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Friday, June 4, 2010

What is More Important For Baseball, Running Speed Or Overall Athleticism?

By Mike Posey

A number of years ago I was helping at a local tryout camp for a Major League Baseball Team. We had about 50 attending an open tryout in the area for players ranging in ages from 16-23. I arrived early and helped measure and paint a line for the 60 yard dash. If you have ever been to any type of MLB tryout or even a top baseball showcase, they will always start the day off with a 60 yard dash. That morning was no different. We split the players up into several groups and had them begin stretching, then we started to run them in pairs. At the end of the testing we had a young man that was 23 years old and a recent small college football player that ran a 6.3 second 60 yard dash.

If you know anything about the 60, that is an extremely good time, and the best I have ever witnessed. The scout running the tryout (who had scouted for over 30 years and signed a number of big league players) said it was the best he had ever timed. In fact, he asked the young man to run it a second time, just to make sure. The time was the same. The next thing the scout said to me was "If he can hit, field, or throw we will sign him to a contract today" Unfortunately, he had never played baseball before and had no other baseball skills.

All MLB teams still use the 60 yard dash today, but only has a starting point to measure speed and quickness. It has been a standard for some time and is a good indicator of the speed needed on the field. The distance from 1B to 3B is 180 feet (60 yards). also outfielders have to cover a large area in the outfield when catching fly balls. The average major league player will run the 60 yard dash in a time under 7.0 seconds, but this is more important for middle infielders and outfielders. Power hitting first/third basemen, catchers, and pitchers do not need to run a good 60 time.

Overall a baseball player must still have specific skills and instincts. Without the ability to run the bases, throw and catch, and hit a fastball, running speed is not very helpful.

There are many that will tell you that Major League Baseball is behind in evaluating athletes and that the measurement for the 60 yard dash is outdated. In the late 1990s and early 2000 the SPARQ testing system was designed to test overall athleticism in several sports, baseball included. SPARQ stands for speed, power, agility, and quickness. The overall idea was developed by Rudy Chapa, a former All American cross country and track runner at the University of Oregon. The baseball testing for SPARQ was developed by ERic Trice of Trice Athletics in 2006, while he was working for SPARQ. Trice was a former track and professional baseball athlete. SPARQ has been used by Nike as overall marketing tool (a very popular one) since 2004 to sell cross training footwear, apparel, and equipment.

The SPARQ testing for baseball consists of the following tests:

- 20 Yard Shuttle Run: Lateral movement testing that measures agility
- 30 Yard Dash: Measures acceleration
- Rotational (3 kg) Power Ball Throw: Measures core strength, total body power, and rotational core movement common in baseball.
- Vertical Jump: Overall athleticism

The overall testing involved in SPARQ is good, but MLB still embraces the 60 yard dash. The SPARQ rating system has been accepted more by football than baseball so far, although a number of Universities and top baseball showcases are using the SPARQ testing.

Another component to the SPARQ system is SPARQ training. This second component is the training system to help young athletes improve. Individuals can obtain certification, videos, and training tools in order to set up shop and begin the business of training young athletes. The problem is that some individuals obtaining the credentials and equipment are not always fully certified athletic trainers. SPARQ is in the current process of reevaluating its rating and training certification, although many SPARQ events are still being held across the country.

For now, MLB will continue to use the 60 yard dash. One thing for sure, with the right type of training in both strength and technique, a player can become more athletic and explosive. With enough hard work and dedication by the athlete their running times can be improved and the overall confidence of the athlete will increase.

To learn more about improving your players time in the 60 yard dash and learn why football uses the 40 yard dash for testing CLICK HERE!

Mike Posey
Expert Baseball Tips from a championship coach's perspective and experience, offering creative insights into helping others learn the game of baseball. Sign up for a Free Baseball Newsletter

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick