Tamarac Little League: Drills & Fundamentals

Sunday, January 8


Fielding/Throwing Drills  

Throwing: When throwing a baseball simple fundamentals are key. Something to immediately look for is proper rotation or spin of the ball when the player throws the ball. The ball should have back spin, not a twirling spin or side ways spin. Have the player concentrate on thrwoing the ball with two fingers (three fingers for smaller hands). The ball should be rested in teh fingers, not the palm. Upon bringing the ball to the release point the fingers should be behind the ball and tips of the fingers should be on top of the ball. This will help create the proper spin, maximum speed, accuracy and keep the player's arm healthy.   

Warm-up throwing from knee-Ball starts from chest or stomach with glove tucked to chest, then to the lower thigh and is pulled back and up to the sky, throw and follow through to opposite knee. Upon standing up, proper mechanics continue with players following simple ball throwing rule, "thumb to thigh-take it to the sky". Also concentrate of player’s front shoulder pointed toward their target and foot landing toward their target as they throw. *An old rule was to throw from the ear (wrong unless you are a catcher throwing a runner out or have to make a quick throw) or show the ball to 2nd base (puts strain on the elbow). Think getting the arm long in a circular motion staying on top of the ball when throwing to gain velocity and throwing accuracy. When holding the ball allow fingers to stay behind the ball upon the release.  

Long Toss- Effective way to build arm strength. Have players take a small shuffle step prior to releasing the ball. Teach players to stay on top of the ball in order for the ball not tail and follow through using their legs.

Catching a fly ball-Again keep it simple, hands out in front, use both hands when possible, thumb to thumb, cover the ball once in the glove. Balls above waist fingers pointed up, balls below waist fingers pointed down in Pinky to Pinky position. Don’t be afraid to start teaching kids how to catch a fly ball one handed away from their body, eventually they will have to do this. Work with fielders to "step to the ball" when catching a flyball. This will assist the player with proper balance and allow the player to get into throwing position.

Ground balls-Following simple rule; butt down, feet spread, head up, field ball in front of your body, limit bending at the waist. Alligator the ball by covering the ball with throwing hand as it enters the glove. Pink to Pinky, keeps both hands out in front of the body, once ball is in glove, ball is brought to the stomach and quickly transferred to throwing hand.

Flipping ball to another player (Double Plays)-After fielding the ball it should never comes above the waist, player should remain low almost in the fielding position, once the flip is made the player should follow their flip by taking two steps toward their target when possible. This will help with the accuracy of the flip. Place a group of players at short and another group at second. Hit balls to shortstop and have them flip to the player covering second. Once they flip they should be following their flip toward the bag. After the shortstop flips to second he/she rotates to second base line and second baseman will rotate to shortstop line. Do this from both sides of the bag.

More on Double Plays- When the ball is hit too deep for a flip work proper mechanics to "turn two". From short stop use the "knee in" to throw the ball to second base. Shortstop should properly field the ball on the triangle. The ball is brought to the stomach, right knee turns in the ball ball is quickly released on the throw to second baseman. At no time does the shortstop need to step or stand up right to throw the ball. From second base there are two approaches to use. The first will also be the "knee in" approach. This will be the same variation from the shortstop side except the left or glove knee will turn in toward second base. The ball should be brought back slightly and thrown to the shortstop covering the bag. The other way is the "jump turn". Once the second baseman fields the ball the ball is brought up and the player jumps standing up toward his glove side having his chest face toward second base. The ball is quickly released to the shortstop covering the bag.

Receiving the ball for Double Play- When either the short stop or second baseman are covering the bag both hands should be up around his/her chest in a thumb to thumb position. Once receiving the ball the throwing hand will be ready to take the ball from the glove and turn a quick and succssful play.

Short Hops- Standing about 15 feet from the player throw a baseball at a variety of angles to the player. Throw balls in front of the player, increase the length the ball bounces in front of him to about 5 feet. Vary the arc and speed at which you throw the ball to help the player work on different types of hops. Balls can be thrown slightly to the left or right as progression is made. Vary the types of surfaces as well. Sometimes throw in grass and other times through in hard or soft baseball dirt. The focus is on mechanics. Head and butt should be down, while the glove starts on the ground. Chest should be forward with the legs spread just like they are fielding a ground ball. Once caught the player needs to bring the ball and glove to his stomach and into throwing position. Sometimes the ball may bounce and hit off of their chest or body. As long as the player’s learns to keep the ball in front of him then the drill is effective. Players need to work this drill in the correct manner so they get accustomed to doing this in games.

