Baseball may be the most mentally demanding sport. The greatest hitters each season fail to get a hit in more than 60% of their at-bats. Hitting a baseball requires developing a rhythm and getting that rhythm requires you to get consistent at-bats.
But you’re not getting those consistent at-bats and you’re frustrated as your playing has dwindled with you sitting on the bench. You know you can play that this level. So what do you do?
How do you get more playing time on your baseball team? I’ve developed a guide just for this topic specifically for the player.
Getting more playing time in baseball can be broken down into three main sections:
- Take every practice seriously
- Be a team player
- Communicate with your coach
These steps aren’t necessarily easy, but following them may just increase your playing time and make you a better baseball player.
Take Every Practice Seriously
During practice is when every baseball player will have the opportunity to improve the most. Major League Baseball players practice for around two hours every day before a game. This time is called batting practice but infielders will take ground balls and outfielders will become used to their surroundings during this time.
There are four things you can do as a player that will help you take every practice seriously and maximize your improvement. These four areas are:
- Attend every practice
- Pay attention to instruction
- Give full effort
- Be respectful and coachable
Attend Every Practice
The first step to showing the coach that you take every practice seriously is to attend every practice. This sounds like a no-brainer but you would be amazed at how many players never show up for practice and then complain about a lack of playing time.
Since practice is where you the player and the team improves, attendance at every practice is one of the main ways for you to improve.
If you are old enough to drive, try to arrive at practice at least 15 minutes early. The coach will appreciate your promptness and the extra time will allow you to properly stretch and warm up to be ready when practice starts.
If you are not old enough to drive, then you should ask the person who drives you to practice to try and get you there at least 15 minutes early.
Pay Attention to Instruction
Hardly anything is more frustrating to a coach than to be giving instructions on a drill to the team and having some players talking to each other. Or trying to give a player some advice to make them better while the player refuses to look at the coach.
Sometimes, you as a player can learn something new by listening to the instructions the coach gives one of your teammates.
Always listen to your coach when they are giving you instruction either individually or explaining a drill to the team. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand about the instruction or the drill. Chances are, you are not the only one with the same question.
Give Full Effort
This is another area that seems like a no-brainer but is one of the most common mistakes made by athletes.
The all-time Major League Baseball leader for hits in a career, Pete Rose, once gave the following quote according to azquotes.com:
“Practice the game the way you’re going to play the game. Practice hard and play hard. Run hard and above all else, hustle every moment you’re on the field where you are practicing or playing in a game.”-Pete Rose
The only way you will improve how you play during a game is by giving your maximum effort every time you practice.
Be Respectful and Coachable
Have you ever watched a sporting event and see the best player on the team get in screaming and yelling match with the coach?
The result of such an argument with a coach is never positive for the player and is a bad example to set for other athletes. The player will typically be suspended for a game or two and lose money.
College coaches are looking for players who respect their coaches during the heat of battle and are coachable at all times. You may not be happy with the coach at that time, and that is fine, but you need to be respectful even while showing disagreement.
If an argument takes place between you and the coach either during the game or during practice, make sure you take the time to speak to the coach about the issue after you have cooled down and away from your teammates.
Be a Team Player
You’ve heard this phrase your entire life. Everyone around you from your parents to your coaches to your school teacher is always talking about being a team player.
But what does being a team player really mean? What is expected of you that would make you a team player?
Everyone seems to have a different definition of what it means to be a team player, but there are three things you can do as a baseball player to be a good team player:
- Constantly encourage your teammates
- Always be aware of game situations
- Be ready to enter the game in a moment’s notice
Constantly Encourage Your Teammates
The first thing you can do to be a team player is to constantly encourage your teammates.
Baseball is one of the most mentally tough games to play with even the best players failing to get a hit over 40% of the time.
Since the game is so hard, staying positive is the main key to winning. You can lead the way in this department by constantly encouraging your teammates after an at-bat. Celebrate each hit and lift their spirits after each out.
You can also encourage your teammates in the field. Every out is crucial to a victory so you should give your congratulations on every out and let the other players know they will make the next play if they commit an error.
Your encouragement will be huge in helping your teammates but it is especially important if you aren’t playing in the game. The coach will see that you’re supporting your teammates and will likely give you more playing time.
Always Be Aware of Game Situations
The phrase I’ve heard the most from coaches throughout my career is when they have to tell their players to, “Pay attention to the game!”
