5 Things to do at Home to Train for the Field

So you don’t want to play baseball year round but you don’t want to come back rusty…

So you don’t want to play baseball year round but you don’t want to come back rusty…

Well here’s five ways you can train without even stepping on a field.

1. Wall Ball or “Butts Up”

A wall and a tennis ball… that’s all you need.  You can either do this as a serious drill, or as a game with your friends.

Drill

Throw the ball against the wall and try to get yourself some short hops.  Work on picking the ball with one hand.  You can do this to work on footwork or to work on soft hands.

Two Methods

  1. Don’t move your feet – work on seeing the ball into your hand.  When you don’t move your feet, it requires your hands to work better – if your footwork is good, you’ll always get the good hop so don’t use your feet and work on those tough hops.
  2. Move your feet – You should never get a bad hop.  Come through the ball and get that short hop.

A Game with Your Friends

Even though it’s just a game, you work on your footwork and your soft hands.  Also, to win, you have to have an accurate arm to give your opponents a tough ball to field so you’ll also be working on your throwing accuracy.

A fun way to work on the two most important things for a young ball player – the ability to catch and throw the ball.

2. Go to the Batting Cage

It’s the off season… your time away from baseball.  You don’t have to go three times a week.  But taking a long time away from hitting can have negative consequences.

Go to the batting cage once every week or two and just hit until your swing feels good.  That way, when you come back you don’t feel so rusty.

If you want to be proactive, find one thing to work on and ONLY think about that one thing for the whole off season so when you come back you feel stronger then when you left.

3. Play Catch/ Long Toss/ Work on Arm Strength

Whenever you have free time, go outside and play some catch.  It will help your arm strength and durability… not throwing for a long time and jumping back into it right away can have negative effects.

Keep working on your arm health…  If you’re a pitcher, taking time off definitely helps.  But you can be proactive in your time off, do arm care exercises.

Here’s a video with Angel’s pitch Garrett Richards on long toss

4. Work on your Speed

This doesn’t even have to be extra work!  If you’re playing another sport, whenever you do speed or agility workouts, just remember – speed translates to the baseball field.

Work extra hard when you do these workouts because it’s not just for the sport you’re training for – it’s for ALL the sports you play.

If you don’t play another sport, here’s an exercise you can do every day.

5. Ball Recognition Drills

Pitch recognition is one of the hardest things to learn in baseball.  Usually the best way to practice is by playing or by taking batting practice with someone throwing multiple pitches.

Since you’re in your off season, you don’t want to hit too much so here’s a way to keep your vision sharp without tons of batting practice.

The video below shows how using different colored balls can help…

You can take this to the batting cage or you can just do it at home.  You don’t need to go out and buy new balls.  Instead, grab two sharpies and make big different colored marks on each ball.

Have someone softly toss you the balls from not too far away and have them tell you which one to catch.

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First Pitch Strikes

Why does throwing a first pitch strike shift the statistics so far in the pitchers favor? I think it’s all mental.

We’ve all been told to throw first pitch strikes and we know the odds are more in our favor if we do so, but why?  Why is an 0-1 fastball outside more effective then the same pitch in a 1-0 count?

The Stats

  • 92.7% of first pitch strikes lead to outs
  • 69% of strikeouts start with first pitch strikes

I could go even deeper into the statistics but those tell the story.  Pitchers are FAR more productive when they get the first pitch strike.

No More Stats.

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Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

I’m not going to talk ground ball/ fly ball statistics, average exit velo or swing and miss % after first pitch ball or first pitch strike……  I’m going to talk about the mental side of the whole thing.

There will be little hard evidence to support my claims so feel free to comment if if you agree or disagree.

 

Mental Game

So we know that hitters are worse off in pitchers counts.  But why?  Do pitchers always throw more quality pitches when they’re ahead in the count?

The short answer is no.

What does happen is pitchers gain confidence and hitters lose confidence.

 

When a pitcher gains confidence a few things happen mentally:

  • You feel like you can throw any of your pitches effectively
    • You don’t have to worry as much if you have trouble controlling your off speed.
  • You feel more comfortable flirting with the black on your next pitch.
  • You whole body loosens up because you don’t have to worry about going down 2-0
    • Looser body = more velocity & movement.

Conversely, a few things happen in the hitters head:

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Melissa Wall – Off the Wall Photography

 

 

  • You’re less sure of what the pitcher will throw next.
    • 1-0 you know the pitcher is going to do everything in his power to throw a strike, and depending on his tenancies, you might even know what PITCH is coming.
    • 0-1, his tenancies almost fly out the window – you might know what he usually throws 0-1, but since he’s ahead he can do whatever he wants.
  • Some batters at this point feel pressured to get bat on the ball at anything in the strike zone – they don’t want to go down 0-2
    • A batter ahead in the count can watch a curve ball go by, even if it’s a strike in search of a better pitch to hit.
  • The pressure of the at bat builds against their favor
    • This creates tension in the muscles.  Tension takes a huge toll on bat speed and on the efficiency of a person’s decision making process.

