Just before game time, players start to show up, pairing off and playing catch casually as they wait for further direction. Once everyone has arrived, you run some drills with fly balls and grounders. Not much intensive practice takes place, because after all, you are focused on simply warming up before the game starts. Does your pregame warmup routine look something like this? If so, it may be time to change it up.
While simply warming up the muscles pre-game is a good goal, the ultimate purpose of a warmup is to prepare for the game itself. In game scenarios, casually tossing the baseball back and forth does not happen. The majority of the game is spent pitching and hitting, therefore, more time during practice should be spent on perfecting these skills as well. In addition, actual fielding scenarios should be portrayed, to provide the opportunity to practice these skills.
You may say that playing catch achieves both fielding and pitching practice, however, that is not the case. Catch is often tremendously more casual, with not a lot of proper form, and no testing of quick reflexes that will be necessary to exercise within a live game. During a game of catch, players hardly make the effort to move in front of balls they are catching, tending to stand still and let an outstretched arm do all the work. This doesn’t allow for the entire body to be involved, and is not how these catches would be performed while the game is in play.
Similarly to how playing catch is not an actual in-game scenario, when fly balls and grounders are practiced, the skills being honed are not the ones being utilized when pop ups and ground balls occur when the game is in play. These drills in warmups rarely include the judging of distance, body reposition, and long throws that are required in real world scenarios.
Making minor adjustments in your pregame warmup could drastically benefit your team’s performance overall. The first step in taking your game to the next level is spending more time practicing batting. Being able to eye whether a ball is within the strike zone, take aim, and hit it where you want it to go, all takes tremendous practice and needs more devotion of time than simply throwing some baseballs back and forth. Set up multiple stations for different varieties of hitting and have each player get a few swings in at every one.
In addition to more time spent hitting, there should be more time spent throwing. No, we aren’t talking about the back and forth, lack of form kind of throwing that occurs in playing catch. We are referring to warming up throwing-arm-specific muscles, throwing in different shapes as opposed to a straight line between two people, and switching up positions they are throwing from. Practicing quick transfer and quick release will be beneficial in game play as well.
Though not every one of these problems or solutions may apply to your team, every single team can stand to benefit from analyzing and adjusting their pregame routines. Focus on the skills that are actually utilized during gameplay and spend more time perfecting those. Pregame warmups are limited time, so learn how to make the most of it for your team.