Speed is hands down the most coveted athletic tool in all of sports, and baseball is no exception. The game of baseball has changed drastically over the past several decades. The game has evolved to the point that speed is no longer viewed as an advantage but rather a requirement for players striving to play at the highest levels. Just like in the NFL, a baseball player’s Major League potential is often predetermined by scouts based solely on their speed, agility, and size. In today’s game, the only players that get a pass are pitchers, catchers, and corner infielders with big power. Everybody else must have top level speed to even get looked at seriously by professional scouts.
Why has speed become so important in baseball? Well, it’s very simple.
A guy with great speed can beat out week ground balls to the left side; turning routine ground outs into singles. When a fast guy reaches base, he can drive the other team crazy to the point that they have to alter everything they’re doing on defense. A guy with speed and base running prowess can turn any single into a double or triple. A guy with speed can move up from first to third on a base hit, or score from first on a double. A guy with speed can run down balls in the outfield that shouldn’t be caught, and cut off ground balls up the middle that should be base hits. Speed completely changes the dynamics of the game on both offense and defense, and that is why every scout wants it.
“I can tell you first hand from my playing career how big of a factor speed is. As I advanced in my career from East Cobb, to Wofford College, to the New England Collegiate Baseball League, to the University of South Carolina, the players got faster and faster and faster. And as this happened, the game got harder and harder. I was an average size guy with below average speed, so I relied on my bat to keep me in the lineup. As I kept moving up in competition it got harder and harder to hit for average. Not because the pitching was better, but because the defense was so much better. By the time I got to the NECBL, which is a wood bat league, I couldn’t get a cheap hit to save my life. Every ground ball, pop up, bloop line drive, all got caught. The outfielders and middle infielders could all fly and had great arms. The only way I could get a hit was to smack a line drive right up the middle or in the gap, or drive a long ball over their heads. I don’t care how good you are, it’s tough to do that consistently enough to hit .300+ every year. I saw guys around me that could run, and they were easily able to keep their average over .300 by mixing in an infield single every couple of at bats. I literally watched guys that were nowhere close to me offensively, outhitting me “on paper” purely because they were fast and I wasn’t.”
So now that we understand how important speed is to our future in baseball, how do we go about making ourselves faster?
At GPT our speed training consists of traditional sprint work, intense plyometrics, dynamic stretching, explosive strength training, single leg strength training, correcting muscle imbalances, resistance sprinting, over speed training, foot speed and agility drills, and a focus on proper sprinting mechanics. Our athletes undergo the same speed training programs that are utilized by today’s professional and olympic athletes. You will get faster, quicker, more agile, and more efficient in your movements training here. However, it is difficult to determine how much faster a player can become. We openly acknowledge that we can’t take a slow guy and turn him into a world class sprinter, it doesn’t work that way with speed. But we can turn average speed into good speed, good speed into great speed, and great speed into world class speed. When we initially consult with our athletes and their parents we will establish lofty but attainable goals for what we can accomplish. We will log their official 40 and 60 yard dash times, and set specific goal times that we need to hit in the coming years. These goals will vary based on the player’s position, age, and overall skillset. With some players you are just trying to increase their speed to the point it won’t hold them back, with others you’re trying to get their times to world class level so a 10th round draft pick becomes a 1st or 2nd round pick. Every athlete is different, and we target their training specifically to get them to the highest level of baseball possible.