it should be there are ways to get better. Remember, these drills have much less to do with your physical fitness than they do with your ability to process and execute a movement in as little time as possible. The more reflexive you become the better you will be at all aspects of the game.
Drill No. 1 – Balloon Tossing – This is basic but it starts the process with little effort. It is a tremendous starting point and all you need to do is toss a balloon in the air and keep it aloft with your hands. Once you get comfortable, give the balloon a more vigorous slap to change the direction and speed which will increase the difficulty.
Drill No. 2 – Ball Tossing – Toss a rubber ball back and forth with a partner and increase the speed at which this is done. Move closer, throw faster and you will see your reflexes respond. Set the pace that is right for you and once this becomes part of your regimen you will experience rapid improvement.
Drill No. 3 – Target Practice – Place targets on a wall and practice throwing a ball to those targets. Once you routinely hit your targets then move farther away and try it from this new distance. You can even have your back facing the wall, turn quickly, locate the target, and throw at the target. This is just like turning a double-play! Okay, it’s much easier but you get the point.
The Five Basics
Hitting – If you can’t hit then you can’t play in the big leagues. And although most of us will never be major leaguers, hitting is imperative at every level. According to Ted Williams, these are his three most important pieces of advice when in the batter’s box:
- Hit only strikes.
- Never swing at a ball you’re fooled on or have trouble hitting.
- After two strikes, concede the long ball to the pitcher; shorten up on the bat and try to put the head of the bat on the ball
Throwing – The seams of the baseball should be across your index and middle fingers, while your thumb is under the baseball. Play catch on a daily basis to get more comfortable throwing, and always start out tossing, and never throwing hard right from the beginning of the session to avoid injury.
Catching – Always align yourself with the baseball and relax your catching hand, making it as soft as possible so the ball doesn’t bounce out of your glove. Reach for the ball instead of letting it come too close, causing you to lose your perspective and drop the ball.
Fielding – The most important part of fielding a ground ball is to stay low to the ground and let the ground ball come to you. Get as much of your body in front of the ball as possible in the event it either hits your glove and bounces out or misses it entirely. This way the ball will hit your chest which will still allow the possibility of picking it up, making the throw, and getting the runner out.
Base Running – Once the ball is hit your head should be down as you begin to run. After approximately three steps lift your head slightly to see if the ball has made it through the infield. Concentrate on the front of the bag as your target for your foot when running to first base. It is the closest to you and could be the difference between being called out or getting a base hit.