With the current events, it’s understandable, though disappointing, why sports have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. To put it in baseball terms, 2020 could be considered a slump.
We can all agree that the mandated quarantine, in some ways, has been difficult. No sporting events with friends, gatherings at the park, or other fun group outings.
However, while staying at home can be tough, it can also allow for some amazing quality time spent with your family. Or if you’re sheltering in place on your own, you can use this time to step up your game. That way, when life kicks back into gear, you’re ready to get back out onto the field!
Here are some tips and drills you can do at home by yourself or with your home team!
Be Prepared… Setting Up to Play at Home
Before you can slide into your at-home training, you will want to make sure everything is set up properly. Grassy lawn? Carpeted floors? Don’t let these things hold you back.
With the right accessories, you can turn any environment into a makeshift home infield. Pull out your nets, tees, and other training aids and set up your turf in a way that works for you.
Once you have situated your at-home set up, it’s best to start with agility-focused drills to warm up your body and stretch. The following is a list of exercises that will get your body back in action with minimal setup.
1. Exercises for Improving Quick Feet
The first few drills utilize an agility ladder. You can always improvise by drawing lines with chalk on the concrete or laying out markers, sticks, or other tools you have lying around if you do not own an agility ladder. Just be sure to line them up with enough space to perform the activity.
A great exercise to begin with is a high knee drill. Start one end of the ladder facing forward. Then, quickly place one foot in each square and move to the opposite side. Bring your knees waist or chest height, depending on your flexibility, as you move across.
Maintain your balance and stability by pumping your arms in rhythm with your legs. Keep steady body control and as you progress, pick up the pace.
Next up to the plate is a more advanced ladder exercise known as a slalom or skill drill. Facing the long end of the ladder, move across each square placing your inner foot in the center followed by the other foot. Then reverse! It looks like this: right in center, left in center, right on the side of the ladder - then repeat on the opposite side and progress all the way up and down the ladder.
And lastly, the side step drill is another excellent way to get your blood pumping, plus work on your muscle control, stamina and balance. Start this drill at one end of your ladder, standing adjacent the long side while looking across to the short end. Move along the length of the ladder stepping both feet in a square, one at a time, and then outside of the square, one at a time.
2. Exercises for Changing Direction
One of the most important skills to have when playing baseball is quick reaction time. You must be able to swiftly stop, start and accelerate. Be sure to include exercises that help you sharpen this skill in your at-home routine.
First, set up four cones ten feet apart to make a square. In this drill, you’ll switch between a sprint, shuffle, and back pedaling to practice thinking on your feet and strengthen your reaction time. Start at one corner and move around the perimeter. Sprint to the first corner, shuffle to the next, and then backpedal to the one in front of you. Shuffle again to the starting point.
The same square setup will work for your next drill as well - the N drill. To perform this exercise, start at one corner of the square and sprint along the perimeter to the next cone. Then, you’ll move in an “N” formation, backpedaling across the center of the square to the other top corner. Complete the “N” by sprinting again along the outside perimeter to the cone in the bottom corner.
Another drill for improving your reaction time can also be done with the square setup, but you’ll need to add a fifth cone in the middle of your square - and you’ll need to bring in a teammate! First, number the outside cones 1 through 4. Then, starting at the center cone, have your friend, family member, coach, or teammate randomly call out numbers, while you quickly run to the respective cone, touch it, and then move back to the center.
3. Exercise for Endurance and Athletic Stance
The shuffle drop drill is a great exercise to combine the strength training we discussed above, while also building endurance. This intense training activity focuses on control, balance, stamina, and improving your athletic stance.
For this drill, you’ll need to set six balls on the ground and two buckets on either side about 5 to 8 feet from where you set them down. You want to position yourself in the center behind the balls.
Now, take your athletic stance and when it’s go-time, pick up a ball and shuffle to one of the buckets and drop it in. Stay low and maintain your stance! Don’t criss-cross your feet. When you make it to each bucket, be sure to plant your outside foot.
As you move past the balls on the ground in the center, swiftly pick up the next one without breaking your athletic stance or pausing. Work towards a continuous movement, back and forth. Move back and forth until you’ve placed all of the balls in the buckets.
This drill helps tremendously with developing your hand-eye coordination and body control. In order to make it more challenging, you can add more balls, set up the buckets further apart or time yourself to track your improvement. You can also have someone stand 10 to 20 feet in front of you and pitch a ball to you as you cross the center, instead of picking up the balls from the ground.
Agility drills will definitely have you working up a sweat and your adrenaline racing. Another area that you can easily work on at home is your throwing skills. It’s important to keep your arm strong and ready. You can use the following throwing exercises to strengthen your pitch and prepare for the next time you’re out on the field.
1. Throwing Progression
This drill will work to warm up your arm. You’ll need to have a partner to perform this activity. Start standing relatively close to your partner and keep your feet facing them. Begin by throwing the ball with just your wrist, similar to throwing a dart.