 

Mental Changes are Magnified in Youth Players

I have absolutely no statistics to back the claim I’m about to make, but I think it’s safe to say that these confidence changes take a bigger effect on youth ball players.

Youth players aren’t as used to the failures that come with every single baseball game.  To some kids, giving up a hit can be the end of the world.  To a seasoned veteran, giving up a hit is just a part of the game and has little or no effect on him.

If the fate of the world rides on each and every batter, then getting that first pitch strike takes a huge weight off the pitcher’s shoulders and delicately places it right back on to the batter’s shoulders.

No matter what the pitcher is throwing; whether it’s a fastball, slider, curveball, change up mix or a fastball changeup mix – once that first strike has been thrown, the pressure has been shifted to the batter.  That alone can change the outcome without even mentioning the other things taking place in both the batter and pitcher’s minds.

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Source: Weinstein Baseball

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Related Articles:

What College Coaches Look For

5 Tips for Players Looking for a Scholarship

Does Position Matter to College Scouts?

Follow Up to ‘Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw’

While the rise of Tommy John Surgeries has risen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop pitching.

On July 26th I posted the article, “Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw” and I got feedback that made me rethink what I said.  Instead of take down my post I’m going to write about what I learned.

Essentially, in the initial post I said that if your goal is to make it Division 1 ball or pro ball, you should refrain from pitching until you get to high school.

Some of the feedback was that you can’t be scared to pitch.  You should not prohibit players from doing what they want.  If that’s what makes the game fun, then that’s what they should do.  Also, I had someone tell me that age restrictions from pitching weren’t the solution, better yet, focus on pre-habilitation.

I completely agree with both of these statements.  Like I said in “3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers,” arm care is extremely important.

So What?

There’s not much I can do about the risk that comes with pitching.  I can only warn about what can happen.  I regret trying to tell you that your players shouldn’t pitch.  Here are my key points – what I think are the most important takeaways from this conversation people are having every day:

  • Be aware of the risk involved with pitching.  Young kids sometimes think they’re invincible but they’re not.
    • Just because you don’t get have any severe pain doesn’t mean you have an iron arm.  Years of throwing takes its toll slowly over the course of years.
  • Don’t worry about impressing people with velocity or with a curve ball if you haven’t done the necessary pre-habilitation required to throw hard or to throw that curve.
    • The stage isn’t big enough to do that until you’re older anyway!
  • Don’t be afraid of pitching – in my last post I was too conservative.  There needs to be enough pitchers for this game to continue growing!  If pitching keeps your son in the game, whether he’s 9 or 19, do it.

 

I hope I don’t have to write to many more articles admitting I’m wrong.  But I’ll never take down a post and pretend it never happened.  I will learn from you as much as I hope you learn from me.

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Does Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?

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Youth Pitchers Get the Short Straw

If you son is pitching before he is 13, he is only hurting his own career. Here’s why..

If your son isn’t in high school, in my opinion, he doesn’t need to be pitching just yet.

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Photo Credits: Arianna Macalouso

Save your son from the early stress to his UCL and Labrum and just have him play the field.  Pitching at an early age doesn’t do as much good as you think.  It doesn’t give him that much of an edge at the college level or even the high school level.

Kids under 18 years old have considerably less body awareness meaning they might feel like they are moving in one way, but are actually aren’t doing what they think they’re doing.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal article called “The Rise of the Accidental Pitcher.”  More and more often, pitchers who became pitchers late in their careers (college and minor league) are making the Major Leagues.  Why?  I think it’s because the competition is literally dwindling due to injury.  Players that don’t pitch their entire lives generally have healthier arms WHEN IT COUNTS.

I know this might upset or even OFFEND some people with kids who are already pitching, but here’s an honest opinion from a guy who’s SEEN college prospects lose scholarships due to Tommy John Surgery.

I don’t take your money for pitching lessons…  My selling point is honest, unbiased opinions on how to allow your kid have the greatest chance to succeed.

Benefits of Not Pitching Before High School

  • Reduce lifetime stress to the arm.
  • Increase overall athleticism by focusing on fielding positions or even by playing other sports.
  • Learn throwing mechanics through hitting mechanics.
    • Two perspectives on the mechanics gives players a better feel for their body and how the mechanics really work.
  •  Playing other sports helps a player improve his overall athleticism, it’s a lot more fun for the kid and it will allow both the parent and child to better decide which sport the kid likes the most and which he is the best at.  Also, playing other sports gives young athletes better body control
    • Instead of just throwing your child into baseball, let him choose which he thinks is the most fun.  The sport he enjoys the most will ultimately be the one he is the best at.
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Photo Credits: Arianna Macalouso

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Hope this helped.  If you like my articles follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Articles:

What College Coaches Look For

5 Tips for Players Looking for a Scholarship

Does Position Matter to College Scouts?

