Even if your kid is obsessed with baseball or softball, all parents below the age of 14 seem to be locked in on the idea of their kid playing multiple sports. However, if your kid really loves baseball or softball, the other sports that you decide to play are pretty important. The sports that you select can either help you become a better baseball/softball player, or they can hinder you. So, I decided to rank the top five sports that you can play if you want to be an excellent baseball or softball player. Maybe we’ll do sports you should avoid in another article.
#5 Gymnastics: The 5th best sport that you can play if you want to be an excellent baseball player is gymnastics. Honestly, you can make a strong argument for this. It’s number one; the way that people train in gymnastics teaches you how to use your entire body to make movements happen. It’s also very important that you have strength with your arms over your head in gymnastics. This is a really important factor in throwing sports.
Just think of a gymnast doing a routine on the uneven bars and think about the structural support that the shoulder, arms, and the rest of the body need to be able to actually execute that at a high level. Now think about how that translates into what throwers need to stay healthy. The two line up very well.
I just went on a 30-minute internet deep dive to try and validate something that I’ve heard about Tim Lincecum when he was growing up. I thought I had read somewhere that he had trained as a gymnast, but I was not able to find that. However, he was excellent at walking on his hands and doing things like backflips and other things that you may see in a gymnastics floor routine. You can find that in just about any long article that’s written about Lincecum.
Given that Tim Lincecum is kind of a dated pitcher now, if you are a kid reading this and you haven’t seen him pitch, you need to go watch some highlights. This dude was bonkers good in his prime.
#4 Track and Field:
The fourth-best sport that you can play as a baseball or softball player is track and field. It honestly doesn’t matter if you like the part on the track where you run or the part where you throw things; either one is great.
Do you want to be fast in baseball and softball? Duh, of course, you do, so being really good at things like the 100-meter dash would help tremendously.
That said, I wouldn’t venture into more long-distance type track events. Not that it’s bad to be in shape; there’s a certain point of long-distance running that isn’t great for baseball players. Purely because it trains your body to be really economical with energy conservation, which usually limits the amount of power that you can exert in one movement, which in baseball and softball is really important.
From a throwing perspective, discus, javelin, and the shot put are all things that help rotational athletes like baseball and softball players.
Also, most people that are considered experts in strength and conditioning call track and field the most advanced of the sports when it comes to training. Let’s deep dive on that another day.
The third-best sport you can play if you want to be an elite baseball or softball player is golf. Yep, I said it—playing golf will not mess up your baseball or softball swing. 85% of the golf vs baseball swing is the same, and the parts that are different are so distinct that it’s pretty easy to make adjustments when any athlete is playing baseball.
The thing that I like so much about baseball players playing golf is the fact that baseball and softball are rotational sports, and so is golf. Athletes will get really good at the rotational sequence that is needed in the sports of baseball and softball by playing golf, and they will also get really good at controlling their rotation. That’s the biggest thing for me in golf. What do I mean by controlling rotation? I mean it’ll teach athletes how to rotate effectively even at a sub-maximal level. In baseball, we spend so much time working on getting people to rotate faster and faster. Oftentimes, the control of their rotation and being able to slow their rotation up when they’re early on a pitch get missed. Golf teaches that just by playing the game. If you are not able to control your rotation, your ability to hit the green when you’re 100 yards and in will be terrible. This forces athletes to figure this out.
As a result, I’m never gonna tell a baseball or softball player that they shouldn’t play golf. In fact, you absolutely should play golf.
OK, we’re moving to the top two. The things that separate the sports in my view are vision. Vision is a really hard thing to train unless you’re just forced to do it all the time, and these two sports force you to be good at moving your eyes, tracking moving objects, and depth perception.
#2 Hockey: The second-best sport that you can play if you want to be an excellent baseball player is hockey. In hockey, you are basically forced to rotate to hit any shot or make any pass. Snapshots almost perfectly mimic the rotational movements that you need to make in a baseball swing. Wrist shots and just about any pass you make force you to control rotation and develop proprioception.
Hockey is also excellent for lateral movement, which is also so important in baseball and softball. There’s also a huge balance component in hockey that cannot be missed. Obviously, you’re skating around on a blade of metal that’s much thinner than your normal shoes. Your ability to control where your weight has to be excellent to play hockey at even a moderate level.
Lastly, the visual component of hockey is so challenging from a perspective of tracking the puck as it moves around the rink that it’s hugely beneficial to baseball and softball players that struggle with the visual part of the game.
The number one best sport to play if you want to be an excellent baseball or softball player is tennis.
Tennis has every single thing that hockey has except for the unique balance component of being on a thin blade. It has the visual component; it has the lateral movement; it has the rotational requirement, the proprioception needed to understand how hard you’re hitting.
But in my view, it also does a couple of things that hockey doesn’t. One, aside from just the lateral ability, it also forces you to be able to run fast in a straight line while you’re actually on you feet.
It also forces you to develop an awareness between what your swing path is and the result of the spin on the tennis ball. This is very transferable. For example, when you swing down to hit a drop shot in tennis that creates a ton of backspin. Whereas, if you want to create topspin, you will swing up to get the ball to land in bounds on a hard forehand or backhand.
Tennis is also great for throwing athletes because of the serve being an overhand motion.
Lastly, nothing trains the wrists better than playing tennis. I don’t mean from a strength perspective. Of course, you can do things to make your wrist stronger and then play tennis. However, when you play tennis, you’re playing with a surface that’s flat. When you play baseball and softball, you’re playing with a surface that is cylindrical (round), which makes the feedback loop that you get with where the ball goes sometimes blurry. What do I mean by that? Sometimes what the ball does in baseball and softball does not align with what our swing actually was because we just did not hit the ball. True. But in tennis, making contact with the ball usually isn’t the problem. It’s usually an issue where when you hit it, it doesn’t go where you want it to, and usually, that’s because of body position, and our wrists are usually big culprits of why it doesn’t go where we want. I’m not a tennis expert, and I won’t pretend to be, but if I can square the face of a tennis racket and hit consistent shots where I want them to, that’s going to be a great training tool for me to be able to square the barrel up with the ball and hit it how I want to.
And you know the great thing about tennis?
Unlike many other team sports, you are involved in every single play, so the amount of repetitions that you can get is near infinite.
Playing other sports is not wrong; research shows that a sampling period is important for athletes who end up playing any given sport at a high level. If you want to read more about this topic in particular I would recommend the book Range by David Epstein.
But that said, when you’re choosing what sports you want to play, if your kid is baseball or softball obsessed and you’re pretty sure they’re going to want to focus on baseball at some point, maybe you should give some consideration to playing sports that will ultimately help them on the baseball or softball field if they do end up playing long term.
Another way to think about it is that if you want them to do something other than playing baseball but it’s hard to get them to want to do anything else, you can spin it to them as playing the sport is a way for you to train for baseball without actually playing baseball.
Thanks for reading!
Founder and CEO of Ignite Baseball
Head 13U Cadets Coach
Ignite Cadets Head Of Player Development