Florida Baseball Speed Drills

Learn some of the best baseball speed drills from the University of Florida through STACK.com.

Put down the stopwatch and back away from it.

When the opposing shortstop charges your ground ball and tries to throw you out at first, he could care less how fast you covered 60 yards last year at baseball camp. What makes him quiver in his cleats is your ability to bolt out of the box and streak to the bag. Past times are thrown out the window, and it's head-to head, you against him.

Do you have the tools to take him? Or will you be shuffling back to your cozy spot on the pine and waiting another inning or three to make your impact felt?

University of Florida baseball strength and conditioning coach Steven Orris has seen his share of fast players who can't move on the diamond. "We get guys who have great 60-yard dash times and think they are fast," he says. "But when you see them in a game running to first or charging a bunt, their speed doesn't transfer. They can't run the bases well, get out of the batter's box or make a play on a ball."

As a result, Orris focuses his training on improving his players' usable speed, which he defines as "speed that can be used in actual game situations." Through baseball-specific speed drills combined with horizontal plyometrics, the Gators boosted their speed and used it during the 2005 season to rack up 48 wins and a second-place finish in the College World Series.

Don't let everything you put into your speed development go to waste by failing to transfer it to game situations. Follow Orris' simple plan, which can turn a fast runner into a blazing baller on the diamond.

IT'S NOT A PERFECT WORLD

The location and speed of the pitch and the batter's timing dictate his finishing position after a swing. Orris says, "If you had a perfect swing, you would be able to run out of the box in an even, balanced stance. But you rarely get that chance in a game situation. You never know what kind of position you will end up in, so you need to learn how to explode out of imperfect positions."

Baseball Speed Drills

Orris designed a baseball acceleration drill that addresses the off-balance starts to first base. It uses preloaded starts to acclimate the Gators to exploding out of the batter's box after making contact.

Preloaded Starts

• Lie on stomach

• When coach says "go," raise into push-up position and bring one foot forward under torso so knee is at chest

• On second "go," explode forward off loaded leg and sprint to first base or for 30 yards

Benefits: Loading one leg with more weight than the other trains an athlete to be explosive even when his weight is not centered.

Coaching Point: "We perform this explosive work two days after leg work in the weight room, so the players' legs aren't fatigued."

Reps: 6 (alternating legs)

Rest to Work Ratio: 3:1

Frequency: Two times a week

GETTING AROUND

Once you've learned to explode out of the box, life on the basepaths is a different world. Straight-line speed is less usable, because you need to turn corners as you round the bases. Swing out too wide or slow your feet rounding first and you will be pegged out at second before you know it.

Orris trains the Gators to take good angles and stay tight on the paths. First they learn to maintain speed around corners, then to accelerate through them.

Box Figure-8

• Set up two adjacent boxes of four cones, each seven yards apart

• Begin at corner of one box and sprint around top half of it

• Continue sprinting across middle of boxes and round bottom half of second box

• Continue sprinting around top half of second box

• Sprint across middle of boxes and round bottom of first box

Benefits: You learn to round the bases without taking a wide angle or slowing your feet, which helps you make up time on the basepaths.

Coaching Point: "On the first few times through this drill, focus on keeping your feet going at the same speed on the turns. Once you get comfortable, work on accelerating through the turn by taking a good angle and dipping your inside shoulder like you would on a basepath. Stay as tight to the cones as possible. Any width on the turns is wasted movement and time. Begin with one box and move to two when you get accustomed to the drill."

Reps: 5

Rest to Work Ratio: 3:1

Frequency: Twice a week the day after working legs in the weight room

AVOIDING LACTIC LETDOWN

When trying to stretch a single into a double, maintaining speed after rounding first is difficult, and it's common for a base-runner's form to crumble with each step around the bases. Orris says, "Often in this situation, a player loses speed because of burning in his legs caused by the inevitable buildup of lactic acid. However, with proper training, his lactic acid threshold can be developed for a later onset."

