When "speed" is used in relation to a pitcher, it usually refers to the velocity of his fastball, since the men of the mound are not revered for their 40 times. However, Mike Nagler, strength and conditioning coach at UC-Irvine, 2007 College World Series qualifiers, emphasizes improving foot speed when training his hurlers.
"Many times when the ball is hit to a first basemen and a pitcher has to cover first, it's going to be a very close play," Nagler says. "When the pitcher is slow to react and even slower to cover the base, it can be the difference between an out and the runner being safe."
For improved foot speed, Nagler incorporates five box jump drills, which helped Anteater pitchers scoop up more outs during last season's unexpected odyssey to Omaha. Try three sets of the following progression, performing each drill for 15 reps with a 90-second rest between progressions.
*Use a 3-4 inch high pylo box for each drill
Start with balls of your feet on back edge of box
Jump backwards onto ground; immediately jump back on top of box as fast as possible
Coaching Point: You can pause for a couple of seconds on top of the box, but the goal is to go down and back up as fast as possible.
Begin with both feet on ground and box positioned in front of you
As quickly as possible, step right foot on box then left foot on box
Finish with right foot off, then left foot off
Coaching Point: Stay on your toes throughout and perform progression as fast as you can
Stand to the left of box
With both feet, jump to right on top of box
Jump off box to your left with both feet
Jump back on box with both feet
Jump back to starting position
Coaching Point: Jump, don't hop
Stand with left foot on center of box and right foot off box
Jump left and land with left foot on left side of box and right foot in center of box
On next jump, return to starting position
Coaching Point: One foot will always be on the box
Straddle feet over box
Jump and bring both feet on top of box; return to start position
Coaching Point: The box is always in between your feet
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