Bullpen Routine: Keeping Pitchers Sharp

Here’s a copy of the bullpen routines that we use for our pitchers.  This document was put together by our pitching coach, Mr. Ryan Bemont.  The “Base Bullpen” and “Short Bullpen” are the two that we use the most.  As well, we will modify these routines during the season as needed.  The modification is based on which pitcher needs to be penned and how often he has thrown.  For example, if we have a commonly used pitcher, we may use a modified short pen between starts just to stay sharp and focus on mechanics.  If it is a player that may not be throwing as much, the longer routines will come into play. The short pen is the primary routine used before a game.

FB= fastball

CU= change up

CV= curve

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Indoor Batting Cage Practice: Our Set-up Chart

Station #1:  Cage Sequence #1: 3-2-7-1 (track 3, 2 sacs, 7 cuts, 1 H&R)
Station #2:  Cage Sequence #2: 2-7-1 (2 sacs, 7 cuts, 1 H&R)
Station #3:  Cage Sequence #3: 2-8-1-1 (2 sacs, 8 cuts, 1 H&R, 1 Squeeze)
Station #4:  Cage Sequence #4: 2-6-1-1-1 (track 2, 6 cuts, 1 sac, 1 H&R, 1 Squeeze)
Station #5:  Cage Sequence #5: 1-NO ROCKS IN THE AIR!!!

                                                Drill List

1.        Vision Soft toss (No side or standing feeders)

2.        Launch & Drop (up the middle to opposite field)

3.        Battle with the paddle

4.        Battle with the paddle top hand

5.        Lite-Flite Bunt

6.        Launch

7.        Dot Drill

8.        Vision Tee

9.        High Tee

10.     Tee Walk-ups

11.     Hitting discs

12.     Front Toss Whiffle Balls

What you see above is basically the chart that is used during the season when we are stuck inside due to weather.  Our cage area has space limitations.  Therefore, we have to be creative utilizing the space that we have. This chart serves as a portion of a practice plan. It will be posted.  The players are placed into their hitting groups.  They should be able to look at the chart, understand where they should be, and what they are to do once they get there. It usually takes 2-3 three times for the players to totally understand the process, but when they get used to it, it’ll be like clockwork.

Here’s how the chart is used.  The top of the chart is a map that displays the numbered cage station areas. It also shows the direction in which the players are to rotate.  The table in the middle of the chart has Stations 1-5 listed.  The coach is to write in drills for each station from the drill list at the bottom. Then, the coach is to circle a cage sequence to be followed once any given hitting group rotates into the machine area of the cage. The whole team rotates when the group on the machine is done. There is no reason for any one on the team to be standing around. 

Everyone has a place to be and a purpose once they get there.  By planning ahead of time there is less wasted time and more time for the coaches to float around and work with hitters.  This is typically used in 45-60 minute session.  We try to get everyone to each station twice.  Each player should get between 100-125 cuts.  If a player gets less than that, it’s on them for not working hard enough.

Infield Pop-up Responsibility

There is nothing worse than when two or even three players are standing in the same area and a pop fly drops between them.  It is so demoralizing for a team. It can change the momentum of a game.  Outs are precious.  The defense can’t give them away.  This unfortunate event is typically the result of  one or more of the following three things:

  1. Lack of communication
  2. Lack of knowledge of responsibility
  3. Lack of leadership on the field

  • A pop-up on the infield is the responsibility of all infielders until someone takes charge
  • You can never yell too loud
  • It’s OK to call “Ball” too early; never too late
  • On pop-ups bordering two zones, the player further away from home plate trumps
    • Outfielders trump 2B & SS
    • SS trumps 3B
    • 2B trumps 1B
    • 3B & 1B trump C
  • P should only have to field pop-ups on the front of the mound area
  • P should direct traffic by calling the name of the player in the best position to catch the ball 

 

Maximizing Practice for Infielders: 2 Fungo Drill with Cardio Conditioning

This drill has three purposes:

  1. Get as many ground balls as possible in a 15 minute span
  2. Incorporate a cardio conditioning aspect by running the balls to the bucket after successfully fielding it
  3. Be a low arm intensity drill (great for mid-season)

 Equipment and personnel needed:

