Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vision Training

Before we discuss seeing the baseball, watch this video:

Don’t you love sports science?!

Let’s talk about training the eyes.

As John Brenkus mentioned, we have approximately .44 seconds from the time a pitcher releases a 90 mph fastball until it travels 60’6”, crossing home plate.  How can we best train the eyes to be good at this drill?

We love to have our players, particularly in January, use these drills:

1.) Stand in on bullpens. Our pitchers’ bullpens in January will all be at 100% intensity, creating terrific realism. 

We wear helmets, preparing to hit just as we would in a game, both physically and mentally. Hitters go through their routines, release, refocus and master the timing of taking pitches with commitment (the back leg begins to fire and create separation and the back elbow begins to slot).

2.) Spin recognition. This can be done a multitude of ways. We like these:
a.       Have players throw alternating or random fastball/breaking balls to one another at 50-60 % intensity. The batter stands behind a square screen and has no threat of being hit.
b.      Use a pitching machine to work on hit and runs (barrel control) off of curveballs only. This requires hitters to minimize fear and maximize intent of the swing. Timing is always a major issue with pitching machines (this is why we do not hit live off of them). To improve our timing, we encourage them to be early on this drill. This also reinforces our desire to retain separation and keep our barrel loaded as long as possible.
c.       We hit curveballs in live batting practice. Usually we alternate FB/CB/FB/CB.
d.      We have coach-pitched simulated intra-squads where we utilize breaking balls.

3.) We use a drill called “super-BP” where the BP pitcher throws very firm (45-48 mph) from a very short distance (22-25 ft.). Hitters must be ready to attack fastballs- the decision making process is more similar to facing 90-92 mph, instead of what the 75-80 mph batting practice normally simulates.

4.) We use a whiffle ball pitching machine that fires golf whiffles up to 55 mph. While hitting off of this machine is challenging outdoors with even the slightest breeze, we have found this to be a terrific tool for vision training. We have colored whiffles and white whiffles and ask our players to catch one and let the other go.

Hitters must shift their eyes from a soft focus, further away, to a sharp and hard focus right in front of them, just as in hitting.

What drills do you use for vision training?

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