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How Practicing on Your Own Can Make You Better

It’s no secret that to be successful in baseball, you must practice, practice, and practice some more. But Mike Roberts, former college baseball coach and currently a consultant for the Chicago Cubs, says many young players fail to grasp the importance of putting in practice time, not just with their team, but by themselves.

“Repetition is great. Repetition done correctly is even better. Repetition done many times has a chance to help you be much improved,” explained Roberts, father of former Baltimore Orioles All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts.

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Instead of relying on coaches or parents to provide motivation or map out a structured activity, Mike Roberts said players should create their own practice habits to coincide with organized games and team workouts. Activities can be as simple as throwing a ball against a wall or playing whiffle ball with a group of friends.

Whether you hit, pitch, field, or run bases, Roberts recommends different techniques players can use to work on individual skills away from the team.

Hitting

Swing a bat as often as possible. You don’t always have to be in a batting cage, or even use a regular baseball bat. Pick up a Wiffle ball, plastic, or wooden bat, and just swing.

Get used to the feel of a bat in your hands, the proper grip, the rhythm of your swing. Learn to enjoy hitting, whether it’s off a tee or free swinging in the yard. As you become more comfortable with a bat in your hands, you’ll develop the proper motor skills and rhythm necessary to become a good hitter.

Pitching

Placement of the fingers is crucial to pitching success, and can minimize the risk of arm injury. All young pitchers should learn to throw with their fingers behind the ball. Chicago Cubs pitcher and Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks is a great example of this method.

“He doesn’t throw as hard as most guys do, but he is behind the baseball and has phenomenal control,” Roberts explained.

Even if you don’t have anyone to play catch with, you can pitch by yourself using a brick wall and marking a square with chalk or other similar substance.

Pitchers' Fielding Practice - Read It Now

Fielding

Like pitchers, fielders can practice throwing and catching by themselves using their glove. One technique is to toss the ball up, and either catch it above your head or a short distance to the left or right. If there is enough space in your living room or garage, infielders can roll the ball to their left and right. This is especially helpful if you don’t have a wall to throw from.

Base Running

Roberts, author of two books on base running, says almost any object can be used as a base: from the side of a bed or rug to a wall.

Practice taking leads from different distances. For example, alternate your steps starting with your left foot and then your right for a nine-foot lead, turning inside toward an imaginary catcher. Use a right-to-left combination for a six-foot lead, then turn inside. Use a towel, blanket, or soft carpet to practice sliding back into a base from different distances. Players should learn to be as comfortable stepping off a base as standing on it.

Above all, Roberts says, enjoy running. Instead of thinking in baseball terms, base runners should pretend they’re sprinters running on a track, and treat running to each base as a 60- or 90-foot sprint, depending on the level of play.

“When the bat is not in your hand, and if you’re running around the bases, we want it to become as if you’re running a 220 or 440,” Roberts explained. “If you’re running between the bases or stealing, we want it to become a 100-meter dash.”

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development

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