Baseball Playing Tips

SKLZ Baseball Training Aids

Hitting


With a runner on third and less than two outs, think of driving the ball rather than hitting a fly ball. Sometimes hitters try so hard to hit a great fly ball that they get a little loopy with their swing and pop the baseball up in the infield, or miss it altogether.


Focus on gripping the bat lightly when you are about to start your swing. Your upper body will usually be as relaxed as your grip, and remember that the more relaxed you are before an explosive movement, the more explosive it will be.


Finish your swing by following through the baseball. Hit “through” the ball, not “to” the ball.


One physical adjustment a hitter can make with two strikes is choking up on the bat. This will increase your bat control, and give you a shorter, quicker swing. You won't be able to generate as much power, but with two strikes, you're just wanting to put the ball in play. Remember, in big situations, a pitcher oftentimes would rather pitch to a free swinging hitter with home run potential rather than a pesky line drive hitter who doesn’t strike out much.


When you're practicing hitting before the game, try listening to music. It'll start to give you a beat, a pace, a tempo, so when you step to the plate you have rhythm. It can help you relax and focus.


Collecting information about the opposing pitcher before you step into the batter's box will give you a better chance for success at the plate. What does his fastball look like (firm, average, below average)? Does he throw it straight or does it cut? Is the pitcher throwing mostly to one side of the plate? What other pitches is he throwing? Is he throwing them for strikes? Does he have any tendencies in certain counts or does he fall in love with one of his pitches? Does he pitch differently with runners on base compared to nobody on base? Also, when the first guy to face the pitcher comes back to the dugout ask him what he saw, and what the pitches looked like. All this information can help you formulate a plan of attack.


Look to the outer half of the plate. Pitchers don’t like throwing inside for the potential of hitting a batter, giving up cheap hits, or giving up home runs. If the first pitch paints the inside corner for a strike, don't change your approach. Based on percentages, he will go away from you. He is hoping you change your approach. Trust your strategy and trust what you see.

Pitching


Just because you fall behind in the count (2-0, 2-1, or 3-1) doesn't mean you HAVE to throw a fastball. Keep 'em thinking!


Moving the ball up and down changes the eye level of the hitter and can produce swing and misses especially with two strikes.


When executing your pick off move to first base, always keep your hands and feet in the same position as you would if you were delivering a pitch. Keep your head and chin level. You can also do two different types of pick offs. A subpar one - slow but accurate - to deke the runner. Then, show him your good one. Finally, a fake pick with no throw is an effective way to control the run game. Just make sure you step behind the rubber before doing so.


Learn how to locate your fastball. No matter what age you're at, if you can locate your fastball, you can do a lot of damage as a pitcher, and it can carry you a long way.


When striding toward home plate, get your front foot as far out as possible and don't be lazy. The shorter your stride, the more stress on your arm, and the farther away your release point is from home plate, which could be the difference between a hitter getting around on your fastball and being late.


Throw a first pitch strike. It sets the tone of the at bat as well as the game you bring to the table. It tells hitters you are not afraid of them, that you are confident and believe in yourself and your stuff.


This one's for young pitchers. When throwing a curve ball don't over-spin it thinking you need to, just let it come naturally and you won't be risking yourself to major injury. Wait until you're in high school to throw a good number of curves, just work on that changeup.

Infielders


When fielding ground balls, you want your glove more perpendicular than parallel to the ground. This allows you to use all of your glove. It will also prevent balls that take a little hop from rolling up your arm. This is something many infielders don’t get taught but helps a lot when the baseball takes late tricky hops.


When throwing to first base, you should be making ten out of ten throws accurately. If not, this is something you need to work on.


As the baseball is coming down and it's about to fall into your glove, keep your glove out of the way of your eye sight. When your glove crosses in front of your eyes you lose track of the baseball for just a split second - or about the time you are catching the ball. This is how people drop fly balls.


When throwing the ball, take your chest to your glove. Take your front elbow and bring it back into your body and keep your glove in front of you so that it will eventually touch and meet up with your chest. You want to keep everything tight. The tighter you are the quicker you will fire.


During practice, spend a few minutes on non-routine plays. Practice spin plays, glove flips, throwing on the run, off-balance throws, jump throws, behind the back tosses, and other such challenging, non-routine plays. Don’t be afraid to be creative in your practice time. Not every play in a baseball game is routine, so practice is the time to develop body and field awareness.