It’s very tempting to talk to your friends about what happened at school or the pretty girl in the stands, but that is taking your focus away from the game.
Avoid those distractions by watching each pitch of your teammates at-bat. Watch the signs the coach is giving the hitter and the runner so you will know what play is on at that time.
When your team is in the field, you should let them know where the next out is depending on the game situation and how many outs are in the inning.
Knowing the game situations will be a huge factor in you receiving more playing time because the coach will be happy to know that your, “head is in the game”.
Be Ready to Enter the Game in a Moment’s Notice
Sometimes the coach will give you a head’s up when you’re going to play. He may tell you that you’re going in the next inning or the next half-inning. Other times, you may have to go in the game without notice either due to injury or the coach not giving you any notice.
The one thing that you can do as a baseball player is to be prepared mentally and physically to enter the game at all times.
The first step to being ready at all times is knowing the game situation. This will keep you mentally prepared for the game.
To be physically prepared will take some effort on your part. You will want to keep your muscles loose by stretching in between innings. You can also stretch in the dugout while watching the game when your team is in the field.
Another thing you will want to do to be physically prepared is to do some light jogging in between innings. Step out of the dugout and jog to the nearest foul pole and back. This will keep you loose and help you avoid injury when you enter the game.
Communicate With Your Coach
Up to this point, everything has focused on what you, the individual baseball player, can do to improve your chances of receiving more playing time.
Now it’s time to move on to what is possibly the most difficult areas for a player – communicating with your coach.
The next three steps we discuss will include some of the hardest things for individuals, and especially athletes, to do in life. You must be willing to confront your weaknesses as a player and be ready to hear the truth.
The three steps to communicating with your coach are:
- Ask the coach for your weaknesses
- Ask for drills
- Ask for help outside of practice
Ask the Coach for Your Weaknesses
This doesn’t sound like it’s going to be fun and I promise you it isn’t any fun. But the only way you will find out what you need to improve to get more playing time is to find out your weaknesses – the areas that are keeping you from playing more.
You have to set your pride aside for this step. I recommend that you use what your coach tells you as fuel to improve. Let your weaknesses drive you to work harder and become the best baseball player.
Some of the ways that you can phrase the question to your coach are:
- “What are the areas where I need to improve the most?”
- “What is your recommendation that I work on to get better and get more playing time?”
- “What do I need to do to be a better baseball player and contribute more to this team?”
You can do this! I know you can! Your coach will gain a ton of respect for you because you had the maturity to approach them and ask for your areas to improve. Just having the guts to ask may even increase your playing time.
Ask For Drills
So you worked up the intestinal fortitude to approach your coach and find out your areas of weakness. So what can you do with that information?
The first thing you want to do is ask your coach for drills that will help you improve your weaknesses. This is a question you should ask in the same conversation that you have with your coach about your weaknesses as a baseball player.
If you are unfamiliar with the drills the coach gives you, then ask them to show you how to perform the drill.
Once you know the areas where you need to improve and you know what drills you can do to get better as a baseball player, you need to work hard and practice those drills.
You will only get better with practice and practicing each drill at full speed as we discussed earlier.
Ask for Help Outside of Practice
Let’s be honest, not every baseball drill is easy to perform alone and performing a drill without the proper technique is not going to help you become a better player. So what can you do to make sure that you are doing the drill properly?
Ask your coach to help you outside of practice. Most baseball coaches ultimately have a desire to see each player improve on their team. Coaches take pride in their players that improve throughout the season.
Most coaches will be more than happy to meet with you either before practice or stay after practice to help you with drills. Use this to your advantage and take this opportunity to get better.
You are Ready to Improve
In the opening, I told you that this would not be easy. But nothing in life worth having is ever easy.
This will be a process that will take some time. But you are more than capable of becoming a great baseball player. All you need to do is have the drive to work hard and get better every single day.
Use your weaknesses as motivation and never be satisfied with where you are as a player. This way you will always be on top of your game.
This is your time! Work hard, practice, and earn that playing time you desire!
Should I have my parents talk to the coach?
NO! If you’re old enough to read and understand this post, you’re old enough to talk to the coach. As I stated earlier in the post, the coach will appreciate your maturity and you will earn more respect by talking to the coach yourself.
What if my coach doesn’t like me or has been a bully towards me?
Find a buddy or a teammate to take with you when you talk with the coach. Never approach a coach by yourself if they’ve shown a tendency to be a bully or hateful towards you or other players.