Baseball is a sport of skill, requiring fine motor control, superb coordination and quick reaction time. Most coaches expect players to come ready to play on the first day of practice. This means that a player’s throwing arm and body need to be well-prepared for the upcoming season.
Before participating in any organized sport, players should see their doctor for a pre-participation physical exam.
Pre-season conditioning is one of the best ways to prevent injuries at the start of the season. Coaches and athletic trainers can help players determine the most effective workouts.
Begin jogging, sprinting, batting and throwing exercises four to six weeks prior to the first day of practice.
- Participate in a running/sprinting conditioning program.
- Practice good throwing techniques and batting form.
- Acclimate to warmer weather.
- Stay hydrated.
- Work to increase flexibility and strength.
During the season
- Allow plenty of time to warm up before practices and games—the body needs time to get blood flowing to cold muscles. Light jogging, followed by proper stretching, can help prevent pulled muscles and sore bodies.
- Give sore arms extra warm-up time with easy throwing, prior to practices and games.
- Allow time to cool down after practices and games. Perform long, slow stretches to keep the body from tightening up and to decrease stiffness and soreness.
- Use ice on overworked muscles—pitchers should ice even if shoulder muscles are not particularly sore. Soreness often occurs one to two days after games are pitched.
- Determine athletic strengths and work to improve weak areas. Speed, strength, agility and size play major roles in determining what positions are best for each player.
Tips for batting:
- Select a manageable bat weight. A light bat is easier to control and can be swung faster, which means the ball can be hit harder and farther with a light bat versus a heavy bat.
- Learn the strike zone. Be patient, selective and wait for a good pitch.
- Stand properly. The head should be turned so that both eyes are on the pitcher and kept still. For balance, feet should be spread a little wider than shoulder width.
- Have a coach check for good form and mechanics. A good hitter has strength, confidence, coordination and body control, but most importantly, will be open to coaching.
Tips for fielding the ball:
- Select a glove for the position you’ll be playing most often, and make sure it fits properly. A glove should feel fairly snug when adjusted, allowing room for a batting glove. Except for pitchers, most players should wear a batting glove inside their fielder’s glove.
- Infielders: A good defensive stance is key. A player should stand with his feet slightly wider than his shoulders. As the pitch is being delivered, the player should take a step forward, bend at the waist and lower his glove to the ground, palm open. Standing on the balls of the feet can help with quick reaction. It won’t always happen, but anticipate a bad throw from the outfield or other infielders.
- Outfielders: Step toward the base you are throwing to.
Tips for the catcher:
- Be a leader for the team—everything must go through the catcher. He is responsible for calling pitches and keeping the pace of the game. The catcher is the only position that never has his back to the game.
- Be able to anticipate all situations. Take into account the speed of the runner, the playing conditions and the playing surface.
Use slow, controlled finger movements when giving signs. The pitcher should be able to easily see and interpret the signs.