Gator Mountain

• Begin at bottom of large stadium's steps

• Walk or sprint up length of steps

• Walk down and repeat for entire stadium

Benefits: This drill improves speed endurance by training the lactic acid threshold, as well as providing a lesson in mental toughness.

Coaching Point: "Gator Mountain is performed in our 90,000 capacity football stadium, which has about 90 steps to the top. Because it is so steep, we walk the stadium for the first two weeks, which is actually a lot harder than sprinting. Once we start sprinting the stadium, this becomes a plyometric activity that includes 90 reps for each set."

Reps: 1 full stadium

Frequency: Once a week

*If your stadium is a lot smaller, you can get the same effect by walking and running at least 90 steps up a steep hill.

DASHING DEFENSE

Usable speed is just as important on the defensive side. By adding a baseball to drills, Orris works defensive usable speed, preparing the Gators to charge a bunt or ground ball in the blink of an eye.

Box Drill with Fielding

• Create a box by placing four cones seven yards apart; a coach or partner stands in the center holding four balls

• Sprint, shuffle or carioca around outside of the box, remaining tight to cones

• As coach/partner rolls balls to you, dip down, pick them up and toss them back

Benefits: This drill forces you to stay low and puts you in the defensive position when you reach to field a ball or pick up a bunt on the move.

Coaching Point: "Try to go as fast as possible around the cones, remaining as tight to them as possible. Dip down and field the balls cleanly without slowing your feet."

Reps: 5

Rest to Work Ratio: 3:1

Frequency: Twice a week the day after working legs in the weight room

HORIZONTAL HUSTLE

Orris developed a plyometric system that helps the Gators gain horizontal power. "Because baseball is a linear sport, we do most of our training on the horizontal plane," he says. "When people think of plyometrics, they usually think of vertical drills, but there is more to it than that."

Single-Leg Race

• Begin on one leg with opposite leg bent and tucked

• Run with proper form using only one leg, keeping opposite leg tucked

Benefits: This horizontal plyometric drill develops power and greater stride frequency. You have to explode off one leg in baseball, and this helps develop power for that movement.

Coaching Point: "Focus on continuing to pump the arms and legs with proper technique. The catch is that only one leg is allowed to contact the ground. If you can develop speed on one leg, imagine what happens with two."

Reps: 4 x 25 yards each leg

Rest to Work Ratio: 3:1

Frequency: Twice a week

Broad Jump

• Set two cones three yards apart

• Begin in athletic stance at first cone

• Squat down and jump out as far as possible, using arms and legs in tandem

• Land on both feet in quarter-squat position for one count and repeat

Benefits: This drill develops horizontal power and balance.

Coaching Point: "Begin with sets of one jump, then progress to three to four jumps per set. The first time through, jump for distance. When you are comfortable with that, try jumping for speed. This can be a lot of fun if you race a teammate. Use both arms and legs to jump and land properly and safely."

Reps: 5

Recovery: Full

Frequency: Twice a week.

Unusable tests

The 60-yard dash is regarded as the measure of baseball speed. Orris isn't a fan, though. "When was the last time you saw a baseball player run 60 yards in a straight line?" he asks. "When a guy makes contact and runs to first, he is only covering 30 yards."

Although the 60 is a decent measure of straight-ahead speed, it has little to do with what makes a player a force on the diamond.To solve this quandary, scouts often use a player's time from home to first as a benchmark for speed. Orris takes issue with this too. "The problem with timing a guy from home to first is that when he actually takes a swing, he's not making a true sprint to first. Where his swing ends dictates the leg he drives off, his angle to first and his body position."

Timing a player in actual game situations might be the best way to gauge his speed. If a guy can take a cut, get out of the box and reach first with an impressive time, who cares how long it takes him to run 60 yards?


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASEBALL | SPEED TRAINING | GET FASTER | COACH | SPRINT | DRILL | CONES | SWING