Thursday, April 1, 2010

Training aids for pitchers and hitters

A list of inexpensive training aids for practicing baseball. Kid tested, and coach approved.


Remember to keep baseball practice safe, fun and simple.


THROWING


Taped Baseball - for learning the four-seam grip
Throwing a taped ball to check for four-seam grip. Throwing with a four-seam grip will result in straighter throws that will hit your target. It's easy for a coach to see from a distance if the taped ball was thrown with a four-seam grip.

Wrap a new baseball, around the four seams, with black electrical tape. Use this ball to teach players the four-seam grip with the proper throwing motion. When thrown well, you will see a black line as the ball spins. If the grip is off, or the arm twists, then the ball will appear to wobble. A tight fast rotation will result in higher velocity (faster) throws. Try throwing the ball with a two-seam grip to get familiar with the ball rotation and movement.

Player holds the ball with the 4-seam grip, so the black tape runs parallel and between the index and middle fingers. The thumb is across the tape on the opposite side of the ball.

Old Bucket - target for pitching
Use an old bucket or crate laid on the side as a target for pitching. Start out with a large bucket and work to using a small one as the accurracy develops. Make a game of it. Points can be awarded for hitting the inside or edge of the target. Home plate is 17" wide, so a target that is 1.5 to 2 feet across works well for young players. 

Set a portable home plate in front of the target. One challenging drill is to bounce the ball off of the plate and into the bucket.

Alternate throwing with each arm. See how many strikes you can throw right- and left-handed.

Water bottles - target practice for throwing
Not everyone wants to be a pitcher, but kids need to learn to throw to a target in order get better at throwing a baseball. Fill three small plastic bottles with water, then line the bottles up on a fence or wall that is about chest high. The goal is to throw the ball to a specific location - in this case to knock down each water bottle. It's a fun activity for young players. 

See how many bottles you can knock down in five throws. See if you can knock down the bottles, one at a time, from left to right.  Different size bottles can be used. Award more points for the smaller object.

Batting tee - moveable target in the strike zone 
The batting tee can be used as a target for pitchers. Set a softball on the tee and see if you can knock it off while pitching. Set the tee on the outside edge of the strike zone and see if you can hit the tee with a pitch. Move the tee to different locations in the strike zone and use different size balls to knock off. Have fun.

Towel Drill - dynamic warm-up for pitching
A hand towel is used in place of a baseball to practice the pitching delivery. Helps the player with momentum and follow through to finish the pitching motion. This drill can be done indoors and is used as a dynamic warm-up before throwing a baseball. Towel Drill video

Mirror
Practice your pitching motion in front of a long mirror. Check your arm position, glove and leg lift. Compare pitching motions of nondominant to dominant side.


FIELDING

Bare hands - using two hands to catch
Use bare hands to catch a ball with soft hands. Throw the ball underhanded to a player who moves to the ball with hands out in front, elbows bent, to make the two-hand catch. The receiver brings the ball in toward them to slow the ball down using soft hands. If the hands are stiff and don't move, then the ball will pop out.

Try using your bare hands for slow moving ground balls. Players have to get low and center on the ball to make the play.

Batting gloves - using two hands for fielding
On cold or wet days, players can use batting gloves for fielding with two hands. Similar to using your bare hands (above).

Small Glove for fielding
Use a small old glove for practicing fielding ground balls and making quick transfers. Try using a glove that is one inch smaller than your normal glove. If you use an 11.5" glove, then try fielding with a 10.5" glove. Make a game of it. See how many ground balls you can stop out of 10 hits. Remember to center on the ball, get low to the ground, get both hands down in front and use soft hands. Aim to field the ball in the palm so you can get a quick transfer and throw with a four-seam grip.

Pancake Glove - using two hands
Use a pancake glove to teach kids fielding ground balls and catching with two hands. The pancake flat glove has no webbing, so in order to catch the ball, the player has to use two hands. For ground balls, the player needs to center on the ball, bend the knees to get low and use two hands to scoop up the ball.

Ball deflection drill - use the pancake glove to deflect a thrown ball into your throwing hand. This will help you to develop a quick ball transfer for making throws to a base. You can use the palm of an open baseball glove to do the deflection drill.

Personal Pancake Glove
Use your own glove - like a pancake glove - by catching a ball on the backside of the closed glove. This way everyone on the team can practice at the same time without special equipment. Start out using a tennis ball or wiffle ball and throw slowly. Make sure all the fingers are inside the glove or this drill will hurt. As players get good at making the catch, they can receive harder throws. Throwing the ball to either side of the player will force them to move to the ball to make the catch.

Now practice catching with the glove open - using two hands on every catch.

Oven Mitt for fielding hot grounders
By using a oven mitt instead of a baseball glove, you can create a drill where players must use good  fundmentals to field grounders. The player learns to move toward the ball, get the butt down, hands out, field and funnel off the left eye.


HITTING

Broom stick and wiffle balls for batting practice
Use a short old broom stick to hit golf size wiffle balls. Kids can hit the little balls off a tee or have a friend throw the balls from 15 feet away. Try hitting from both sides - right- and left-handed.

Wood bat and small balls 
A short wood bat can be used to hit small wiffle balls. The heavy wood bat keeps kids from casting the bat and the small ball requires focus to hit. Try swinging the bat right- and left-handed.

Wiffle balls and bat
Put the fun back into the game by playing whiffle ball with friends. Playing wiffle ball is nice way to start practice and kids will begin arriving earlier. 

Batting tee
Use the tee for regular batting practice. Helps players work on their swing. Try hitting small wiffle balls off the tee - it's not easy. 

BOOKS

Pitch Like a Pro: A guide for Young Pitchers and their Coaches, Little League through High School
by Jim Rosenthal and Leo Mazzone

The Art & Science of Pitching by Tom House, Gary Heil, and Steve Johnson

The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement by H.A. Dorfman

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