I'm also referring to the fact that if you want to keep advancing levels, you'll need to adapt to increases in speed.
A Need for Speed
So how does one thrive from one level to the next? How can you adapt and compete with bigger, stronger players and the quickness they bring?
One way is to be a superior athlete with great instincts. And for the rest of us, well, we're gonna have to work at it.
Practice Makes Perfect
Here's how you do it. You practice moving fast. Make sure you spend a portion of your practice time outside of your comfort zone. Do your drills faster than you think you can do them.
For example, instead of taking your ground balls with the ol' right-left field, right-left throw footwork, try charging them out of control and getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. Even if that means throwing off the wrong foot.
For us catchers, instead of making sure your throwing footwork is spot-on and your arm is in the perfect slot, try going 110 percent during your 10-15 daily practice throws to second (you ARE taking 10-15 daily pegs on the field, right?) Even if that means throwing from a 3/4 arm slot and your feet are all tangled up.
See how long you can wait in your blocking drills before you explode on the ball in the dirt. Maybe ask a coach from a team in a league above you if you might be able to catch a few bullpens, thus getting familiar with the speed and movement of superior pitching.
Pushing the Boundaries
The point is, speed is the defining difference between levels. Unless your name is Bo Jackson, you better figure out a way to deal with this fact.
I'm not suggesting spending your entire practice out of control. I am suggesting you get familiar with your limits and try to expand/push them.
Learn how to walk the razor's edge between spazzing out and what's comfortable. Practicing quickly will make you a better athlete and give you that second gear needed to compete with the big boys.
Till next time, have fun, play hard, and keep your eye on the ball...
Brent Mayne is a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. He ranks 75th in the history of baseball with 1,143 pro games caught, and his .993 career fielding percentage is 4th all-time. Brent is the author of the book "The Art of Catching"--a comprehensive guide to teaching and building defensive catching skills.