Drop ball drill and stopped balls- Players can be thrown a fly ball or rolled a ground ball. Upon correctly receiving the ball, players are instructed to toss the ball in front, behind or to the side about 3 feet. Upon doing so the player should go to the ball, picking it up between his/her legs with their front shoulder pointed at their target in throwing position. This will help allow pitchers and fielders field bunts, stopped balls and errors to get rid of the ball quickly.

Quarterback drill- A player will stand facing the coach who will hold a ball ready to throw out a flyball. The coach will indicate left or right with the proper hand. The player will start running on an angle in that direction. The coach will then indicate the opposite direction after about 10 feet and the player will change direction never turning his back to the coach. The coach may then indicate again for the player to turn in the opposite direction as well. The coach will then throw a fly-ball in the direction the player is running. The fly-ball can go deeper than the player or shorter than the angle of the player running. Continued use will help players with tracking fly-balls.

Cross fire drill- Have half of the team go to short and the other half go to second. One player from the group at second starts out at first base. A ground ball is hit to the short stop who fields and throws to first. After throwing the ball to first the player at short stop goes to cover third base. The player from first base runs around the group to the short stop line. A ground ball is hit to second base and the player throws across the diamond to third. The player from second goes to cover first and the player at third goes around to the line at second. Then start again with a grounder to short and keep the lines moving. This will give everyone time to field, throw and catch. 

Focused Outfield-Place defenders at each position on the field. Throw or hit balls into gaps and other areas of the outfield, allow the ball to stop rolling. Players will not react to go get the ball until the coach either blows a whistle or yells “GO”.  Upon instructed the outfielder will go to the ball, the infielders will go to their respective areas of play (cut-off, back up, base). Once lined up and in proper position the coach will instruct outfield to thrown the ball into the desired cut-off or base. This will slow things down and allow players to learn where they need to be. This is a perfect time to work with pitchers on backing up bases and corner outfielders backing up throws.


  Base Running and Hitting Drills  

Base running-Run through 1st, break down with short choppy steps after going full speed through the bag while looking toward the fence for the ball. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHERE (front, middle or back) OR WITH WHAT FOOT HITS THE BAG. When running the bases never break stride, this will slow the player down. Players running for extra bases, home to 2nd, 1st to 3rd, etc should run in a straight line and veer or ‘banana’ and cut the bag three quarters down the line. AGAIN IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT FOOT HITS THE BAG, only that the inside corner of the bag is touched.

Hitting focus-Squish the bug with a strong back foot on the ball of the foot (not ballerina on tip-toe), bat starts from back shoulder, hands straight to the ball with a quick swing on contact (hands stay inside the ball-not loop around to the ball), after contact swing gets long and finishes on opposite shoulder, while head stays down. Keep it simple. Front leg should almost be straight locked out, while back leg is in a V. “Short and quick to the ball, finish long”

Tre Dingus Swing

Tee Work- Greatest hitting practice anyone can do. Focus should be on balance and mechanics. Tee can be placed on inside part of the plate out on front of the hitter so they can work on the inside pitch. Tee can be placed on the outside part of the plate almost behind the hitter so they can work on the outside pitch. Balls inside are pulled, balls outside are hit away, balls down the middle are hit up the middle.

Soft Toss- One of the most improperly used drills. Soft toss should be done at a 45 degree angle in front of the hitter, not parallel or behind. Balls should be quickly tossed into the hitters hitting zone. Tossed balls can be varied giving the players help on hitting change-ups. During the normal toss of the ball, the coach should begin to raise hand quickly to the normal toss release point but not toss the ball allowing the players front foot to step and land. Once this happens the coach can continue tossing the ball so that the player can now react and drive the ball. Batters will tend to allow their hands to drift away from their body when working soft toss, keep an eye on this.

