The Pirates Continue Adding Implicit Training Environments to Player Development

The Pittsburgh Pirates are incorporating “implicit training environments” all throughout their minor league player development system.

That brought a new look to the field this week during batting practice.

The Pirates set up two different pitching machines on each mound. One was closer to the plate, aimed to simulate a fastball. The other was further back, set to spin, and meant to simulate offspeed pitches.

Here is a video of Pirates first base prospect Mason Martin taking swings off both machines.

“It’s more realistic to what the game really is,” said Martin of the drill. “In the game, you obviously don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know what speed it’s going to be or what spin it’s going to have or what break it’s going to have. So, the more you can do that in practice, I think the more it’s going to get you ready for the game.”

The drills are part of an implicit training environment that Pirates farm director John Baker has instilled. I spoke with Baker about this last year.

“When we’re dealing with a sport that’s played in less than 150 milliseconds, these reactions of hitting, we don’t have enough time to process,” said Baker. “We don’t have enough time to understand what’s going on, and then make our body move in a certain way. So, we have to train implicitly, meaning that we have to bypass the brain.”

This particular drill with the pitching machines gives hitters experience at seeing alternating speeds during practice, along with alternating release points, This all gives them training to work on their visual perception, so that they can better react to those “less than 150 millisecond” pitches.

“What we are trying to do in our organization is we are selling out to different training measures and different constraints,” said Pirates hitting coordinator Jonny Tucker. “We are doing things with vision. We are challenging our players that the cage is going to be looking somewhat similar to what the field environment is going to require.”

The Pirates are removing what Tucker described as feel-good practices. Baker has discussed with me in the past about how a perfect practice is a 60% success rate, as that drives improvement. Across the board, the feeling is that if a player is having an easy practice, showing success 100% of the time, the environment isn’t leading to any learning opportunities.

“It’s more like a game,” said Martin. “I’m not going to get a fastball down the middle every time. I wish I could. That would be nice. But it doesn’t always work that way.”


Here are some other batting practice videos off the same machines:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Most Voted Comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x