By: Brendan Dougherty
We hear the term “Player Development” and we see it on TV, especially when spring training was available to watch, and also on social media. There are many different forms of Player Development. The question that we get more often than any other is, what is the best for each individual player. Most likely there is not a clear-cut answer because each individual player is different, but there are definitely some things that should be a staple for every player to get better every day.
1. Strength/Speed Training/Nutrition
Baseball is a game played by people that come in all shapes and sizes, which is why it is such a great sport. It is also played by people that are very strong and take care of their bodies. Strength, Speed and Nutrition are a huge part of Player Development because it allows our body to be in peak form to play at the highest level. It also allows our body to recover faster. Baseball is a long season regardless of what level you are at. The games are longer and can take a toll on our body. We have to fuel our body with things that are going to help us perform at our best when it means the most. It makes no sense to put your body through a strenuous strength, speed, agility program if you are not going to put the right things into it to maintain throughout the offseason and in season. You should develop an offseason program with a nutrition plan and you should also have an in season program so that you can maintain and continue to get stronger and stay strong throughout the course of the season. Many times, the most important training and nutrition programs are in season because we are trying to balance the strength, speed, and nutrition with playing. Having a great in season and off-season training program is a huge part of player development. Because your body is prepared, it allows the coaching staff to develop you as a player. It also allows you to do more advanced drills and movements because you are physically ready to do so.
2. Skill Development
When you start to talk about skill development there are many different forms that can go into how you go about doing it. Baseball is a repetition sport. Baseball is also a quick twitch sport, which basically means you have many short quick bursts of movement that have to be made during the course of a training session, team practice session, and games. When you are focusing on trying to develop your skill set, you have to train your muscles to react to the short bursts that baseball has. Muscle memory is a huge part of all sports, but baseball is at the top. There are times when mechanics are taught more and training is at a slower pace, especially in the offseason. Mechanics are very important, but you have to understand that you must trust your mechanics and work tirelessly at creating quick twitch muscles so that they can fire when you need them to fire. When you train to do things at a slower mechanical pace, your body will react when things are sped up (much slower). If you workout and train at a faster pace, where you are training your body to have quick twitch movements, then you will be able to adjust to the speed of the game quicker and your mechanics will work better within the chaos. We hear all the time baseball is a slow paced game; which at times it can be, but when the ball is in the air it is probably the fastest game on earth. From the pitcher’s hand to after it leaves the hitters bat, it can move very quickly. So, you have to train and workout as close to game speed as possible, so that your body will be acclimated to the quick bursts baseball has. There are many things that you can do to work on creating quickness and this can be done in the offseason and also in-season. Here are a few:
Hitters: Train at game speed as much as possible. I understand it is difficult to hit off live pitching, but you should have some type of machine training daily. It does not always have to be high velocity stuff, but you can do different variations. Having different home plates set up at multiple distances is a great drill to create quick bursts.
Infielders: If you have the ability to throw to a live person at a base, then that should be done every day. I understand that is not always available, so you may have to adapt, but every throw should be made with a clock on it. From when it leaves the bat to when the throw reaches the base. Average MLB Home to 1st time is 4.3 sec. Division 1 average is 4.5 sec. and average HS line time is 4.7 sec. Adjust the times and challenge yourself. You will also create an internal clock, which is a huge part of slowing the game down.
Outfielders: It is difficult for outfielders to get game speed reps so if they can play balls as live as possible during Batting Practice, it will allow them to develop reads, especially over the course of a season. Live throws to bases as game like as possible is also important to do at least twice a week.
Catchers: Throwing and blocking should be done with a hitter in the batters box. You have to be able to work with congestion going on. Game type reps even when training.
Pitchers: As a pitcher your bullpen session should be as live as possible. You have to create game situations, so you have to be able to control the running game, A great way to do that is during your bullpen session. Create situations with different runners on and multiple situations.
3. Throwing Programs Pitcher/Position Players
Pitchers throwing programs are difficult because most of the time they are built specifically for individual players, based on workload and other variables. You should have some type of throwing routine that you use as a pitcher on a daily basis, depending on your workload. As a position player you should have a throwing program that you use not only to build arm strength, but you can develop other parts of your game every day. The throwing program that you use should have an aspect of game like movements when you are throwing, as well as when you are receiving the ball. The program should develop arm strength and accuracy. When you complete it everyday, your arm will be ready to go through the entire practice.