November 28, 2011
How do you TRAIN for ball hawking? What do you do to ensure that you come away with that "red, white, and blue souvenir"? Well, I'll tell you a few secrets on how I train to come away with that coveted prize. I feel you CAN'T be successful in any sport without training. I know a few things about training. I'm an Ex-United States Army Drill Sergeant, and Bradley Master Gunner. I was also a Field Training Officer (FTO) when I was a Cop. I have over 17 years of experience in training men and women for combat.
First, I work out every day to stay in shape, I walk a few miles, and lift some light weights (Can't lift heavy any more due to my back). I always get plenty of SLEEP!!! I never want to be tired at the ball park. I always want to be aware of my surroundings, as not to get hit by a line drive, or run over Grandma or a little kid while going for a ball! I always wear the right gear to ball hawk in...tennis shoes...NOT flip flops or boots!
I PRACTICE A FEW DRILLS IN THE BACK YARD THAT YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL. If you are like me, I haven't played little league baseball in a long time! I played some softball in the Army, but it's been awhile, so I have to do some glove work to stay in practice. First, I play catch with my wife when ever I can get her to play long-toss with me (I also play long toss at the ball Park with fellow balls hawks when I can get a chance).
Second, I throw simple pop-ups to myself. I work on looking the ball into my glove. It helps me focus on opening my glove WIDE to receive the ball, and then SQUEEZING the ball tightly in the pocket of my glove (I muffed a few HR balls this year and it really pissed me off). I then start to throw the pop-ups away from me, so I have to chase after them, simulating me having to move over a few rows at the ball park to get them, or coming down a staircase. I work on throwing the pop-ups behind me, so I have to make a complete turn around to get my bearings to snag it. I work on throwing the pop-ups over a wire (we have the cable & telephone wires coming to the house) to help keep myself focused on something getting in the way...a hand, hat or another glove, and still gloving the ball. I also work on "basket catches", and SCOOPING the ball underhanded. This helps on trying to catch those low liners off the outfield wall! I've caught 3 HR balls off the outfield wall this year by underhand scoop catches...this drill really works.
I work on player toss-ups while standing on my back PORCH simulating being in the stands on the outfield wall. My porch is like most, 2 to 3 feet high. I have my wife toss me up balls. This may sound like a simple drill, but if I miss a toss-up, I will either loose the ball in the garden next to the porch (hard to find), or it will hit the sliding glass door (possibly breaking glass)! Both are not good, so the pressure is on for me to catch the ball! I also work on the "Glove Trick" from here.
The other thing I do on a regular basis is, when I watch TV (especially when I watch a Cincinnati Reds away baseball game), I'll have my glove on, while sitting on the couch throwing mini pop-ups to myself. This helps me break in a new glove, works on my hand-eye coordination, and keeps my glove nice & loose. It also keeps me in the "baseball spirit"! So, try'em out...see what you think, and let me know.
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.