Craving Baseball During the Shutdown? Read This.
By Jordan Holtz
Pastime (n): an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby.
Baseball (n): America’s pastime. A game born in America after the Civil War and serving men and women alike as a passion and love; a staple of American life. A staple that we all sorely miss right now. We have a responsibility as Americans to abstain from taking part in the game we all love. It is with the knowledge and burden of this responsibility that all of the activities set forth below be undertaken in compliance with Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), federal, state, and local ordinances and regulations. I am confident that the members of this community and all who read this article will rise to the obligation. America will persevere as it always has and so too shall our beloved game return to us.
I have heard the following sentiment time and time again from players, parents, and other athletes: what can I do during this time? Why should I do anything now, who knows when we will play again? Before addressing the first question, it is most important to address the second, as we all must answer the question: what is our why today? First, my “why” harkens back to what baseball is: America’s pastime. Quarantine and isolation are counter to our inherent social nature. It is difficult to isolate; thus, at a minimum, to work on hitting, pitching mechanics, or fielding helps to pass the time when that time is otherwise reserved to online class, zoom conference calls, or listening to the background noise of Love is Blind on Netflix. Second, committing time to improving, especially when the fruits of that work will not be shown for months, builds character. This second point speaks to a more fundamental question that deserves answering: does action lend itself to motivation or does motivation lead to action. I tend to believe the former is the case. Motivation is not something that falls at one’s feet or spontaneously emerges from a void; it is born from action. If we start with this assumption then we have no other choice but to act, because the alternative is to let this time pass us by; an alternative that I am unwilling to accept nor are the young men and women I work with willing to accept.
As to the first question, the below are activities and drills that can be done at home or in the front yard or park; some with a baseball, some without, and some without anything at all. Importantly, before any drill is started, all athletes should undertake at least five minutes of cardiovascular activity (jump rope, jumping jacks, etc.) and lightly stretch the whole body before starting.
Pick – off footwork
Have a catch… with yourself. This third point requires some context and a quick story. A former teammate and fellow pitcher, affectionately named Crazy Joe, would warm up for outings by taking five baseballs out with him to right field and throwing them straight ahead to nobody. After he threw all five baseballs to nobody, he would run after them and do it again until he decided he wanted a catcher. The point is, we all need to embrace our own inner Crazy Joe during this time. I encourage you all to go to an open place, an open park or baseball field and have a catch with yourself.
Fielders and Hitters:
If you have a tennis ball, go outside with your glove and tennis ball and throw it off the side of your house and field it. This one may upset parents and neighbors, but it is a safe way to get ground ball work in during quarantine.
For those with siblings, ask your sibling to roll or hit you baseballs in your yard or public park or field where access is still open.
For hitters, get outside and swing. Baseball or not, take your bat and go outside and get swings in. This activity is more qualitative than quantitative; exercise your imagination. Envision a pitcher, his or her mechanics, and timing. Track the pitch and execute a balanced swing. Athletes across all sports engage in positive visualization; see yourself on the field swinging and succeeding.
For All Positions:
While all of the above are useful drills, there should be significant weight given to watching game footage. YouTube is an incredible outlet and resource; I encourage all players to watch bullpen videos, batting practice videos, fielding drills, arm care videos, etc. If you want to watch bullpen videos, there is an awesome YouTube channel named “Bullpen Videos.” The channel features bullpen footage from behind the pitcher and it is a great place to study mechanics. For hitting or fielding, look up your favorite player and watch them work. Additionally, I have found that previous MLB spring training videos with coaches and athletes talking through drills is incredibly helpful. For example, if you enter, “Ron Washington fielding drills” in YouTube’s search field, you will find glovework drills and explanations with Coach Washington that are incredibly helpful.
If you are interested in finding out more, please email me at JHoltz117@gmail.com or my coach, father, and owner of GameOn13 in Elmsford, Eric at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to give you more to work on. I hope all that read this stay healthy and safe. Lastly, our beloved game will return and when it does, the sum of our actions during a time when we could otherwise succumb to difficult circumstances will makes us all better baseball players and better people.
Jordan Holtz, a recent law school graduate, played baseball at Bucknell University, earning his degree in 2015. He lives in North White Plains.
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