Reggie Jackson once said, “I’m human, and I’ve played my butt off for ten years. I’m not a loafer, I’m not a jerk, I’m a baseball player.” If you play your butt off every game, it’s just normal to want to take a breather during the off season. And that doesn’t make you a jerk, just a player taking a deserved rest. But you know at the core of every game, there is good teamwork, and you can’t help your team if you don’t know how to help yourself.
It’s time to transition from the off-season mode.
Off-season baseball training camps are a good idea, but there are plenty of conditioning exercises you can do on your own during off season that will keep you in shape. As your 2016 playing season nears, get ready for it with exercises designed to address what you as an individual need that will push your team into the winning leagues. Let’s hit those baseball drills!
Here are some steps that will help you work on your weaknesses and improve on your strengths:
- First, do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Even if you’re dealing with injury or rehabilitating from one, stay healthy. You know what that means: Eating right, sleeping right, and taking good care of your body will minimize injury risks this season.
- You’re Number One: Forget what the team could have done if someone had done something differently last year, especially if that someone isn’t you. Your focus for 2016 is YOU and how YOU can be a better player.
- Sit down with your coaches to get their feedback, but only last year’s coaches, who are familiar with your style of play. Gung-ho new coaches may have a lot of ideas, but not all of them may be with you in mind.
- Set your goal and then, “Keep the goal your goal!”
- For pitchers only: There’s a limit to what you can do without risking injury, but to get yourself ready for the season, work on your mental fitness (your goals and confidence-building) as well as fielding balls and your mechanics.
Again, what you work on most should be what you need the most. Your offensive and defensive drills may get monotonous, but try to face every day as a new challenge. Okay, batter up!
There are plenty of drills for batting practice; here are a few that you can work on:
- Approach – This means to stand outside the box, observe the pitcher, the field, and the dynamics of the defensive field as you prepare to bat. What you see will determine the hit.
- Swing – Make sure your hands are leading the bat. Everything should come together: the coil, stride and hip rotation should lead to a good swing level for the ball that is pitched.
- Plate practice – Establish your zero strike zone and practice pitches in and out of your strike zone. Your goal is not hitting the ball, it’s getting on base.
In baseball, the best offense can be a good defense! One of the best ways to exercise as you transition into the new season is to run and, if possible, workout at the gym. But when I say “run,” I don’t mean marathon training. The longest distance you need to be able to run at top speed is from the home plate to first, second, third, and back to home, and you want to be able to do that easily. Run sprints.
And you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to do the best exercises, like push-ups. Stretching exercises are very important and can lessen the risks of injury during play, so do warm-ups before any exercising. The areas you want to maximize flexibility include:
- Hips and glutes
Tommy Lasorda said there are three kinds of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what’s going to happen. Only you determine which kind of player you are.
The real baseball players – the best players – make it happen. It begins with you and ends with the pennant for your team. It’s never too soon to get in shape for the spring season with individual drills and exercises and remember – a wad of gum stuck on your baseball cap will not bring you good luck; it’ll just waste a good hat. Work on your skills and the luck will take care of itself.