Heavy Ball- At practice bring a traffic cone or wide topped tee. Have a partially deflated basketball, or soccer ball for T-ball and Coach Pitch. Use the cone/tee and allow the players to hit the ball into a net. The key for this drill is to make sure the player drives through the ball and does not stop his/her swing. Keep in mind balance and mechanics when doing this (very important). The idea is not to "kill" the ball and fall over hitting it, but to work on driving through the ball upon contact. Muscle memory will help the player drive through the baseball when the player strikes at it so the swing does not slow down. **TIP**: At home grab your self an old used tire, some bolts with washers and a 4x4 fence post. Cement the fence post in the ground and attach the tire with the bolts in two places. Use the tire just like you would the baseketball.

Batting Practice (BP)- While having BP you don’t need every player on the field. This is a great time to either have other players working in groups, pitchers working on the side, etc. Place three fielders in the outfield and another player in the middle of the infield/outfield with a bucket to receive the hit balls. Players shagging have a great opportunity to work on catching fly balls and grounders. Get parents involved with help collecting and shagging balls too.  

Balance Board- Set up a batting tee to hit off of. Use a 4 to 5 foot plank of wood, 2x4 for advanced players or a 1x4 or 6 for others. Set the plank up next to the tee and allow the player to take position on the wood with the balls of his/her feet on the wood. The player will take a short stride and strike the ball off of the tee. The player must demonstrate proper mechanics (squish the bug and follow through) when striking the ball while maintaining balance on the board. Once player strikes the ball and finishes they should hold their finish for several seconds to ensure proper balance.

Bottom Hand- Using a small bat (T-ball size approximately 27") and a batting tee. Set a ball on the batting tee to be struck by the batter. The batter will use the small bat holding in his bottom or front hand only. The top hand will be placed across chest. The hitter will work on striking the ball, with the proper mechanics and finish. This will help with balance, bat control and finish.  

  Pitching Drill Breakdowns  

Pitchers- Pitching is all about; location, movement and velocity, in that order. Pitchers need to remain balanced and finish strong off of their ‘push’ leg. Simple pitching drills will allow your pitchers to learn to hit spots. While working with a pitcher on the side, don’t have them just pitch and throw strikes. Have the pitchers work on hitting outside, inside, up, down, etc. With thirty pitches to throw at each practice they can work 12 inside, 12 outside and 6 change-up/off speed pitches.

Pitching Release Mechanics- The pitcher’s release point should be the same to incorporate proper location on pitches. Upon release of the ball the pitcher’s belly button should be pointed at the target while the ‘push’ foot should be rotating onto the ball of the foot allowing maximum leg drive from the pitching rubber. When stride foot lands, the ‘push’ foot which supplies the power of the pitch, should only then rotate allowing the bellybutton to turn toward the catcher.   

Towel Drill- At the above phase a simple towel drill can be used. Holding a small towel, have the pitcher extend his ‘lead’ foot out toes pointing at his/her target, while rotating onto the ball of his/her ‘push’ foot as the pitcher’s belly button turns toward target have the pitcher snap the towel out in front of him/her onto a chair/bucket/Etc and follow through. The chair/bucket/Etc should be about waist height to the pitcher.

Pitching Momentum- To help pitchers learn to develop the proper momentum toward home plate, have the pitcher stand on the rubber with their feet crossed. Allow the ‘lead’ foot to be crossed in front of the ‘push’ foot. Ask the pitcher to start to fall toward the catcher. As this happens the pitcher can feel their momentum go toward their intended target and can now stride and throw the baseball.

Pitching Balance Drill- While going through their pitching motion upon the ‘lead’ knee going up, have the pitcher pause for a few seconds and then finish his/her pitch. A variation of the drill is to have the pitcher bring leg up three times pausing at the top of his leg lift. On the third leg lift the pitcher will then drop the leg and drive the plant foot forward pitching the ball to the target.

Pitchers Bucket Drill #1-Start by placing bucket next to the pitcher’s ‘lead’ foot while in the stretch position. Raise the ‘lead’ foot on the front edge of the bucket, allow the ‘lead’ foot to “scrape” down the side of the bucket and then extend toward the throwing target (stride should be 80% of body length), once the ball is released the ‘push’ leg should drive off of the pitching rubber and extend up and over the bucket. ‘Push’ leg should land evenly on the ground allowing the pitcher to now be vertical to the throwing target. The throwing elbow should extend directly over and next to the ‘lead’ knee.

