Why do infielders do the same thing in a double play? A whole bunch of reasons, and it involves a bunch of physics, but the most-used baseball swing is something called the “slide” — because it’s basically two swings in a row without the pitcher lifting his arm. To really understand the slide, you have to look at what happens before a catcher throws the ball.
How Baseball Uses the Swing
Baseball is based on the same physics as basketball: it’s a contact sport made up of two sides hitting the ball. In other words, you’re swinging at a baseball that’s pitched back and forth a million times. That’s why the swing looks like a slide.
As you can see in this illustration, what the pitcher is doing when he throws a ball is that he’s trying to throw it in a straight line so that it can bounce off the side field. But that isn’t what the player doing the slide does. Instead, he’s doing something called an imaginary pitch, which you learn about when you see the first slide.
If this sounds a lot more complicated than baseball, you’re right. It is. But it comes down to a simple principle: when baseball players throw an imaginary pitch, a ball is going to get hit back and forth in the air. The ball just happens to be slightly above or below the pitcher’s shoulders when it finally reaches the hitter. (The way the pitcher’s shoulder and the batter’s shoulder and the catcher’s shoulder interact with each other means the imaginary pitch is actually actually hit a little higher or lower than its actual elevation was.) If you’re not totally sure what that means, see why baseball pitchers often don’t show them.
How to Practice Slide Mechanics
First of all, don’t just play the slide, practice it. Here’s how that works:
1. Look at the pitcher’s body in this illustration, not at the hitter.
2. Look back at the batter, not at any point in time.
3. Get all three of your eyes to the same spot on the pitcher’s upper back. Now use your left arm to grab the baseball between your shoulder blades and lower it down to the top of your shoulders.
4. Reach up with an arm that’s about a fist length from your upper arm, and do the slide.
The whole point of the slide is to get the ball out of the pitcher’s hands as quick as possible, but it’s
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