One of the bad habits that players can develop is practicing at a different tempo than the game. While some sports – football most noticeably – are almost impossible to practice at game speed, baseball, for the most part, is not one of them.
It is hard for hitters to get to face live pitching every day, especially as you climb baseball’s ladder, but almost every single aspect of the game can be duplicated in practice.
I have found myself a little frustrated with some of my players recently. Our college season is close to wrapping up the regular season. I am primarily focused on the pitchers and many of the fielding drills we do are repetitive. From their body language and the way they carry themselves after not making a play; it seems some of our guys either think they are too good to be working on fielding drills or it isn’t important.
With pitchers, you have to be careful of arms – you simply can’t throw off the mound four or five times a week for long periods. Although they work on their pitches and mechanics daily, the majority of our time is spent on fielding.
Pitchers work hard on recording outs. The last thing I want is to have a batter hit a ball back to one of our pitchers and we fail to make the out. So we practice covering first base, making throws to first and second base, fielding bunts and making throws to all bases, including home in the event of a squeeze.
I have found myself reminding our players more and more of late of the importance of practicing our fielding drills at game speed. Not only I am a little irritated that I have to ask 20-year old athletes to do this in the first place, but I have to remind some of them over and over.
Or when one of them makes a bad throw, I guess it is pretty funny because of the laughing and smiling that ensues. What players should realize is that the old cliché of you practice how you play is true. Would the same throw be funny if you overthrew the first baseman or flipped a ball over the catcher’s head during the game and the winning run scored?
Many players don’t think of practice as game situations. Do you?
If you overthrow a fielder during practice, do you realize that the runner just reached second? If you aren’t focusing and drop a fly ball, does the fact that the same play in a game could be devastating to your team cross your mind?
You play the same way you practice. Do you practice hard? Do you go through the motions or do you try to replicate game speed?
The earlier you can figure out how to practice at game speed – and do it consistently - the quicker you will develop, the better you will become and more success you will have.
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