 

In my next article I will put together helpful information for players trying to gain weight.

3 Tips for Travel Ball Pitchers

The three most important things for a developing youth pitcher looking for a scholarship.

What are the most important things for a growing pitcher?  I’ll explain the 5 most important things to focus on perfecting before college.

While there is a conversation that needs to happen about youth pitches throwing too much, that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this post.  Expect that in a week or so…

Arianna pic pitching
Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

1. Arm Care & Strengthening

          CARE

The #1 most important thing for every pitcher is arm health.  There are plenty of pitchers who use Jaeger Bands before a start but that is NOT enough.

Even if you band for 20 minutes before a start, that doesn’t mean anything.  Banding before a start is your warm up, it helps your arm get acclimated to the throwing motion before you start actually throwing a ball.

You get real arm care when you take your pre-game arm care routine and combine it with a few light arm strengthening routines and do it every other day.  Regardless of whether you pitch or even play that day.  You should have about 30 minutes of work you can do every day.

And that is just to keep your health at 100%.

          STRENGTHENING

I’m not a pitcher and I’m not going to act like a baseball strength or pitching coach when I’m not one.  I am speaking from the point of view of a Division 1 baseball player and about what I’ve seen successful pitchers like recently called up pitcher Corbin Burnes do.

Talk to a strength coach about how to strengthen your arm and work on it every day.  Here are a few things I picked up when trying to strengthen my arm;

  • Your arm will only go as fast as your muscles can slow it down.  That is why a strong back is so important.
  • Arm strength is only one part of throwing hard.  With the right mechanics, velocity comes from the legs.
  • Many reps of small weight are much more effective than heavy weight.  Especially when dealing with small muscles in the arm.
  • When dealing with those smaller muscles, it shouldn’t hurt like when you squat or do curls, it should feel like a warm burn.
Arianna pic full field
Photo Credit: Arianna Macaluso

2. Be able to Throw AT LEAST 2 Pitches for Strikes Consistently

As a hitter, the biggest relief is when you realize a pitcher can only throw his fastball for a strike.  At the high school level, you can have an 81 mph fastball and be extremely efficient… but not if that’s the only pitch you can throw for a strike.

The key is to throw your off speed for strikes.  This summer for the Palm Springs Power, I played against pitchers of ALL different skill levels.  We went 28-7 powered mostly by our offense and the only thing that slowed us down was NOT pitchers with velocity.

It was pitchers who could locate more than one pitch for QUALITY strikes.

Few pitchers at the high school level can throw 3 pitches for strikes.  While you need to make sure your velocity is climbing, a lot of that will come with working out and growing.  Don’t try to force it too early.  Also you need to make sure your off speed pitches are effective.

I’m not saying that you can throw a bad slider down the middle.  You need to work on having good off speed pitches, and when I say ‘strike’ I mean something low in the zone.

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Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

3. Velocity (unfortunately)

I hate the idea that you HAVE to throw hard to get a scholarship and it’s NOT I repeat NOT always true… but it does make it a whole lot easier.

I personally would rather hit against someone with velocity and little or no off speed command, but the way coaches see it, it’s a lot easier to teach off speed than it is to velo.

There are a lot of youth coaches out there who will see a guy who clearly is having trouble getting his velo up and will tell him, ‘ohhh you don’t really need velo to be successful.’  WHICH IS TRUE.  The problem is getting scout attention.  When your velo isn’t high you have to prove yourself every time you take the mound because your success can only be measured in the stat column.

Velo can be recorded and impress someone whether or not they give up any runs.

Even though I don’t want to, I am going to leave ‘getting your velo up’ as my last piece of advice.  That being said, I want to end my post with this:

When you’re working on your velocity, be aware that throwing too much or working your arm too hard will only cause poor or negative results.  If your goal is to get your velo up, slow and steady really wins the race and doing it the RIGHT way, through mechanics, total body strengthening, and deceleration exercises will benefit you in the long run.  You must be patient.

My last tip comes from something AMAZING I saw.  I was watching my buddy throw a bullpen one day at school.  He usually sat 87-90… I have no idea what mechanical changes the pitching coach told him to make, but he literally made a jump from 87-90 to 91-93 right in front of my eyes.

So what’s my point?  He wasn’t exerting extra energy.  Your mechanics are your most important part of your velocity which is why people say there is a difference between THROWING and PITCHING.

Not only that, your mechanics will keep your arm healthier.  Throw harder and get less sore… what more can you ask for?

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Photo Credits: Arianna Macaluso

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Here are a few other posts you might be interested in:

5 Things You Can Change to Get a College Scholarship

Choosing a Travel Ball Team

Does Your Position Make a Difference to College Scouts?