The Baseball Zone Blog

Kevin Hussey | Jul 9, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Practicing Baseball On Your Own - 3 Ideas For You

Baseball may be known as a team sport but it’s not a sport that needs to be practiced with a team. The best way to enhance your skills is to practice by yourself. Team practice is for understanding things like cut offs, bunt defense, pick off plays and other team activities. Practicing these different plays will help your team get better but will not necessarily make you a more skilled baseball player. To get better as a player it’s important to practice on your own. Here are some ways you can practice on your own or with one other person.

Hitting (Hitting off a Tee)

Everyone’s favorite part of practice is batting practice, where they get to see how hard and far they can hit a baseball. The problem with batting practice is how kids handle it. A lot of kids see batting practice as a homerun derby with the ball perfectly placed each time (or waiting for a perfectly placed one) and swinging for the fences. When you hit off a Tee, your goals can be made more appropriate for trying to become a better hitter and can be made more realistic to game situations when done correctly. The goal of hitting the ball off the tee is to try and square up the ball as much as possible because almost all results will be the same anyways. Hitting off a tee allows you to forget about your surroundings and concentrating on increasing your strength and using proper technique. Placing the Tee in different locations that represent where an actual ball may be pitched to you - raise and lower the Tee, place it closer to you and further away - can help you learn what adjustments your body will need to make to square up on a ball based on the pitch location.

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Topics: baseball drills, hitting drills, baseball practice, bunt defense, fielding drills, infielding drills, catching drills, Outfielding drills, pickoffs, pick off moves, team practice, tee drills

Rick Johnston | Feb 22, 2015 3:00:52 PM

6 Key Factors Affecting Your Baseball Team Defense

Some baseball team defenses will be fairly standard and universally accepted in how they are deployed. Yes, there could be slight variations or deviations to each defense based on abilities or lack of abilities of defensive players. For example, if one player is more fleet a foot than another, or one has better arm strength or one player lacks lateral movement, then having a contingent plan in the deployment is always acceptable.

However, when deploying a particular defense, such as an aggressive bunt defence or a particular first and third play, an array of variables must be considered before entertaining the defensive scheme for your team. Situations always vary from game to game and indeed, from inning to inning, hitter to hitter and frankly pitch to pitch or count to count. Consider this then, there are numerous ways a defensive situation can change, but largely it will be based on the following influencing factors.

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Topics: baseball strategy, bunt defense, defensive baseball, baseball team defense, team defense, Defense

Rick Johnston | Apr 14, 2014 6:03:00 PM

26 Points for Excellent Verbal Infield Communication

What does the verbal communication mean in the infield?

Throughout the history of baseball, both verbal and nonverbal signs have been delivered as a form of communication to and from players, coaches and managers from the same team as a way to disguise or hide various types of strategy and intentions. When communication comes from a coach or manager it is usually done in the form of nonverbal signs or a sequence of signs to a hitter, baserunner or the defense. This type of language or form of communication is the most obvious form of interaction that the average fan is able to see when watching on TV. It certainly does not mean the transmission of the sign will be known to the fan, let alone the 

opposition, but it is a well known practice to most who watch the game. This nonverbal system is primary approach that is used most, similar to one learning sign language or reading lips.

There is, however, a very standard form of verbal communication that is used in the infield by each infielder when situations apply in games (and failing to do so is my top pet peeve of infielders). The following is a look at some of the primary verbal cues infielders need to communicate when the communication is necessary.

First Baseman:

1.     Remind the second baseman to talk on ground balls in the 3-4 hole. If the second baseman can make the verbal call immediately, “ball, ball, ball” the first baseman can release back to the base.

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Topics: infielding, infielding tips, team Defence, baseball communication, bunt defense, defensive baseball, infield play, infield communication

Rick Johnston | Aug 8, 2013 7:57:00 AM

The 4 Out Approach to Practicing Bunting, Baserunning & Defense

Often teaching the art of bunting can be tedious and taxing on both players and coaches. Moreover, when players work on the art of bunting they do so in non-competitive situations or situations where there is zero pressure on them. Seldom are players placed under the microscope to get bunts down in practice. Yet, think about when players are asked to bunt in games? YES, they are directed to get bunts down in crucial situations, where the pressure is somewhat intense. So we are supposed to go from no pressure, often lackadaisical bunting practice to perfection in games? There is a gap here that needs to be filled by an element of practice Dr. Rick Jensen has termed "transfer training" - exposing a skill to on-field, competitive conditions in practice. The 4 out approach to bunting accomplishes this not just for the batter, but also for the defense and the baserunner.

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Topics: baserunning, baseball coaching, baseball communication, baseball drills, baseball practice, baseball skills, bunting, bunting practice, bunt defense, suicide squeeze, safety squeeze, transfer training

Rick Johnston | Nov 4, 2011 7:35:00 PM

The Importance of Playing First Base

Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixiera, what do they all have in common? They can all flat out hit, hit for power and are RBI machines. But, what do you not know about these guys? Since 2001 they have a combined 10 Gold Gloves between them. Not too shabby for a handful of MLB hitters who are the best of the best. They became the best because the intently worked on the finer points of first base play. Yes, it probably was their bats that got them to the big leagues and it is their bats that will afford them long, distinguished careers in the big leagues, but what separates these players from the rest is their ability to play first base day in and day out.

A day in the life of becoming a Gold Glove First Baseman does not start with the bat, it starts with the acceptance of taking to first base as your opportunity to shine at a position that is vastly underrated. Just what does it take? There are a plethora of situations that most first baseman would never consider when it comes to learning the position. One needs to be athletic and agile around the base. With this comes good feet and the ability to use the base and the surrounding to their advantage. One needs to be able to read throws and make plays on balls in the dirt on under thrown balls, this is where pick and dig work is needed on a daily basis. 

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Topics: defence, infielding, infielding tips, fielding instruction, bunt defense, First Base, first baseman, first basemen, infielding errors, defensive baseball, infield play

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