To help you earn your spot in the starting lineup, we've rounded up tips from college coaches, Athletes' Performance trainers and major leaguers. Steal their secrets to improve strength, conditioning and motivation.
1. Become a better hitter with a second-nature swing.
“If you have any mechanical thoughts while trying to hit, it’s very difficult. You need a swing you can trust. You need to be on autopilot," says Jim Thomas, assistant coach at Wichita State University. That’s why he suggests a batting-practice progression saturated with repetition.
2. Boost energy with light workouts.
Between training sessions, use active rest, a recovery strategy that involves light activity on your days off. Light cardio or even a round of golf can speed the recovery process to help you avoid feeling sluggish going into your next workout. Training with Athletes’ Performance since 2002, Kevin Youkilis says you have to stay active throughout the year. "Even if it’s just a light workout - that can really jumpstart the recovery process," he says.
3. Train with the best to stay motivated.
Identify your skills that need improving and surround yourself with guys who can show you how to get better. "I watch [Carl Crawford] fly through agility drills and it’s like he doesn’t break a sweat," said 2008 MVP Dustin Pedroia while training at Athletes’ Performance. “You think you’re pretty good and then you see someone like that and realize how much harder you have to work. That’s great motivation.”
4. Get rid of the ball quickly and accurately.
Try this "fast-catch" drill from Wichita State’s Jim Thomas to speed up the time it takes you to transfer the ball from your glove to the throw: After warming up with "long toss" (playing catch with a teammate roughly 100 feet apart), move in to about 50 feet apart. Play catch, removing the ball from your glove and releasing the throw as quickly as possible. The speed of your throw isn't what's important with this drill. Focus on the speed of your footwork and glove-to-throw transfer.
5. Get warm in 5 minutes.
Nothing sends you on the bench faster than an injury. If you don’t want to give up your spot in the starting line-up, reduce your chance of injury with movement prep and prehab strategies. Adding a 5 minute warm-up routine like this one can reduce your injury potential and help you get more out of your training sessions.
6. Take a better leadoff position.
“The initial lead is nice, but the secondary one provides real explosiveness,” says Javi Sanchez, assistant coach for the LSU baseball team. In your secondary lead, Sanchez says to keep your knees and shoulders squared to home with a bend in your knees. You won’t be as static, making it easier to explode out for the steal or retreat back to the bag. Watch this video of Mark Verstegen explaining how to explode out from your lead position.
7. Train for performance, not appearance.
Steve Tamborra, strength and conditioning coach at Georgia Tech, says that too often, baseball players train for looks instead of performance. “Overly developed chest muscles and biceps are not particularly useful in baseball. Pitchers have to be careful about getting too tight in the chest, and over-sized biceps could cause elbow tightness or changes in the pitching motion.”