Yes, it is impossible to re-create a lot of game situations and tendencies faced only outdoors, but that doesn’t mean players can’t still do meaningful drills and further develop their skills during the winter, says Chuck Van Robays, director of the Varsity Shop Training Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
“I think inside you do far more skill development in the winter, instead of outside where the itch is to just play more, which is good and bad,” said Van Robays.
“It is nice to get off the field, not worry about the wins and losses and be able to work on the individual skills that you might not have if you are outside all of the time playing.”
For starters, players can still have live pitching sessions indoors.
This is obviously big for hitters to try and keep up their timing as much as possible during the offseason, but it might be more important for pitchers, particularly younger youth players.
“It works both ways because those 9-, 10- and 11-year olds are just learning how to pitch to hitters,” Van Robays said. “It’s as much for them to learn how to throw strikes. We do more of that as the season gets closer.”
Infield defense can certainly be simulated indoors as well, with footwork, glove work, and throwing drills taking place regularly on turf fields indoors that aren’t much different than major league ballparks such as Toronto and Tampa that have artificial surfaces.
Moving indoors also doesn’t affect baserunning drills too much.
In fact, other than not being able to re-create game situations such as hits to the outfield wall or reading cut-off plays of opposing defenses, Van Robays said doing baserunning work indoors can actually be a big advantage over doing it outdoors on a field.
“You can be more efficient because instead of having one baseline, you can create 10 of them,” Van Robays said. “You can get more done in a short period of time. Obviously, you are not reading the ball being hit or going first to third that you can do outside. But sometimes it works better.”
Finally, indoor work can still be done on outfield defense, an area where at first glance an indoor facility would appear to have a big disadvantage.
While it’s impossible to simulate reading balls off a bat and tracking them down in the sky, players who have to train indoors for the winter don’t have to wait until the spring to start improving their technique.
“You talk a ton about footwork,” Van Robays said. “We talk about the routes we run, and we can simulate as many of the scenarios that are going to come up. Just have guys work on their footwork so when we get outside it is more reactionary. We have become more efficient to do the best we can with outfield work.”
Article Content Credit To: GameChanger & Keith Dunlap