As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, Hillsdale College baseball began its third week of practices.
One of the most frustrating things for a baseball player is to be stuck inside for practice. Baseball is a game meant for the dirt and the sunshine, not rubber floors and fluorescent light. However, it makes no sense to worry about things you cannot control, like the weather that forces us inside.
To make the most of these indoor practices we create live situations to mimic the game the best we can. One of the ways we do that is having pitchers throw to our hitters in the cages. This is beneficial for the pitchers because we get our pitch counts up, we get to see how we are doing hitting spots, and we can get a pretty good gauge on how our stuff looks based on hitters’ swings. Hitter’s like it, too, because it allows them to work on their timing and vision seeing pitches coming from a guy’s hand.
Another way to shake things up from the normal routine was our coach’s introduction of the game vitilla. Vitilla is a baseball-like game that originated in the Dominican Republic. Instead of using a ball, batters try to hit plastic discs about the size of a can of tobacco. A stick is used rather than a bat, making it harder to hit the discs as they slice and cut through the air.
The rules are mostly like baseball except batters walk after five balls instead of four and instead of a catcher, there is a target set up behind the plate that determines the strike-zone. In our case it was a chair with two milk crates set up on it. Pitchers did not participate as we were too busy throwing and running on the track, so the position players were split into four teams and played a vitilla tournament. It was a cool way to break from the normal routine in the middle of the week.
After the fun and light vitilla practice, we worked on defensive and offensive situations involving first and third plays. Pitchers were throwing to batters who would either take the pitch or bunt depending on what was called and there was a rotation of base-runners forcing pressure on the defense. What made it especially productive was the fact that we were able to work on both offensive and defensive aspects of first and third situations and see them played out live. We also added to it by having a team meeting afterward to discuss things we noticed that were good or needed to improve and work out any concerns with signs and plays.
Next week will be similar but different as far as our routine. Now that we are getting closer the opening day, our lifting schedule goes from four days a week to three, our live sessions in the batting cages will see an increase in pitch count, and we will start to incorporate pick off plays from both pitchers and catchers in defensive situations.