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Speed Changes the Game
Written by Andy Partin

I always tell kids at our camps if they leave learning one thing, understand that speed changes the game more than anything. Speed is the only tool that plays on offense and defense.

Now, there is racing speed… And there is functional speed… You want functional speed! Too many times I see kids at workouts and they run a 6.6 or 6.7 sixty and we all get so excited thinking this is the next Brian Goodwin or something… But, then you watch the kid in a game and he takes bad routes in the outfield, or poor reads off the bat, and all he is left with is that “racing speed” to try and catch up to his mistakes. His speed “doesn’t play.”

On a side note - You don’t have to be super-fast to be a good outfielder anyway. You have to run with effort and get the ball in quickly, that’s it. Let me ask you this… As a hitter, when you hit a single to the outfield, when do you stop running? … Most guys say “after I hit firstbase, or after a round firstbase.” Nothing could be more incorrect! You stop running once the outfielder has secured the baseball. So you don’t have to be real fast, and you certainly don’t have to throw well to be a good outfielder. Think about it… How many outfield assists lead the Big Leagues each year? 15 or so? And that’s with most guys playing 140-150 games…  Anyway… I’m off track – but still interesting points…

Back to speed… Here is a great example of how speed changes the game. If I’m a shortstop, and my Coach tells me before the hitter steps in the box, “Hey – good runner here” – immediately I have to take a couple steps towards the plate, which decreases my range and makes the field bigger for the hitter. The guy has made himself a better hitter and the pitch has even been thrown! So what happens when the ball is hit to me, and I know the guy is a burner down the line? I most likely have to be more aggressive towards the ball, and when I catch it most likely I have to rush my throw a little – doing one or both of those surely increases my chances of making an errant throw or mishandling the groundball. Speed changed the game…

How about as a pitcher? You are on the mound, and you know you have a burner at firstbase. What are some things you have to do to try and slow him down? First, you probably have to pick more than you want to… You will throw less breakingballs, since they are slower to the plate… Odds are you will be more likely to slide-step, and when you do that you lose velocity and command. And I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of fastballs flatten out when guys slide-step to the plate. So you see? All because a guy on firstbase can run he instantly makes his team better… Speed changed the game…

Here’s a good for you… How many guys in the Big Leagues slide-step? The answer is none… They don’t want to sacrifice stuff to keep hitters at firstbase… I know, I know… the catcher’s can throw a lot better than a high school player! I agree, but I don’t think pitchers need to slide-step all the time. I see high school pitchers doing it with runners on second or thirdbase only. What are you doing!?

I always ask guys at our camps, what are you doing to get faster? There are very few if any answers… Mostly blank faces… So if you switch gears and ask, what are you doing to make your arms stronger? You get all kinds of answers – long toss, throw hard, bands, weights, etc.

So think about it… If you want to get faster, then you need to RUN FAST! I’ll ask you this, how often in your practice plan or pre-game plan do you run fast? I’ll bet the answer is NONE… Players generally don’t want to run fast in practice, because that takes effort and it might feel uncomfortable. But guys will take BP until their hands are full of blisters… Makes no sense to me…

I hear all the time about players wanting to play centerfield, shortstop or secondbase at big-time Division I programs, but they run a 7.80 sixty… Listen up, YOU AIN”T GONNA PLAY IN THE MIDDLE AT A TOP 40 SCHOOL WITH A 7.80 SIXTY! I don’t care how good you catch it, throw it or hit it… Too many guys with similar tools that are quicker/faster than you will take those spots.

“Most” college coaches and professional scouts are hooked on the sixty yard dash. I’ll break my sixty yard dash thoughts down in another article, but if it’s so important to them then you have to get better at it! Practice it! You wouldn’t take a test without studying would you (I’m sure some of you would, but...)? If you are going to be good at anything you have to learn all about it and practice it correctly.

So, as you can see speed changes the game in a lot of different ways. I only gave you a couple examples, but you get my point. Listen to me – GET FASTER! You are more valuable to any team if you can run fast.