For many ballplayers, the ability to mash is their money-maker. Their power and ability to hit the long ball can wow coaches, opponents, and more importantly, scouts.
Yet, even the best hitters experience highs and lows throughout the course of a season. Much of the statistical success is out of our control. But the great players - the real ballers - find a way to be a factor in their team’s success even during times of offensive struggles.
We’ve all heard it - “Defense wins championships.” More importantly, the inability to play solid defense will lose games just as quickly as a high-powered offense wins them. For those of us who take pride in our craft, we look to DOMINATE every single segment of the game. Success is an all-encompassing term, and your skill set is s never "complete".
Here are 4 simple steps to improve you defensive skills:
Playing relaxed and loose is just as much a mental benefit as it is physiological. Tightness prevents athletes from moving as fluidly as those who play loose. Not only does it slow the body down, but it impedes your ability to have a broader scope of the game.
Think of a boxer as he bobs and weaves from his opponent. Are his wrists and hands clenched so tightly that he’s ready to burst? Or does he appear to bounce seamlessly on his feet? Are his gloves fixated in one spot, or does he move flowingly about the ring?
The ability to step back and BREATHE is vital for success.
Yes, you WILL face adversity. Yes, you WILL fail at times. But is that the end? Or will you find a way to bounce back and help your team at all costs?
Regardless of the level of play, do what you can to keep it light.
Remember that this is, in fact, a game. It’s supposed to provide some level of joy.
Embrace this – talk, laugh, and ENJOY the time spent on the diamond with your brothers.
2. Take Charge!
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” -- James Humes
Baseball constantly provides us with metaphors for life. This remains true in regards to communication. If we fail to communicate, problems will arise.
For those looking to play a higher level of ball, it's vital that you find a way to separate yourself from the pack. College and professional coaches want athletes who aren’t afraid to be leaders.
You don’t have to be the biggest or best player to lead your team. Leaders come in all forms, and communication is a pillar of leadership.
It’s important that communication happens in its most rudimentary form. For example, WANT the baseball. Nothing screams “timid player” more than a guy who slams into a teammate because he didn’t call for a ball in the air.
Coaches and scouts want to see players who aren’t afraid to take charge and GO GET IT. This shows two things:
The player understands the importance of communication, not only for safety, but also for the outcome of the play.
It shows the willingness to step up and make a play. It shows that this dude/dudet is hungry and ready to grind for their team!
3. Be Fearless.
Errors happen. Get over it. I don’t care if you‘re Ozzie Smith or Derek Jeter, you WILL MAKE ERRORS. What matters more is how you respond to those mistakes.
Toughness can mean many things, from pain tolerance to playing in less-than-ideal conditions.
A true test of toughness, however, takes place after an athlete’s low points. How do you respond after an error? Are you the guy saying “please don’t hit it to me, please don’t hit it to me!” Or are you hungry, hoping the next guy hits it your way so you can turn that error into a double play?
The Baseball Gods have a history of exposing players who shy away from conflict.
We’ve all seen guys make two, three, even four errors in a row as he stands out there praying the ball doesn’t come his way. This doesn’t happen because that player is incapable of fielding a ground ball. It happens because his brain is projecting negative outcomes before the ball is hit, because he’s focused on his previous mistakes.
Keep moving forward. That last error happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it now except spit it out, attack this play, and do what you’ve done a million times.
4. Controlled Movements.
Baseball is a skill sport that revolves around consistency. That consistency refers to one’s ability to repeat specific movements and produce results, day in and day out.
While it may sound elementary, it’s important that defenders focus on catching the ball first. We’ve heard our dads shout this to us thousands of times, and rightfully so.
Vision is key; keep your eyes locked in on the baseball, tracking it all the way into the glove. Don’t assume the ball will find it, make sure that it does by seeing it all the way in.
Keep the footwork light. Taking short, soft steps is the most efficient way to get into a proper defensive position. Keep the weight off your heels, always anticipating the need to move.
Spend time perfecting your fielding posture. The more natural we feel in our movements, the more repeatable they'll be. Stay underneath and behind the baseball (stay tuned for our post on Fielding Posture), ready to get your body moving toward target.
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