This article will hopefully give you a couple of ideas of how to integrate sprint training into a baseball practice. Before that I would really like stress how important it is to dedicate at least one 30-45 minute block on sprint/acceleration training per week. After all it is one of the Tools that make up a complete 5 tool player so it would only make sense to spend some time and energy on this vital tool for success at the next level.
If you get the head coach involved and buying into the importance of sprint training you will send a message that this is something that is important. And if something is important is should be the center of attention once in a while.
Having one dedicated sprint session complete with stop watches to help measure intensity increase your chances of seeing results.
Another benefit is that your players will get to learn from one another as they watch each others mechanics both good and bad. This type of peer learning is something that you as a coach can’t provide.
Ultimately however we need to use this speed in a game to truly benefit from this type of training. To make this happen we will take the information from the last post (reps, distance, intensity and rest) and apply it to many of the drills we are already using with our players. The major benefit here is that the athletes start their sprints when the ball is put in play rather than waiting for a coach to yell “GO!!”.
Every baseball team in the world takes batting practice (BP) and this always involves setting up hitting groups. When you aren’t hitting traditionally you would be working on other parts of your game like bunting, base running, tee work or everyone’s favorite, shagging.
Any of these stations can be transformed into sprint training as long as you respect the principals of rest, intensity and volume that I’ve already covered in part 2.
Let’s start with the shagging station with what I call sprint shag.
Sprint Shag: If you have multiple shagging groups dedicate one to be the “sprint” group. This group performs one sprint every 60, 90 or 120 seconds depending on the distance that they are running, see the chart at the end of this article.
The athlete reacts off the ball being put in play and even if it isn’t hit towards them they will sprint the 10/15/20 yards in the distance in the direction that the ball is hit. So if you are playing CF and the ball is hit down the third base line you would sprint the 10,15 or 20 yards in that direction.
Put some markings on the ground to give your players an idea of how far each distance is in a full 360 degree radius around their defensive position. Create with circles with about 6 saucer type cones in a 10, 15 and 20 yard radius from the starting point.
As reference the radius of the circle at the center of a soccer field is 10 yards.
It would then look something like this image below describing UZR (ultimate zone rating) which is one of the new age stats that does a better job of describing defensive value than looking at errors alone.
By replicating something like this on the field really gives your players a better idea of how they their improvements in their ability to sprint and cover these distances in less time increases their value as a defender.
Checkout the added value at a big league burner like Peter Bourjos provides his team compared to other big league center-fielders.
Another reasons that I like this type of sprint training is that it gives players the chances to work on their sprinting while running with a glove on. Too often I will see an outfielder extend their glove arm in the sky to catch the ball while they are still running. You don’t have to be a bio-mechanical expert to know that it is inefficient to run with one arm up. That arm needs to be pumping back and forth with the other one generating force rather than sticking up in the air slowing you down. Think of an NFL receiver who puts their arms up at the last second to both run faster and not to tip off the defender.
That left arm is helping drive the right leg into the ground right now
We will use it to catch the ball later
Base Running: this is a very common station that is already used by most coaches. If again you apply the rep, volume and rest principals from what we already learnt in part 2 you can make this station that much better.
Perform one all out sprint every 60, 90 or 120 seconds while getting reads during your rest time.
On some of the longer sprints I like the idea of practicing taking a turn to go more than one base at a time like scoring from second base. To do this while still staying within the distances set above I would let the players get a big secondary lead and build up a rolling start into the base that they going round. Using the “rolling” start method you can get your guys to run longer distances but they only go above 90% for the 10/15/20 yards. They can be moving pretty quickly the rest of the time but you should be able to notice it when they shift gears up to that 90+ range.
In a 20 yard sprint you would be going fast for 10 yards before and after the bag.
Work on that lean!!
Bunting: The bunting is pretty self explanatory. Bunt the ball and run down the first base line to either the 10,15 or 20 yard mark; rest the appropriate amount of time and repeat. Put a stop watch on them from the time the ball hits the bat to when they cross the 10/15/20 yard line.
Here is the gold standard of Billy Hamilton performing it perfectly
In-field hit (aka Hit n’ Run): I think one of the sprints that we need to focus the most on is how you accelerate after you put the ball in play. We don’t want to work on hitting soft ground balls in the in-field but they do happen and if you can leg on out once in a while you will see your average go up while obviously extending innings.
Here are couple of good examples from either side of the plate.
In a cage you can angle yourself to in the ball of a tee into the side of the cage and then sprint down the first base line. This is great because you need to apply the rules of how to accelerate, next article, from the position your body is in after taking a FULL SWING. I capitalized this because every time I have ever seen a team do this kind of drill you are going to get a player or two have just waves the bat at the ball and sprints. This isn’t how you hit in a game, or at least I hope not, so don’t practice this way.
Here you need a stop watch for the time between contact and when they cross the finish line. You do need to judge each swing to determine that it was hard enough.
Hopefully these are some useful and practical ideas of how to implement some sprint training into a baseball practice.
You only need to do two workouts per week, see below. If one can be done on its own as a “sprint” practice and another done within batting practice stations on non-consecutive days you would have yourself a pretty good program.
The final part of this series will focus on some drill, cues and exercises that will maximize the time and effort you put into sprint training.
Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS
Four Week Sprint Training Program
|Distance||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||All Weeks|
|Distance||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||All Weeks|