Attack with your glove but most importantly with your mentality. Have an aggressive (but under control) attitude when approaching a ground ball. A quality infielder dictates how he is going to field the ground ball. A below average infielder lets the ball dictate how he is going to field the ball.


This one's for executing a rundown. Both infielders, whether throwing the ball or receiving it, should get to the same side of the base runner. For example, both players get to the infield grass side. This will prevent the throw from hitting the runner, and gives both thrower and receiver a clear line of sight. If you have the baseball, it's your job to run hard at him. If you run hard, he has to run hard and it's more difficult to stop and change directions. Make him commit and either tag him or give the ball up to the receiving infielder. The goal is to complete this play with two throws or less, because this cuts down on the potential for an errant throw.


Once you field a routine ground ball, funnel it to your chest. In this position, you are balanced and free to move. Now that your center of gravity is over your feet, your hands are in a good position to throw and you can shuffle your feet as needed.


On a pop fly, the player who makes the catch should yell “I got it, I got it, I got it,” and the person(s) he is calling off should say nothing so there won’t be any misunderstanding on who should catch the ball. Also, wave your hands in the air so other fielders can see that you are calling it in case they don't hear you.


Every time you throw a baseball, get a four-seam grip on the ball. This means your index and middle finger are across the horseshoe. This may seem difficult, but all infielders do this. This grip keeps the ball flying straight and with the proper backspin, and will help your throws to be more accurate. If you only get a two-seam, one-seam, or no seam grip, the ball will most likely sink, run, or dive. So work on getting a four-seam grip every time.

Middle Infielders


When holding runners on second, use different techniques and switch them up often: every inning, with every hitter, or even every pitch. Just keep them guessing. At times be quiet so the runner doesn’t know where you are. A runner may be a little nervous about getting a huge lead if he isn’t sure where the second baseman is. Or you can try talking loud, hitting your glove and keep him thinking about you.


After fielding a grounder back-handed or off-balance, using a long hop is much quicker than throwing a rainbow over to first base. Pick a spot out in front of the first baseman about 15-20 feet and throw the ball into the ground at that spot. The ball should take a nice easy one hop to the first baseman. Throwing the ball that far in front of the first baseman makes the play easy on him.


When holding runners at second, know the situation. Runners are much more likely to attempt to steal third base with one out. With nobody out, they are letting the hitter move them up. With two outs they are already in scoring position.


When turning a double play, stay under control as you approach second base and expect a bad throw. As soon as you don't, you will get one. Once you have the ball, hit the back corner of the bag because it will get you further away from the runner's path and keep you safe as you move up in levels.

First Base


When executing a flip to the pitcher, get rid of the ball early. This will allow the pitcher to catch the ball and then look for the bag to touch. It is more difficult when you are trying to catch and touch the bag at the same time.


Lower your head as the ball travels toward the base, so it's almost on the same plane as your glove. This will put you in the best position to see the ball into the glove.


After you've squared up to where the ball is coming from, take your right foot to the ball if you are left-handed or left foot to the ball if you are right-handed. (Do not do this too early. Committing too early makes it difficult to adjust if the throw is less than perfect). Done correctly, taking your foot to the ball gives you the maximum amount of range while keeping your other foot on the bag.


When picking the ball off the dirt, start with your glove on the ground. Once the ball hits the ground, start working up.

Second Base


When trying to turn a double play. You always want to get to the bag and square up to the shortstop even if he is behind the second base bag. You need to get the first out before you can get the second one, so square up and give him a good target.

Third Base


On a bare hand throw: As you are running toward the baseball, open your hand and make it as big as possible. Once you go down and are about to field the ball, relax your hand so it naturally starts closing with the baseball. This will give you a good chance of catching the ball cleanly in your hand.

Shortstop


In practice, try to get in front of as many balls as possible. This will (1) improve your range, (2) condition your feet not to be lazy, and (3) best of all, it creates the perception that you have more range than the next guy.


When executing an underhand flip to second base, use your legs to get momentum on your flip. The more you push with your legs, the harder the ball will be tossed.


When receiving the throw from a catcher on a stolen base attempt, straddle the bag so your feet are in a straight line through the catcher. Straddling the bag is important because you want the ball to travel as long as possible. It is faster than going to get the ball and bringing it back to make the tag.

Outfield


If a baseball gets to you and nobody is on base, field it like an infielder. Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder width and field the ball in front of your body. Keep your butt down and even take a knee if you need to, just so the ball doesn’t go in between your legs.


