How to prepare your team for spring training

With the snow melting and warmer weather, baseball season is right around the corner. Looking to have some fun on the field during the spring and summer seasons? Make sure you have the team ready to go in top form.  You are going to need some fundamental aspects to take your game to the next level. Whether you’re new or experienced, no need to sweat it, all you really need to know is batting and fielding for pick-up baseball.  We’ve teamed up with Humber Hawks pitcher Jakye Wong and Thornhill Reds U17 infielder Noah Testaguzza to give you the tips, tricks, and experienced background in the game of baseball.

 

Equipment needed: A pair of baseball cleats, a bat, a regular fielding glove and a back-catcher glove, and batting gloves if wanted.  The difference between a regular glove and a back-catcher glove is that the catcher’s glove has more padding to protect the catcher’s hand from the force of a pitch.  Batting gloves provide better grip to the bat, but if you choose not to use batting gloves you can always use batting tape.

 

The positioning: When your team is pitching, your defense consists of an infield and an outfield. The infield includes the back-catcher, a first baseman, a second baseman, a third baseman, and a shortstop. The back catcher squats behind the home plate to catch each pitch that comes from the pitcher. The first baseman plays down the right-field foul line while the third baseman plays down the left-field foul line. The shortstop positions to the left of second base while the second baseman stands to the right. The outfield consists of three players. The left-fielder, center-fielder, and right-fielder. 

 

The rules: When a team goes on offense they have to capitalize on as many chances until they get three ‘outs’. When the defense gets the three outs, the half-inning is over. A full inning includes batting once and pitching once. There are multiple ways for a player to get out. If the ball is caught before it hits the ground the player is out. When the pitcher throws three strikes the player is out. If the ball is hit on the ground and a player steps on first base with the ball before the batter does, the batter is out. (Note: For pitching,  most leagues do what is called “soft toss” for pitching for unisex leagues.) (could also go more in-depth about double plays, and tagging players at other bases plus the ability to tag up from a base)

“I think baseball, for the most part, is not that bad to learn, but sometimes hitting and throwing are hard for people to learn, hitting requires a lot of hand-eye coordination” – Jayke Wong

 

Scoring: A run is scored when a player gets to home plate after safely touching each base. A player can score on a home run when the ball goes past the two yellow poles in the outfield or run all the way to home base after a teammate hits the ball. Home plate is usually marked with a line and requires teams to cross the line before the catcher catches the ball in order to prevent the player and the catcher from crashing into each other. 

“I say if they’re new to it with a bit of experience, it’s the same as hockey if you don’t know how to skate its difficult to learn,” Wong says

Number of people that have played baseball/softball

  • Yes
  • No

Skill level of people that have played

  • Men's League/Pick-Up League
  • Rep
  • Select
  • Houseleague
  • High-School
  • Just for fun/Playing with friends
(Qualtrics Survey)

Jayke's Tips

Jayke's Tips

Humber Hawks pitcher Jayke Wong has over 10 years of baseball experience, he has played in the single-A and double-A levels carrying the knowledge you will need to build confidence in your game and get ready for your team.

Is baseball an easy sport to learn?

“I think baseball for the most part is not that bad to learn, but sometimes hitting and throwing are hard for people to learn, hitting requires a lot of hand-eye coordination, I say if they’re new to it with a bit of experience, it’s the same as hockey if you don’t know how to skate its difficult to learn.”

What skills are required to be successful at baseball?

“I’d say definitely hand-eye coordination, being able to throw, being able to run, being able to have good reaction time and being good with your body, and being able to have good fielding IQ, and catching the ball.”

Where can people play pick-up baseball?

If I had to go with where you’re playing, some city fields are city-related, but there are some school fields available to play with nine people.”

(Chris Chow/Unsplash)

With the MLB Opening Day series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers kicking off on April 8, there are a lot of fundamentals you may want to incorporate from the pros into your skillset to make you a high caliber player on the field for your pick-up game day.

