Baseball is one of those sports that’s immensely popular in some countries, and practically unheard of in others. If you’re in one of the locations where the game is popular, it’s unlikely you’ll have any trouble finding somewhere to play and someone to play with – potentially even joining a team in the process. If the sport is less popular where you live, you might have to try harder to find a group, although there’s nothing to stop you starting one if the options are few and far between.
In this feature, we’re not going to speak too much on the idea of finding people to play the game with. Instead, our focus here is on players that want to get started but have barely done so much as pick up a bat or glove before. This is for the pure beginners, to ensure you get off on the right foot to start playing baseball at a professional or amateur level – whichever most takes your fancy.
1. Start with a Glove
Whether you ultimately see yourself as a superstar batter or a pinch hitter, every player needs a baseball glove. It’s also the one piece of equipment you’ll need in every context, so it makes sense that it’s your first investment. Above anything else, such as price or quality, you should consider the fit. An ill-fitting glove is horrible to learn in and may lead to you feeling like you’re not as good at basic baseball skills as you really are. Don’t buy one to grow into, and don’t bother to plan ahead. Get what works right now and then change it if it no longer gets the job done. If you’re just starting out, you’ll spend plenty of time practising catching and fielding, and the right glove is essential to reach your potential.
2. Break a New Glove In Before You Get Competitive
You can consider a new glove like a new pair of trainers or sneakers. The materials used for quality gloves means that they’ll feel stiff and tight when brand new. Fortunately, that’s an excuse to go throwing and catching with nothing on the line. There’s nothing like using a glove for the intended purpose to bring it up to speed, so head out onto the field and put it through its paces.
3. Practice Catching Right Away
Just as you might expect, there’s a difference between catching with a glove and catching with your hands. Even if you feel proficient in the latter, it still makes a lot of sense to work on your skills with the glove on your hand. The most considerable difficulty that new players encounter is that you’ll primarily catch with your weaker arm, and it can feel unnatural at first. That’s to leave your stronger arm free for the throw and practice will benefit just about everyone.
4. Check the Rules, If Any, Before You Buy a Bat
If you only plan to play among friends to start with, anything that looks and feels right will do when it comes to baseball bats. However, if you want to play somewhat competitively and as part of a league, you should double-check the rules before you make a purchase. Different leagues have different criteria regarding size and weight, and you don’t want to make an investment only to find that your bat of choice is illegal.
5. Avoid Key Positions in Your First Competitive Outings
All the practice in the world won’t necessarily prepare you for a matchday situation, and it’s best to take in the atmosphere and the approach of your team without piling on the pressure associated with key positions. That means that unless you’re supremely confident, you want to steer clear of first base and other pivotal field positions. You can aim to work your way into them, by all means, but focus on getting the basics right in real situations first.
6. Don’t Specialise Too Early
If you’ve ever seen the movie Moneyball, you’ll remember a scene where a player is brought in to play on first base, all while admitting that they’re not confident in their abilities to do so. Each position requires specialist training and experience, but you should aim to become a good all-rounder first. Work on connecting with pitches, catching in pressure situations and throwing accurately before you get to work on the more precise skills associated with a position.
7. Learn Strike Zones Early
What constitutes a strike zone ultimately comes down to the umpire, and you’ll find better quality ones in the major leagues for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, it’s never too early to get into the habit of ignoring balls pitched above your shoulder or below your knees, as that’s wasted effort that could be put towards a home run later in the innings.
8. Watch the Ball, Not the Pitcher
As you develop your batting skills, you’ll be able to work out which ball to expect based on the pitcher. However, that requires time and experience. In the early stages, you need to focus on hitting the ball and nothing else, so make that your priority.
9. Work on Your Strength and Stamina Off the Field
This is not a baseball-specific tip, but you should always endeavour to work on the physical skills that will benefit your game even when you’re not on the field. For this game, stronger arms usually lead to bigger hits and longer throws, so weight and resistance training can be highly beneficial. Speed and stamina can matter too, so keep them in find with your regular training regimes.
10. Forget Early Mistakes
Even pros make mistakes from time to time. As a new player, they’re to be expected. The crucial thing is not to allow them to drag you down when you make them. Learn from them if possible, then move on to the next game without any negative emotions.