April 20th, 2020
Staying in Shape for Opening Day
I miss baseball. By now, we’d be on the verge of starting games and getting into the full swing of the season. I’m sure our season will start up eventually though. And, when it does, I want all the kids on our team to be ready to go.
First, if your kid is anything like mine, he or she will want to jump into the baseball or softball season with both feet once things get going. Second, I’m concerned with injuries. An abbreviated (or absent) preseason could mean an increased risk of injuries once games get going. That seems especially true for throwing injuries.
I’m sure all coaches out there are aware of this and will take whatever precautions are necessary to protect their players. Yet there are a few things any coach or parent can do in the meantime -- even though there are no team activities for now.
The simplest thing to do is just have your child stay in good physical shape during this down period. The more I read about it, the more I discover the relationship between overall physical health and the avoidance of injuries. Get outside, move around, run, walk or shoot baskets in the driveway. All of these things can be done in a safe way.
As far as throwing, I thought the following recommendations from Nationwide Children’s Hospital were worth considering: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/specialties/sports-medicine/sports-medicine-articles/play-ball
My son and I try to play catch 4-5 times a week. We try to work some long toss in for arm strength (long toss just means standing far enough away from each other that he has to put a little arc into his throw to get it to me). Nothing extreme. Just staying in shape. A lot of coaches I know are big proponents of resistance band training for youth pitchers and there are many resources available to help with that.
When it comes to hitting, the main problems are resources and efficiency. Not everybody has a bucket of balls, or a L-screen or any of the other equipment you might need for a traditional batting practice. Plus, throwing balls to a single kid without fielders to help shag is not the most efficient use of time. Instead, consider a soft toss program where the kid hits balls into a screen. For younger kids, consider having them hit a basketball off a traffic cone. It’s the best drill I’ve ever seen for getting a younger player to swing hard and through the ball. For older players, consider buying cheap practice golf balls (the spongy kind or the wiffle ball kind) and having the players hit with a broomstick. Great for hand-eye coordination.
When it comes to fielding, the big problem is the mud. There are not many places to go to hit good solid ground balls. We’ve fixed that by going to a parking lot to field tennis balls or, even better, lacrosse balls. If you son or daughter is looking for a fielding drill they can do on their own, there is nothing better than a bouncy ball off the garage door.
Stay safe and in shape. Opening Day is just around the corner.