Baseball requires a high degree of skill to play well. Athletic ability will help a player compete with other top players, but the specific skills of hitting, throwing and catching the baseball require significant work and practice to acquire. Many of the top hitters in the game don't have a tremendous speed or strength, but they all have a high-level of eye-hand coordination.
Hitters who can drive the ball over the fence, such as Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, are lionized, but many hitters who don't hit frequent home runs can be just as important to their teams. Hitting the ball consistently takes timing, hand-eye coordination and confidence. These skills are developed through regular batting practice. Hitters must be balanced when standing at the plate and drive their hands through the ball with all their strength and momentum behind their swings.
Catching and fielding the baseball takes athleticism, aggressiveness, timing and coordination. Fielding ground balls requires the player to get to a spot on the field quickly, to get his body in front of the ball and to catch it out in front of him. Catching fly balls takes speed, timing, anticipation and coordination. Fielders need to catch hundreds of ground balls and fly balls in practice to learn how to field consistently.
Throwing the ball well requires arm strength, balance and timing. The shoulder is a delicate part of the body and the four muscles of the rotator cuff that allow the baseball to throw the ball overhand can be damaged easily. Baseball players must build the strength in their arm by throwing regularly with the proper technique. That means players must step toward the target when they throw and must get their momentum traveling toward their target.
This is one of the skills that many players and coaches overlook. Having speed alone does not make one a good base runner. Speed helps, but understanding the route to run, the arm strength of opposing outfielders and the game situation are more important skills than flat-out speed. A good base runner will listen to advice from coaches on the base paths, but will make the final decisions whether to run or stop based on his own knowledge.
- The Science of Hitting; Ted Williams and John Underwood
- Coaching Youth Baseball The Ripken Way; Cal and Bill Ripken