Visual and Reactive Training for the Baseball Athlete

Baseball is a game of multiple, quick decisions that must be made in a short amount of time. It is also a game that demands great eye-hand coordination and depth perception.

A hitter must spot the pitch, pick up the spin and direction of the ball, and then finally decide to swing or not in a matter of a second!

Not to mention, the hitter surely isn’t thinking about proper hitting mechanics during this time either. I’m sure a live brain scan of a baseball player would light up like a Christmas tree.

We can preach mechanics all we want to hitters, lift as much as we want in the weight room, but does our coaching really matter if our players aren’t reactive?

Reactive and visual training is something that cannot be taken for granted because having these skills are part of being successful in this game.

The purpose of this article is to give coaches and players quick and simple drills to use on the field to enhance visual and reactive skills. Note: for these drills, you’ll need some tennis balls and a good throwing partner!

Turn-Around Toss

In this drill, the player has his back to his partner. The thrower will yell “now” as soon as the ball has been released. During that time, the player must turn around and successfully catch the ball with one hand. For consistency, make sure to turn around on both sides evenly and change the hand that he catches with. Stand approximately 45 feet away from your partner.

Blinded Toss

In this drill, the player is facing his partner with his eyes closed. The thrower will yell “now” as soon as the ball has been released. During that time, the player must open his eyes and successfully catch the ball with one hand. For consistency, make sure to change the hand that he catches with. Stand approximately 45 feet away from your partner.

Eyes-Down Toss

In this drill, the player is facing his partner as if he will be fielding a ground ball in an athletic stance. However, the player’s eyes are down. The thrower will yell “now” as soon as the ball has been released. During that time, the player must pop up and successfully catch the ball with one hand. For consistency, make sure to change the hand that he catches with. Stand approximately 45 feet away from your partner.

Lateral Toss

In this drill, the player has one shoulder facing his partner with his eyes facing down. The thrower will yell “now” as soon as the ball has been released. During that time, the player must look up and successfully catch the ball with the hand that is furthest away from his partner. For consistency, make sure to face both ways evenly. Stand approximately 45 feet away from your partner.

Push-Up Toss

In this drill, the player is in a push-up position facing his partner with his eyes down. The thrower will yell “now” as soon as the ball has been released. During that time, the player must pop up and successfully catch the ball with one hand. For consistency, make sure to change the hand that he catches with. Stand approximately 45 feet away from your partner.

Start with performing each drill 10 times.  To make any of these drills more challenging, you can manipulate a few variables:

  • Partner distance
  • Ball velocity
  • Ball trajectory
  • Time between ball release and “now” call

Not only are they great for the hitter in being able to pick up the flight path of the ball, but they work just as well for the defender.

On the other side of the plate, we should always assume that a ball will be hit our way, but we still need to be able to react from a stationary or non-stationary position.

These drills are effective because they allow the player to tap into the stretch-shortening plyometric cycle, which is needed in power development and reactive ability.

Performing any sort of visual and reactive training two to three times a week during the season can keep your players mentally, and athletically, sharp.

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Jarad Vollkommer

Jarad is a recent graduate from the University of Tampa that has experience in training athletes of all ages and abilities, as well as research in reactive and visual training for baseball players. His main goal is to bridge the gap between scientific research and application that will give his athletes a competitive edge in enhancing their on-field performance.
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