Whether on the field or in the dugout, there are many ways baseball players and coaches can contribute to their own safety, as well as that of the entire team. Chad Martineau, a youth baseball coach in Connecticut who also runs baseball camps and clinics under the name Dr. Baseball, shared tips for staying safe on the diamond to help your team get the most out of the sport.
1. Basic Training
“In order to talk safety, a coach must first talk fundamentals,” Martineau said. “A coach has to make sure that players have a good grasp on the rules and the general positions of the game. A player can easily get hurt just from being out of position from a lack of baseball knowledge.”
For example, a fielder needs to know to give way when a teammate calls for the ball on a pop fly, thus avoiding an unnecessary collision. However, Martineau suggests going even deeper into the fundamentals at times, breaking things down to the lowest level and building from there.
“Kids must be taught the proper way to position themselves, how to field, all those things. I feel a lot of coaches at the younger levels are not teaching these kids the foundation of baseball and putting in the extra time to teach the basics,” Martineau said. “It takes a great deal of patience and passion for a coach to do basic fundamentals over and over, but the kids will benefit tremendously. Coaches have a huge role in mentoring players in this safety process and making sure it becomes a habit.”
2. Start at Home
Martineau likes his players to arrive 45 minutes prior to a game. That way they can stretch and get warmed up. However, safety starts before a player even heads to the ball field.
Being properly hydrated, stretching and getting ready to play the position are all part of a player’s prep work. Getting a good night’s sleep before a game and preparing mentally for each situation will go a long way to better preparedness as well.
Martineau also noted that in Connecticut, the baseball season encompasses all kinds of weather: chilly and occasionally wet in the early part of the season, and hot and humid as summer comes around. Either way, imperfect weather demands unique preparation.
3. Dugout Demeanor
There is always something going on during the game a player can watch, especially while in the dugout. How is the opposing pitcher throwing? How does the defense line up? What kind of arm does the catcher have? Players have to be on the lookout and stay in the game mentally at all times, Martineau said. It comes with staying safe and being a good teammate.
“You have to be constantly paying attention in the field and in the dugout. Avoid outside distractions,” Martineau said. “A big thing is to pay attention to your surroundings, like when you are swinging a bat.”
4. Equipment Checks
Having the proper gear from hat to cup each time you take the field for practice or a game will help player safety tremendously. Martineau recommends that players give their gear a quick wipe down and inspection before each practice, just in case.
“Check your bat for the grip and cracks, look at your helmets for cracks and make sure you have a proper face mask,” Martineau said. “Gloves should be stitched tight and in working order.”