Pitcher’s Bucket Drill #2- This can be done standing or from a bent ‘push’ leg touching the knee to the ground. Place the top of the ‘push’ foot directly on top of the bucket and extend the ‘lead’ foot 80% of the throwers body length with the toe pointed directly at the catcher. From this position pitcher should have his hands at the chest, ball removed from the glove. Start by allowing the pitcher to throw in a circular motion (thumb to thigh-takie it to the sky) toward the catcher. The ‘push’ leg should pop up and over just like Pitcher’s Bucket Drill #1. Again throwing elbow should extend directly over and next to the ‘lead’ knee. Finish should always be the same.

Hit-Backs- Pitcher goes through his proper delivery motion without a ball. Coach stands at the plate and hits ground balls or pop-ups back toward pitcher. Pitcher will then make the proper play to base.

Pitchers Cover First- Simple drill to incorporate the routine that when ever a ball is hit to the right side the pitcher must break toward first base. Using a rotation of fielders and pitchers have players set-up at 2nd, 1st and on the mound. Hit ground balls to the right side, allow the pitcher to “swing” toward first. The 1st baseman must make judgment on if he can and should get to the ball. When covering first the pitcher should use the interior part of the bag and run up the line while staying in fair territory at all times to avoid a collision with the runner. Use cones to give the pitcher a path to stay on. Other variations include having the 1st baseman play up and slow hits or drag bunt are hit just past the pitcher. When the 1st baseman flips to the pitcher he/she must follow their flip toward their target. This will give a more crisp and accurate flip or throw when necessary.

Change-up- Something simple about a change-up without worrying about a pitcher hurting his arm by twisting his elbow, changing his arm speed to fool a batter, etc is to just have the pitcher drag his ‘push’ foot rather than push for power from it. The same arm speed can and should be used.  The change-up is a deception pitch that should look like a fastball coming out of the pitcher’s hand.


Catchers Drills

  Goalie Drill-Allow catchers time to learn to block balls (doesn’t hurt to let all players do this). Using tennis balls or balls that are soft start by working with catchers. Work backwards allowing catchers to start already in blocking position and graduate into squatting position. The throwing hand should be placed behind the glove and the glove should be placed covering the whole between the catcher’s legs (five hole). The catcher should roll their shoulders forward keeping their head down to protect the throat while making their chest like a large bowl. The catcher needs to stay loose and relaxed keeping the impact of the ball off of the chest as soft as possible, like a pillow. If the catcher is too stiff, just like a brick wall, the ball with scoot away. If the catcher does not make his chest like a bowl the ball will tend to bounce to the left or right instead of in front of him. From that position start working from the squatting position from farther distances eventually to using full gear and baseballs. This takes a lot of practice and courage to do. Catchers need to be fearless and quick.

Throw downs-Key for a good throw down at most levels is foot work, accuracy and release speed. Catchers need to square their front shoulder toward their target, bring the ball to their ear and follow through with their throw. When throwing to 3rd base a catcher should go behind the batter on an inside pitch (righties) and in front of the batter on an outside pitch (righties). When dealing with lefties and throwing to third this obviously would not apply.

Pop-ups- Upon a pop-out or fly ball to the catcher the catcher must immediately remove his/her mask but not discard it until he/she has found the ball. The mask should always try to be thrown in a direction opposite of where the catcher is going to make the catch. Coaches can stand behind the catcher and throw many pop-ups to them allowing them time to work on making the proper catch.

Fielding Bunts- Catchers need to be quick and control the field when bunts or short hits occur. Catchers need to learn to read the field and let other fielders know where the play is. Catchers should try to remove their mask prior to making the play and to remember at all cost field the ball square to their body between their feet with their front shoulder pointed at their target. Also start catchers off by learning playing the ball inside the field and outside the field. When the ball is played inside the white lines, catcher needs to communicate with first baseman by yelling “INSIDE” and when the ball has potential (not always likely in Little League) to be outside the white lines, catcher needs to communicate with the first baseman by yelling “OUTSIDE”. This should allow the first baseman to move inside or outside the playing field to make the catch.