Primer-How to Succeed in Batting Practice

It is February and pitchers and catchers will report soon.  The world is full of hope as we all get ready for our annual renewal.  Baseball may no longer be the most popular sport in America these days, but it has one thing that football will never have.  The springtime start.  All is new.  The past is gone.  The future is bright.  Your team is tied for first place.

(I am obligated to at least mention A-Rod.  I know you have tired head on the subject but just a quick comment on what his punishment should be.  Here it is.  Since baseball is a team sport, I think they should strip all the championships that A-Rod’s team have gotten during his major league career-1994-2008 and he should forfeit all the rings associated with it.  Oh wait, you mean the teams he has played on for the last 15 years have never won anything!  Never mind then).

Back to more important things.  I want to provide my insight into the how a fan can enjoy and become more involved in the game through batting practice.  Batting Practice ritual is a way that fans can re-live their fantasies since none of them will ever get to The Show.  There is a whole art to it and I consider myself somewhat of an expert with hundreds of baseballs to show as proof.  I am fortunate to have 2 boys born 4 years a part.  Ages 8-12 are prime baseball years which meant I had 8 straight years to hone my craft.  Here are some tips to help you.

Advance Preparation

Weather-Be sure to check before you go.  If rain is forecast, the field may be covered and BP is cancelled.  Here in Texas, need to consider the heat since this can also result in cancellation especially if the team is coming back from a road trip.  They are likely hold it under the stands and away from view.

Pitching Matchups-Be sure to see who is pitching.  If 2 lefthanders are the probables, then you may want to consider going to left field as the lineup will have more right handed hitters.  Of course, knowing your own team and visitors’ strengths are important factors

Game Day

Arrival-Arrive early.  Find out when the gates are open and be sure to get there.  In the day at the old Arlington Stadium, my kids and I would sometimes get in at 4pm and have the whole place to themselves.  They would be there for “early batting practice” where those who were not scheduled to start would hit.

Equipment-Obviously a glove is mandatory.  You may think you look a little dorky being an adult bringing their glove, fortunately the stigma has lessened.  The way modern ball parks are built, with the close to the action configuration, gloves are a protective necessity.  I remember the first time I tried to catch a line drive home run barehanded.  I learned 2 things.  My hand hurt like hell and I thought since I touched the ball first, it was mine.  I found out that the rules of the jungle is that whoever gets it, keeps it.  2 other pieces of equipment are equally important; a baseball cap and sunglasses.  These help shield your eyes from the glare of the sun especially left field, the traditional “sun” field.  I’ve seen a number of people hit by balls because they didn’t see them coming.

Assess Competition–  If you look at your fellow fans out there, only a few are real pros who take it seriously.  Keep an eye on where they are positioned.  They are the real competition.  When I go to a game, I fully expect to get at least one ball.  Usually 20% of the balls hit in the area I’m in is what I usually wind up with.  But that means know who you need to watch out for.

Studying The Hitters-It is important to know who is up.  Some hitters like Ian Kinsler, are dead pull hitters.  Others, hit more straight away.  Also, pay attention to where their balls land to see if there is a pattern.  It will help your odds on getting to the ball before others.

Positioning-Where you wind up standing is important.  Make sure you have a clear row.  If you have to go laterally, you don’t want to be blocked by someone else.  Remember, it is easier to go down than it is to go up.  Running up the steps is difficult and can result in injury.  So it is better to be at the top of the deck in most case.  If you want to go low, then stay right at the fence and take your chances.  Never take your eye of the batter.  After he connects, assess if you need to give chase or not.  You can watch it fly a bit, but be ready for the next one.  You never know if it is yours.

Diving for balls-Avoid this at all cost.  The thrill of BP is catching one on the fly.  Getting into a scrum is not advisable.  It will result in scrapes and torn pants.  Resist the temptation and don’t do it.

Final Disposition-Give them away when you are done.  Needs to be done with care and permission.  There is usually some youngster who really wants one.  Make their day and give it to their parents for delivery.

There you have it.  Start getting out there soon.  It is a big part of then game in the purest sense.  Try these tips and enjoy.

 

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