Next, move a little farther apart from each other for a non-striding throw. Keeping your feet planted and facing your partner, position yourself into an athletic stance and throw the ball with your typical motion. It’s okay to rock back onto your hind leg, but do not move your feet.
Once you’ve completed a few rounds of the non-striding throw, increase the distance between you and your partner a little more and work on your striding tosses. Make sure that you are maintaining the same athletic stance, but now feel free to take a step or two. This will increase the load and rhythm of your throw. Repeat this drill again with more distance between you and your partner and add an extra step or shuffle.
The last part of your throwing progression is a long toss. This drill will allow you to see how far you can throw the baseball, which is important. Put your whole body into it to gain momentum
and as you throw the ball, take a few steps and drive your legs towards your partner. Make sure that you throw the ball on a line, and not with a high arc.
2.Exercises to Improve Throwing Motion
Fluidity is essential to your throwing technique. It improves your efficiency and accuracy with each toss to keep you on target.
A figure 8 drill can greatly improve your arm action and develop fluid and continuous movement in every throw. To perform this drill, move the ball with your throwing hand in a figure 8 formation several times, keeping your arm extended in front of your body.
When your throwing hand reaches the lower part of the figure 8, bring it up above your head, take a step and throw in your usual motion. Maintain momentum you built up from the figure 8 motion.
One of the more difficult skills to practice at home is hitting. Due to a lack of space, batting at full capacity can seem impossible. However, there are several drills you can use to hone in on your batting and swinging skills at home without a field or a cage. The following is a list of hitting drills you can do that don’t require too much space.
1. Indoor Soft Toss
You can build a stronger and more consistent swing with a soft toss drill. This drill provides a broken-down, close look at your swing to identify any areas of improvement needed. You’ll need a net, bucket of baseballs, and a partner to help you with this drill.
To properly perform this technique, you’re going to bring the ball in low and fast. Take about ten swings with fastballs, followed by ten swings with curveballs. After that, continue mixing it up.
Focus on your hitting mechanics, including the way you load your wrists and how you follow through. Focus on keeping your hands high and back, while also delivering a full swing.
2. Bunting Cone Drill
Bunting is a skill that is often overlooked and outshined by the homerun, long ball or dinger. However, it is an impressive skill that can help runners advance, switch up the defense and be the turning point in the game that leads to victory. It can be mastered by any player and it is also a great skill to work on at home.
The bunting cone drill is an excellent exercise to build your bunting skills to the first and third base lines at home. To get started, you’ll need your bat, two cones, a bucket of balls, and a partner.
Start your practice bunting to the third base side. Set up two cones about ten yards from home plate along the base line. Your goal is to bunt the ball between the two cones. Make sure to focus on keeping your bat barrel high and your hands in the right position as you receive the pitches. Tilt your hand in more to bunt to the third base side.
In order to bunt to the first base side, just flip the field and move the cones to be along that base line. Push the lower end of the bat out a little bit, instead of pulling it in this time. That is how you’ll bunt to the first base line instead of the third.
Catchers are a valuable and essential player on the team. The most important skill set for a catcher to focus on is receiving the ball. This is a skill that can easily be practiced at home with a bucket of balls and a partner.
Another important responsibility of the catcher is throwing base runners out once they have received the ball. By training your footwork, you can learn to make every movement count.
The following drills can be done at home to hone in on your receiving skills and footwork.
1. Bare Hand Receiving Drill
The way a catcher receives the ball can help steal strikes for the pitcher and provide a clearer picture for the umpire when making the call. An exercise known as the bare hand receiving drill can greatly improve your receiving skills.
This drill should be performed without your catcher’s mitt - as the name suggests. The key to this exercise is to practice your stance. Make sure that you are in a proper catching position with your thighs resting on your calves, your chest up, eyes forward and your glove hand extended.
You’ll need a partner to perform this drill. They will throw you balls from in front of the plate. Try to catch each ball with your bare hand using only your fingertips. This is meant to be fast-paced to improve your reaction time, so as you catch each ball, toss it to the side and prepare for the next pitch.
The idea behind this drill is focusing on catching the ball where it is pitched, keeping your hands soft and catching it in your fingertips. This exercise is meant to build your muscle memory.
2. Line Footwork Drill
A line footwork drill will help you develop your catching and throwing stance. It will allow you to see where your foot placement and body position needs improvement.
Start your line footwork drill in your secondary catcher’s position. This means that you are up and ready to throw the ball. If you don’t have a baseline on hand, you can draw a line or use tape for a visual.
To begin, pop up from your secondary position and get into your throwing position with both of your feet turned and on the center line. Then, recover and return to your secondary position, while maintaining the same spot on the line. Your placement should be slightly further down the line from where you initially started the drill. Repeat the drill, moving down the line as you progress.