Although baseball is a team sport, it’s possible to hone your skills alone or with a friend. You can run a whole practice in your backyard, if you have the right equipment.
First, you’ll need the basic baseball equipment that every ballplayer needs: a glove, a baseball bat, a baseball helmet and a few baseballs. Many sports stores sell this equipment as a kit. But left-handed players should be careful when selecting a glove. Most gloves are left-handed, as right-hand players typically throw with their right hands. Left-handed players will probably want a, harder to find, right hand glove. Baseball bats can be simple wood or high-tech aluminum or steel. If you’re practicing in a small area, the wood ones are probably fine. Also, make sure you have at least 3 or 4 baseballs, since it’s quite possible you’ll lose one over the fence if you get a good hit.
The best piece of equipment to have, though, is a friend. With a friend, you can warm up by tossing a baseball back and forth. This is great practice for both catching and throwing. Practice catching the ball with the glove and then transitioning the baseball to your throwing arm. Your friend can also pitch to you, allowing you to practice batting (watch this video for pitching mechanics tips). Then you can switch, and you can practice pitching while your friend bats. Remember to bat away from houses and cars, if you can. Backyards are also good for practicing bunting, where players hit the ball low instead of swinging for a home run. Watch the following video for tips on bunting.
HOW TO BUNT
If you can’t find a friend for practice, there is now another option. Many stores are selling pitching machines (see below for detailed info on using pitching machines to improve your batting skills). These machines pitch a ball in your direction, so that you can practice batting the ball. If you lay out some colorful markers, you can also practice running bases at the same time. Even better, some of these machines are called pitching and fielding machines. These machines transition from fast pitches for batting to slower lobs for practicing catches. Even without a friend, you can practice both catching and batting.
Improving Your Batting Skills WITH a Pitching Machine
Baseball requires years of practice. Between catching, running, batting, and throwing, it can take up a lot of time. Running, throwing, and catching can’t be taught. You can only give tips on how to do these better, longer, or faster. Batting is between you, the bat, and the ball – and it can be taught. How the ball is thrown is the most important part. Using a pitching machine will improve your batting skills because a pitching machine offers controlled variables. Controlling these variables will help you learn when to hit and how to hit properly.
With a multitude of pitching machines available, you should conduct some research and figure out what machines meet your needs. Not every pitching machine is the same. If you are having trouble hitting fastballs, make sure that the pitching machine you buy has several different speed settings. Throwing settings are another important factor. Some pitching machines can only throw fastballs. If you aren’t looking to buy a pitching machine but are simply using one, get familiar with what types of settings it offers to maximize the benefits you’re getting.
The first step to improving your batting skills using a pitching machine is to watch the ball instead of just swinging at it. If you just swing at the ball, you aren’t learning anything. Watching where the ball is and the direction of where it’s going will give you a sense of timing. A sense of timing and direction will give you a good estimate if a ball is hittable.
If you are hitting the ball too late, a pitching machine’s speed can be adjusted so you can work on your timing. Someone throwing a ball to you won’t always be consistent. You might swing early, then start to swing late because of the thrower’s inconsistency.
Young and old, anybody can use a pitching machine and benefit from it. Children and teenagers can learn quickly using a pitching machine. Children, in particular, get more comfortable with a pitching machine because of consistent throws. A consistent throw will teach them to be more comfortable with thrown baseballs. Adults using a pitching machine will benefit most from the variability that some pitching machines can give. The height of pitching machines can also be adjusted, allowing different throwing heights.
No matter what machine you use and what settings you try, pitching machines are great for improving your overall batting skills.
Practicing baseball in your backyard is a great pastime and excellent exercise. With a friend, you can practice all the elements of a game: batting, catching and pitching. Running bases is even possible if you have a big backyard and some colorful plastic markers to lay out as a baseball field. Pitching machines are also an option to practice when your friends aren’t around. It’s easy to practice baseball when you have the right equipment.
This piece was submitted by one of our baseball guest writers.