Note: The following is an article written by Mark Braun, a long-time amateur baseball player.
I’ve been playing baseball since I was 10 years old, and I’m rapidly approaching 30. 2007 marks my 11th year playing in an 18 and over hardball league in Chicago. Over the years, I’ve found some can’t miss tricks that keep me on the field. I’m certainly not the most talented player on my team, but I’ve learned enough over the years to overcome any of my physical shortcomings. Hopefully, this guide will help you continue to play ball.
Get in shape – stay in shape.
My season starts in May and runs through July. By the time mid-July rolls around, I can always tell if I’ve put enough time and effort into my off-season workouts. If I’m tired and sluggish, I know I didn’t do enough. My game pays for it as my bat speed declines and I’m slow around the bases. The best exercise I’ve found to improve my game is running. Your legs are key for almost every aspect of the game. You push off your legs when you pitch or make throws across the infield. When you hit, most of your power is generated from your legs. Keeping your legs strong will keep you on the field longer.
Know the fundamentals
If we hold a tryout for our team, I can tell in a few minutes whether or not we want the person who is trying out. All I have to do is see them take a few ground balls or fly balls and make a few throws in. Most times, we don’t even need to see the person hit. You can make up for a lack of natural talent by knowing the fundamentals. All it takes is practice to improve your skill set, regardless of the position you play.
Learn to play multiple positions
This is one of the easiest ways go from a bench player to a starter. So, your primary position is 1st base. But, the team already has two 1st basemen and you are stuck way back on the depth chart. Learn to play the outfield. If you and a friend spend a few Saturdays hitting fly balls to each other, you can figure it out in no time. Pay attention during your next practice or game, and see what each position’s responsibilities are. After a few rounds of infield / outfield practice, you should have a good grasp of what you need to do. This has been a huge reason why I have spent most of my games starting. I’ve played every position on the field except catcher, and feel extremely comfortable at all infield positions.
Buy a batting tee and spend some time at the batting cages
Just getting back to baseball and not sure how to get started? Spend $15 and buy a batting tee. This is the best way to improve your hitting. Work with a friend who can point out any problems in your form, or videotape yourself hitting. Once you feel comfortable with your stance and swing, head to the batting cages to put it all together.
Realize your shortcomings
Not everyone can have the best arm or hit the home runs. Determine where you are lacking talent and find ways to work around it. For example, I don’t have the strongest throwing arm. But, my primary positions are shortstop and third base, both of which require long throws. To make up for my arm, I realized I needed to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. I don’t have the luxury of bobbling the ball or taking an extra step to throw. I do have decent range, so I can afford to play more shallow than most to make the throw a bit shorter. You can find ways to mask a lot of problems such as these. If you aren’t a great hitter, but have decent speed – try laying down a bunt for a hit. This is a skill you can easily practice and it will earn you a lot of hits.
Put forth your best effort
Regardless of talent, level, speed, etc – give all you have. Hustle onto and off of the field. Run hard on groundouts, charge ground balls, and give your best effort going after fly balls. No one want teammates that are lazy and fail to give their best effort. Play baseball with a passion and you will extend your playing time for as long as you desire.
A special thanks to Mark for contributing this article.