How to be a good baseball player
I started out like so many others when I tried baseball for the first time: tripping over bases, swinging wildly (and missing), and dropping more balls than I caught. But I loved the game, and my struggles led me to study good baseball players and learn from their techniques and approach. I play better now than ever before and you can too. Just follow the tips below to improve your baseball skills.
Sure, it takes a certain amount of natural skill to excel at baseball. But more than natural skill, it takes commitment to greatly improve your play. Long days of summer spent swinging the bat, fielding balls, and training result in honed techniques. So if you think that you lack natural skill (like me), don’t worry. Hard work can overcome the doubts you have about your skill. And if you have a natural skill already, commitment will set you apart from the crowd.
Train your body
Most people want to pick up the bat, glove and hit the field. But spending time on your physical training (strength, cardio, and flexibility) will reward you on the field. Strengthening your muscles allows you to swing and throw harder. This means improving your upper and lower body strength. Working on the arms, shoulders, chest, and back give you more power to swing. I found that certain workouts help the most for strength development in the upper body: arm curls, arm extensions, shoulder dips, shoulder presses, bench presses, push-ups, and back pull-downs. As for the lower body, I spent a great deal of time doing leg presses, squats, and calf raises. Last but certainly not least is your core training. I couldn’t find an exercise that beat the classic “sit up.” At first, I found the sit-ups grueling but eventually sit-ups became easy and fun. A strong core means pulls all your other strong body groups together.
Improving your cardiovascular system helps you to maintain peak performance throughout the hours you will spend at practice and games. Unfortunately, the best way to improve your cardiovascular system is to run. I found that most of my competitors did not want to put the time in to run and work on their endurance. But this endurance training helped set me apart from them at the end of games. Their tired limbs, heaving chests, and deep breathing led to decreased performance late in the game. But because I had spent so much time running, my play improved late in the game relative to all the others. Spend the time working on your endurance. You’ll be glad that you did. I sure was.
Increasing your flexibility decreases the chances of injury; so you will spend less time ailing in the dugout and more time honing your skills. Better flexibility comes from stretching. I have two approaches for stretching, and if you use both, you will develop a greater range of motion.
Before I ever get to the field, I do yoga. Yoga is hot in the sports world for a reason: it works. Athletes (even people like me) can make moves after yoga that they had never been able to make before doing yoga. Start slow when beginning yoga. Do the easy poses first and build yourself up to the more advanced techniques. If you have not tried it before, you might be laughing at the suggestion of yoga. I sure did. But trust me, I tried it, and I can’t believe that I had waited so long to start.
The second approach for stretching is the traditional stretches (like toe touches, calf extensions, and arm crosses) before beginning your physical training, drills, practices, or games. The stretches help prevent injuries that would otherwise put you in the dugout. Seriously, I know people love to skip the stretching part. I did too. But its a vital step in becoming a great player, and stretching is something you need to incorporate into your training.
Train your mind
The best players study the game of baseball. Everyone has to try different techniques before they find that perfect swing. Heck, I’m still working on perfecting my swing. But studying and refining skills is what makes baseball so fun. Watch it every chance you get, even if you do not care anything about the teams playing. When you watch it, do like I do, and analyze how the manager handles every situation. You will impress your coaches if you can help them make the right call, no matter the situation.
Now that you’ve prepared your body and mind, it is time to start developing your baseball skills. I found that the best way to create a strong foundation is through doing drills. Lots and lots of drills. Do a quick google search, or go to the library, and you’ll see hundreds of different drills for everything from batting, catching, throwing, and running. I put myself through drills. Every day. For hours. At first, the constant drilling seemed tedious. But I grew to appreciate the challenge, routine, and when I got onto the field for a game, then I really appreciated the foundation that my drills gave me. Some of the best drills for batting, catching, throwing, and running are the classics.
For batting, spend time in the batting cage. You can take a variety of pitches and improve your swing in a shorter period. It also helps to get onto the actual field have a friend (who can pitch) throw you different types of pitches, like curveballs, sliders, fastballs, or knuckleballs. Sometimes a pitching machine can be a little too perfect, and having a real person throwing to you will prepare you for the variety that comes in games.
As for catching, make sure to have someone actually hit you balls. They should also hit you a variety of balls like grounders, pop-ups, and line drives. Standing in one place “playing catch” really will not help. I tried to make catches at different times of the day and from different parts of the field. You never know what time you might be playing. For example, you might be playing in the bright sun or under the lights. Either the sun or lights could make you lose sight of the ball if you have not gotten used to the condition. Another example is catching at twilight. Twilight is when the light is at its lowest, and unlike the bright sun, you need to adjust your eyes to the low light, so you do not lose the ball in the darkness.
You can improve your throwing ability by trying to throw from awkward body angles. Many players can throw a good ball with both feet planted, but few can throw balls falling down, off one foot, or from their knees. Challenge yourself. You should practice throwing the ball off a catch, throwing the ball off the run, and the many other ways that you have to throw the ball in a game. For example, try coming out of a slide and make throws across your body. At first, my throws fell twenty feet short of the base. But with a lot of practice, your body becomes accustomed to the challenge and your throws will improve.
You’ve set yourself up for success. Your body is ready. You are mentally sharp. Plus, all the drills have given you the basic baseball skills needed to succeed. The last step is to get out there and play the game. I found that all the hard work up until this point helped me to apply the skills that I learned. So get out there, have fun, and impress your friends with all the preparation that you put in.