Tracking fly balls hit directly over your head can be the most difficult because it can be tough to read exactly where the baseball is going to end up. You have to pick a way to turn and run. It is much quicker than back peddling, which should be avoided whenever possible.


Know when to throw out runners at home plate and when to throw to second base. With a runner on second and a ball hit that takes you to your right or left a few steps, throw to second. Base hits that are hit right at you - take a chance and try for the runner at home.


When runners are on base and a ground ball is hit to the right or left of you, don't try to cut the ball off. Instead, come around and behind the baseball. This puts your body in a better position to throw runners out or keep them from taking extra bases.


Don’t fall into the trap of not moving your feet for 2, 3, 4 pitches. Keep your legs light and ready by moving in between pitches.

Catchers


If you are having trouble getting low enough for the pitcher or the umpire, turn your toes out. This will open up your hips comfortably and will allow you to get lower in your stance. You don’t need to separate your feet just turn your toes out.


To take your blocking to the next level, exhale when you and the ball meet. This will soften your body and further deaden the impact.


A simple way to improve your "pop time" (the time taken from the instant a pitch hits a catcher's glove to the moment it strikes the glove of the middle infielder at second base) is to let the pitch travel. Fight the urge to reach out and get it. Use the superior speed of the ball and make the glove-to-hand exchange closer to your body (about 12-18 inches from the chest) for more efficient times.


When giving signs, your knees and toes should point to the middle infielders. Having your toes pointed out just a little will make your catchers squat more comfortable as well as put your knees in the right place. Make sure to talk to your infielders and make sure the two middle guys can see your signs and the corner infielders can’t. If they can’t see the signs, then you know the first and third base coaches can’t see them either.


When blocking, keep the glove on or really close to the ground and fight the urge to catch balls in the dirt. Remember, in this instance, the glove is no longer an instrument to catch the ball. It is simply a thing to clog the "five hole" (the triangular area in between your legs when you go down to your knees). Your new glove is your chest and stomach area. Practice "catching" the bounced ball with your chest. Eventually it’ll become habit and, with the “five hole” plugged, you’ll turn into a human backstop.


Working quickly works. Push the pace of the game. Pitchers who work quickly are more effective, and hitters are less effective.

Base Running


When returning to first base, always turn to your right and come back, so the umpire never has the thought that you were thinking of going to second base. If he feels you were trying to go just for a split second and you get tagged, you will be called out.


When taking a lead off first, remember left right shuffle shuffle, meaning step off the bag with your left foot, then right foot. As you shuffle, do not let your feet come together - you can get stuck and more easily picked off. Also, keep your hands off your knees - always stay athletic.


As soon as you see a ball you've hit go through the infield, start your turn towards 2nd early - don't wait until you are 20 feet from the bag - and make it a gradual arch. From this angle you want to hit the inside front part of the bag to push off of and try to get the straightest path possible to second.

Base Stealing


A pitcher may come set and wait a certain amount of time every pitch (i.e. one second). Once he comes set, start counting in your head to see if he pitches on the same number every time. You may be surprised how many pitchers will not change up their rhythm.


Focus in on a spot on the pitcher that needs to move every time in order for him to throw home. Some players look at the front shoulder, front knee, or front heel. The spot of focus is different for everyone, so it’s important to find what is comfortable for you and what you can read quickly to help you get the best jump possible.


A good time to steal third base is the next pitch after you just stole second. The pitcher usually relaxes a little and thinks you are where you want to be, so oftentimes he is not worried about you. Also, it's important to note here the old unwritten rule for base runners: Never make the first or third out at third base.

Cut off/relay


This one's for cut off men. If you are unsure if the runner will be out at home plate and you see another runner on the bases being too aggressive, cut the ball and get the out.


When throws are made in baseball relays and cutoffs, keep the ball down. This allows someone else to cut the ball if needed to hold a runner. It also gets to your target quicker with a hop or two than sailing a high rainbow.


It is important for the cut off men to be in a straight line from where the ball is being thrown and where it is eventually going to go. The quickest path between two points is a straight line. Also, if the ball is overthrown the ball is going in the correct direction.

Other Tips


After the game, go back over what happened and try to learn from it. If you made a mistake, visualize the better outcome you want to happen next time. It helps to prepare you and build confidence.


Always allow ample time to get stretched, run, and play catch before you go out on the field or hit. A pre-game routine is important and usually people don’t take this very seriously. Not being loose can increase injuries and most injuries come from not being properly warmed up.