Tips for Early Season Success
Each year as we start the season, we have so many players come to us at Woodall Baseball Academy with concerns of not hitting or pitching up to expectations. Our early season struggles almost always come from a lack of timing and rhythm, or adapting to the outdoor baseball environment from indoor training.
There is a reason why major leaguers go through a 6-week progression in warm weather spring training sites, playing 30+ games before the regular season begins. Professional players actually go through the equivalent of an entire Spring High School baseball season before their regular season begins!!!
Our first 3-4 games of each season should be all about finding our timing and getting into the rhythm of a live, outdoor baseball game. Our timing at the plate and our consistency on the mound will likely not be what it will be in May. Here are 5 strategies for breaking through that early season learning curve of finding the pace of the game.
- STAND IN at the plate: There is a disconnect between our perceived timing from indoor batting cages to outdoor games. Find opportunities to stand in on pitchers throwing bullpens in practice. Just watching pitches in the batters box allows a hitter to find the pace and movement of a 60-foot pitch. With each pitch seen, we are developing our “software” of timing, change of speeds and trajectory of a game pitch.
- FACE HITTERS on the mound: In February and March each year, we match up hitters and pitchers in the batting cage and let them compete against each other. A pitcher needs to overcome the “distraction” of having a hitter in the batters box. Having a live hitter in the batters box allows for more game like reps, even if that hitter is just watching pitches.
- SEE THE BALL: Hitters must see the ball well to hit it well. In early season at bats, our eyes are still adjusting to the depth perception, speed and movement of the pitch. Taking more pitches early in the season, focusing on focusing on the ball and getting our front foot down on time will help set up better swings, more strike zone awareness and better at bats during the season.
- FIND YOUR RHYTHM on the mound: As a pitcher, we often have trouble finding our own customized rhythm and pacing on the mound. Our first pitching appearance is often out of synch according to our own internal pitching pace. Establishing a good pitching process or routine, taking charge of the pace of the game is what every great pitcher does. If we are inconsistent in our thoughts and process, we will be inconsistent with our control. Establishing a good rhythm allows us to find repeatable mechanics and control of the ball in the game over time.
- BE PATIENT: Lastly, just be patient. Your first pitching outing or first 5 at bats will not make or break your season. Early season competition is about gathering information, making the small adjustments in timing and rhythm to find your groove in the game. Players should never panic over lack of success in the first week of the season. Just keep working and keep it simple at the plate and on the mound.
If you have prepared your self correctly during off-season practices, your swing and pitching mechanics are there. Great players trust the work put in and know that the fine-tuned adjustments that every player must make early in the season will often come naturally. Paying attention to the 5 strategies above will help find your timing and rhythm faster than others, and perform better on the field during the season.