According to our survey, 57 per cent of people would like to improve on batting, 28 per cent would like to improve on every aspect of the game (fielding, hitting, and pitching), and 18 per cent would like to work on their pitching. In response to this, we asked people if they wanted to engage in pick-up baseball if they were given a step-by-step video to learn the fundamentals and 42 per cent said no or maybe and 14 per cent said yes. To the people who would consider learning, we have teamed up with Thornhilll Reds U-17 baseball player Noah Testaguzza to give you some tips on batting and fielding.

Preferred skills to improve

  • Batting
  • Fielding
  • Pitching
  • All of the above

Number of people that would join after watching a step-by-step video

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
(Qualtrics Survey)
Bat Bag

(Testaguzza Photo)

Step by Step, Hitting: 

 

Step 1: Depending on the way the batter swings the bat, he or she will step into the left batters box or the right. A left-handed batter steps into the right batter’s box while a right-handed batter steps into the left batter’s box. 

 

Step 2: Set up your lower body. The batter’s feet should be shoulder-width apart. A slight bend in their knees helps improve balance and allows for the batter to generate more speed and strength for their swing. Keeping the back foot is also vital to the swing. This keeps the batter balanced and allows them to drive through the baseball with their swing. Each player is different and likes to bend their knees more or less, keep their feet closer or farther apart, and put their front foot back a little bit, but the easiest way to learn is by following the basics. 

 

Step 3: The positioning of the batter’s hands and arms are very important. The batter’s hands need to be together at the bottom of the barrel of the bat. The batter should have their elbows up and out in front of their body to allow them to swing smoothly and adjust their body to hit the ball. 

 

Step 4: When the pitcher throws the pitch, the batter needs to be tracking the ball as it comes towards them. If they think the pitch is going to be in the strike zone, they should try and swing. If it’s outside of the strike zone they shouldn’t swing and take a ball. Four balls equals a walk while three strikes equals a strikeout. 

 

Step 5: When swinging the bat, timing is very important. The timing of where the batter’s arms and hands are when the ball comes towards them. The batter’s body needs to be in sync. Their arms, legs, hips, and torso should all be in unison to hit the ball as best as they can. It’s also important to lift their front foot as they swing. The batter doesn’t have to lift their foot very high, which is called a leg kick, but a small stride forward helps make harder contact. 

 

Step 6: If contact is made with the ball, the batter must run to first base. The goal is to touch all of the bases, in order of first, second, third, and home plate to score a run.

Noah Testaguzza's Baseball Experience & Tips

Glove and Bag

(Testaguzza Photo)

 

Step by step, Fielding:

Throw to first

Step 1: Get in a ready position with your knees bent and your eye on the ball when someone is up to the plate and batting for the other team

 

Step 2: If the ball is hit in your direction call for the ball by saying “MINE” or “I GOT IT” in order to let your teammates know that you are making the play and not one of them.

 

Step 3: Run up to the ball and use the Alligator technique that Noah talked about where you use the top hand to secure the ball in your glove.

 

Step 4: Look over to the first base. Point your feet towards the player you are throwing to. Then throw the ball as fast as you can over to the first basemen.

 

Pop Flies

Step 1: Always look at the home plate and keep your eye focused on the ball in case it is hit in your direction.

 

Step 2: When the ball is hit high in the air in your direction it again is important to say “MINE” or “I GOT IT” to indicate to your teammates that you are going to catch the ball.

 

Step 3: Get under the ball, put your glove up and catch the ball in mid-air.

Noah Testaguzza's Fielding Tips & Tricks

Preferred pick-up sports (Qualtrics Survey)

  • Hockey
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis
(Qualtrics Survey)

Time to play ball

With these tips and tricks from some of the most experienced players in baseball now you will be able to enjoy the sport and have some fun with your friends.  If you are not interested in baseball as a pick-up sport remember that you can still play pick-up in almost any sport, it all comes down to finding a league and a group that shares a common interest in the sport you plan on playing.  For now, practice is over; go and hit some home runs champ!