MaxBP Reaction Training Drill – “Track & Decide”
In this video, Ryan Harrison with SlowTheGameDown demonstrates the value of using the MaxBP pitching machine for the “Track & Decide” training drill. Professional baseball player Tyler Heineman from the Houston Astros organization joins Harrison for the drill and demonstrates some major league talent. Notice how Heineman is standing in his batting stance throughout the drill while using his hand closest to the catcher.
What the drill focuses on?
The “Track & Decide” training drill focuses on a hitter’s decision-making and quality of vision abilities. This is because, for the drill, two different color balls are utilized, solid and two-tone colors. As the ball crosses home plate the hitter has to recognize whether the ball is a solid color or two-toned. Depending on what the hitter wants to catch or let the ball pass (e.g., take a pitch), he has to not only recognize the ball color and call it out before seeing the ball in his hand, but he has to catch the ball he intended to catch.
Why is it helpful?
The “Track & Decide” training drill pushes the boundaries of a hitter’s patience because the point of the drill is not to swing at the ball with your bare hand, but to catch the ball deep into the zone. The drill is only completed correctly when (1) the hitter catches the ball with his bare hand or takes the “pitch,” (2) while deep in zone, (3) and calling out vocally the color of the ball. The drill, if done right, also forces the hitter to move as one with his hand and eyes, with little to no movement elsewhere, while seeing the ball into his hand.
How can coaches implement it with their teams?
In thinking about having someone assist you with using the MaxBP wiffle ball pitching machine, a coach or assistant can easily control the direction and eventual location of the ball by moving the outside of the machine box and therefore the ball filter. As a hitter, a ball is never exactly where it is supposed to be or where you want it to be in the zone. The MaxBP pitching machines prepare you for that by having someone directing the ball filter anywhere in the hitter’s zone.
A variation of the “Track & Decide” training drill is to combine it with the “Track & Tap” training drill to assist with your hit location and bunting skills. A successful completion of the combined drills will (1) force the hitter to trust his eyes to make contact with the ball, (2) requires that the hitter to be patient to make contact or to take the pitch, (3) deep in zone, and (4) while calling out vocally the color of the ball. The drill, if done right, also forces the hitter to move as one with his hand and eyes, with little to no movement elsewhere, while seeing the ball to the small bat.
A third and advanced variation of the “Track & Decide” training drill is to combine it with the “Accuracy Tracking” training drill. If you remember, the “Accuracy Tracking” training drill is what Harrison calls a “visual inhale drill” that forces and trains a hitter to focus on pitch and location awareness. As with the “Track & Catch” and “Track & Decide” training drills, this drill is only completed correctly when (1) the hitter catches the ball with his bare hand (or takes the pitch), (2) while deep in zone, (3) with the hitter correctly recognizing the location by (4) calling out the number on the “Pitch Zone Locator,” and (5) the color of the ball (solid or two-tone). Again, the “Pitch Zone Locator” can be placed horizontally, vertically, or hung above home plate to measure a pitch anywhere in or outside of the zone.
The combined training drill is helpful because it focuses on the complete hitter and what a hitter does while batting. He waits for the pitch, recognizes the “color” (e.g. type of pitch by the spin on the ball, fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, etc.), and whether to swing or take the pitch depending on the ball's location.
A fourth variation of the “Track & Decide” training drill and the two combination drills is to utilize the MaxBP Pro version where you can increase the rapidness of the drill by removing the ball plugs at the bottom of the container. This will help with the hitter’s endurance and reaction time in the batters box.
Why is small ball training with a MaxBP machine important?
Trust. If a hitter cannot trust his hands and eyes in baseball, he will not get very far in his professional career. In this drill, a hitter must relax and trust his hands and eyes to work together. The drill allows for a heightened awareness because the ball colors are different, the ball is smaller, and the hitter is using his bare hand to catch it or take it while calling out the type of ball caught (solid or two-tone in color). To complete the drill successfully, a hitter cannot force the catch or to take a ball because it takes soft hands, quick eyes, and rapid response times.