Every baseball parent wants to see their kid in the big leagues, so why not give them some drills to do from one of the best in the game right now: the Texas Rangers‘ Marcus Semien.
When I was in the prime of my playing days, I would spend hours on end watching highlights of the best in the big leagues, trying to emulate their swings, mechanics, and everything in between.
For me, I watched Texas Rangers greats. I tried to pick apart Adrian Beltre’s defensive wizardry, learn to be a well-rounded hitter from Michael Young, emulate the smooth swing Josh Hamilton had, and run the bases like Elvis Andrus.
However, I’m past those playing days. I do miss pulling up my 12-inch stirrups and getting dirty stealing bags or fist-pumping after a critical strikeout, but now I want to coach my kids, my friend’s kids, and truthfully anyone who will listen.
I’m no big leaguer, though.
I’ve continued to study every facet of the game I love, and as I was scrolling through Instagram one day I came across a series of videos that any parent with a young baseball player should watch.
Obviously, during the lockout, players weren’t able to meet with their big league coaches. They had to turn elsewhere. Thus, I stumbled upon Coach Jason Ferber on Instagram He’s working with all kinds of players, but the two that stood out to me were two Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun and newly-signed Marcus Semien.
Texas Rangers striving to improve their baseball fundamentals
Calhoun’s swing looks great, as the videos shown are of him dropping absolute tanks. An encouraging sign ahead of the 2022 season for Calhoun, the Rangers brass, and fans alike.
Marcus Semien’s videos stood out to me, though. Since coming up with the White Sox in 2013, Semien has become one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Last season with Toronto, Semien crushed 45 homers and drove in 102 runners. He’s finished in the top three in MVP voting in two of the last three years. He has also become an elite defender, winning the American League Gold Glove Award at second last season.
Definitely a guy I would want my kids to watch and learn from, and now, you have that opportunity, too. Below, I’ve written a brief description of the drill and have attached the link at the end of each paragraph to watch the video. But first, I’ll give you a six-minute-long video running through several of the drills Marcus Semien is doing. Click here to see that video.
In the first video I watched, Coach Ferber and Semien are discussing timing up good, high-velocity fastballs and when your swing feels good in practice, but off in games. In this four-minute video, Marcus Semien gives his advice on staying true to your mechanics and letting the results come naturally. You can find that video, here.
One of the biggest things young players want to do is ignore the tee drills. However, if you have the opportunity to watch big leaguers up close, almost all of them begin their routines off of the tee.
In this next video, you get to see Marcus Semien’s everyday tee progression. Let me break down what you’ll see first. Semien begins the video hitting with the tee belt high and middle-middle. He’s looking to stay through the baseball, driving it to right field. He’ll work about 4-5 good swings there, then move on to those same 4-5 good swings on the outer third of the plate, inner third of the plate and work on hitting the low and away pitch, as well. You can see this video here.
Following Marcus’s tee work, he and his hitting coach work on side toss and front toss otherwise called flips. At the beginning of this video, Semien’s hitting coach is set up behind him in the left-handed batter’s box. He’s tossing low flips from the side and behind him to work on waiting for the pitch and driving it to right field. Semien will move on to front tosses next, working on hitting the ball wherever it is given, pulling it if it’s inside, and hitting it to the back right corner of the net if it’s away. Something to take note of here is that Marcus Semien isn’t trying to hit a home run every time. He’s working online drives and putting easy backspin on the ball, which will inevitably turn into balls that carry over the fence. Check out that video here.
The next two drills Semien works on are short-range overhand batting practice from roughly 10-12 feet away. This drill helps keep your swing short and to the baseball. Marcus Semien excels at this drill for a few reasons, one, he’s an incredible hitter and knows how to get the barrel to the ball, and two, doesn’t have a big slow load like David Ortiz for example. Big Papi used to have a large leg kick and slowly drop his hands and bring them back up before he swung. Semien doesn’t do that. He keeps his hands high so that when he does see higher velocities, he’s already in a prime hitting position to swing. Check out this drill here.
The last of Semien’s hitting routine comes in the form of hitting foam balls high in the strike zone, emulating a rising fastball. While baseballs don’t rise, an elevated fastball can have that illusion to many hitters making it an even more deadly pitch for any pitcher. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to lay off the high cheddar. In this drill, Marcus is using lighter foam balls because they are more likely to stay on plane compared to a regular weighted baseball. For him, he said in the caption, it gives him that same illusion of it rising. Semien also said in the caption that he tries to aim a full baseball higher than where he expects the foam ball to be, and said if he doesn’t the results tend to be mile-high pop-ups or flat-out misses. Check out the video, here.
Moving onto Semien’s defensive drills, the one highlighted is something of an oddity. Semien will set up in his athletic fielding position as his hitting coach will throw playing cards at him. Semien is only allowed to use one hand to catch each card, training his hand-eye coordination. It also helps train his focus. A small object like a playing card is hard to pick up in a split second, making it even more important that you stay locked in and keep your eyes on each card. A simple, cost-effective drill that any parent-kid combo can do at home to improve your hand-eye coordination. Check out that video, here.
The card drill, in turn, also helps when fielding ground balls. Funny how an ace of spades could help turn a 4-6-3 double-play, right? What I mean by that is this, when fielders go to field a ground ball or low liner, you want to get eye-level with the baseball. By getting low (deeper into an athletic position) and eye-level, it’s easier to judge where and how that batted ball will move. Marcus Semien gives an example of that in this next video, here.
The Texas Rangers nabbed a good one in free agency, and even better they got four. Between Semien, Corey Seager, Jon Gray and Kole Calhoun, the Texas Rangers are poised to have an outstanding year. And thanks to the power of social media, we are able to see how our new favorite Ranger players train in the offseason, giving coaches, parents and ambitious young players a few new ideas for drills this upcoming baseball season.