Today I wanted to touch on one word… one key word, that should be used to describe everything you do on the baseball field.
Let’s take a quick look at all the places and events where the word comes into play:
- Base Running – Most if not everyone knows that on situations like infield hits, the best way to down to first base is to run through the base. This way, unless you dawged it down the line, you stand a good chance of NOT slowing down before you get to the bag.
What some players don’t realize is that the same rule applies when crossing home plate. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes the last out of an the inning can be made before a runner crosses home plate. What should have been a run, isn’t. Sometimes this happens because the scoring runner thinks that it’s a given that he’s going to score, and lets up before he reaches the plate. With your back to the play, you don’t know what’s really going on behind you. To find out what’s happening as soon as possible: run through home plate, then take a peak.
- Hitting – A lot of younger hitters have to be reminded to ‘follow through’ with their swing, due to the fact that they have a tendency to stop everything shortly after making contact. The same can be said for a struggling hitter who just wants to make any type of contact. If you can manage to stop your swing sooner than your usual finish, you most definitely slowed down your bat speed, and that will usually happen when you need bat speed the most: through the hitting zone. Once you decide to pull the trigger on your swing, make a point of hitting through the baseball.
- Defense – A flat-footed defender is a player waiting for bad things to happen. When you decide to stop and wait for the baseball to reach your glove, you’re giving it the chance to do something you don’t want it to (i.e. take a bad hop). Beating the ball to the spot, or moving through the point where you catch the ball is the best way to take charge of the baseball rather than waiting for it to tell you how it’s going to escape your glove. Infielders need to step through the point where they catch the ball. Outfielders step through ground balls and fly balls that require them to either get the ball back into the infield quickly or gun out a runner trying to advance to the next base. Aside from minimizing the chances of the ball doing something unexpected, this will allow you to get rid of the ball quicker, as opposed to waiting to catch the ball, then take the steps (crow hop) necessary for you to get yourself into a throwing position and release the baseball.
- Throwing – I can’t stand the term ‘throw to the glove,’ or ‘aim at a target.’ I understand why it might make sense, but it winds up doing more harm than good. This may seem like it only applies to pitchers, but it concerns everyone on the field. Just as a base runner slows down when he tries to simply get to first base, your body (especially your arm) will slow down when you aim the baseball at your intended target. Outfielders are taught to throw through their cut off men, mainly because a cut off man is positioned so the throw can reach the ultimate target either on the fly or on one easy-to-catch bounce, if it’s not cut off. Every player on the field should think of their intended target as their own cut off men, and throw through them. Short Stops should throw through the first baseman on a throw across the diamond. Pitchers should throw through their catchers/ targets on every pitch they throw. Catchers should throw through whomever is covering the base on an attempted steal. This is how we minimize bad throws, especially on routine plays. It doesn’t mean we’re throwing as hard as possible. We’re just making sure we finish the throw completely.
One last thought: Even though it’s not a technical skill, coaches always love talking about the player who would “run through a wall for them.”