  • 2 coaches with fungoes or regular bats
  • Line of players at each infield position
  • 4 buckets (1 with each coach (2), 2 placed on opposite sides of mound or circle)
  • minimum of 50 balls (25 on each side)

Drill Process:

  1. Coach #1, standing on the 3rd base side in foul territory, hits a ground ball to a player in the line of 2nd basemen.  That player fields the ball, runs to the bucket on the 1st base side of the mound, drops the ball in the bucket, and then sprints to the end of the line. Without hesitation, Coach #1 hits another ball to a player in the line of 1st basemen.
  2. Coach #2 does the same as Coach #1 except he hits to the lines at 3rd base and shortstop.  The only difference is that those players will drop the balls in the bucket on the 3rd base side of the mound.
  3. It is important for the coaches to call, “Last ball!!!” when he/she hits the last one in the bucket. That signals the player that fields it to switch buckets. The bucket nearest the mound should now be full. It needs to be carried to the coach. The empty bucket nearest the coach should be taken back to the area near the mound.  The whole process starts over again.

Hints:

  • I recommend keeping each line to three or four players at the most.  Any more than that and the players aren’t moving enough to get their heart rates up.
  • Be careful that you don’t hit the players that are carrying in buckets.
  • Mix up positioning of the coaches. On occasion place one coach at home plate hitting to the corners and the other coach just in front the rubber in order to hit to the middle infielders. This allows the middle infielders to work on double play flips after fielding ground balls (the receiver of the flip runs the ball to the bucket).  It will also allow the corner infielders to work in fielding bunts.
  • Make it a game. Each coach starts with the same amount of balls in his/her bucket.  A missed ball stays in the outfield.  After 15 minutes the side of the infield with the most balls left in their bucket wins.
  • Have players alternate lines in order to experince new positions.
  • Add 10 pushups for those that miss a ground ball.

If you enjoyed this post, you will also enjoy:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/team-hitting-drill-the-octopus/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/7-point-drill/

Team Hitting Drill: The Octopus

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”

-H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

The first time I saw this drill, or something similar to it, was in Dixon, IL. My friend Dan Crawford was using it as part of his team’s pre-game routine.  Whiffle balls were flying in every direction. Players were placed all over left field. Jokingly, I said, “Dan, it looks like a octupus exploded out there. What’s going on?” He told me it was a drill.  I liked it so much, that night I scribbled something similar to it on paper.

Equipment needed:

  • 1 bucket
  • 4 dozen whiffle balls
  • 4 bats

Purpose: The purpose of this drill is to get each of your players 24 purposeful swings with in less than 8 minutes. It makes a great pre-game hitting routine. I especially like it on the road.  It also makes a good practice drill when time or space is limited for hitting.  Lastly, it’s a good indoor drill when a cage is not available.

Set up & Grouping: Take your team and divide them into three or four equal groups. I recommend no more than 5 in a group.  4 in each group is just about perfect. Place the bucket of whiffle balls in the center and one group on each side of the bucket. Each group needs a hitter, pitcher, and shaggers.  The hitters are nearest the bucket.  The pitchers are throwing towards the hitters standing by the bucket.

After a hitter gets 6 cuts, he or she rotates to become the pitcher of  his group. The pitcher rotates to shagger. A shagger comes to the bucket and becomes a hitter.  Make one of the groups “the lead group”. When all of the hitters in the lead group have hit, that group yells “ROTATE” and all of the groups rotate clockwise.  It should take a little less than 2 minutes for a group of 4 to hit at each station. Each station has a purpose. See below:

  • Station #1: Pulling inside strikes
  • Station #2: hitting up the middle
  • Station #3: hitting outside strikes
  • Station #4: I like to use this one as a wildcard station in order to mix it up.  You can make it a bunting station, top hand drill, 2 strike hitting, etc. Most often, I like to use a paddle drill.

Hints:

  • The first time you run the drill, it will take a bit longer than 8 minutes due to explanation. It will get to be more fluid each time the drill is run.
  • For younger players, eliminate the rotation. As the coach, call out a new hitting purpose every 2-3 minutes.
  • Monitor your pitchers. Make sure that they are throwing the balls hard enough and trying to hit locations.
  • Monitor your hitters make sure that they are swinging at strikes. Much to often, when the whiffle balls come out, hitter start swinging at everything.
  • Emphasize no pop-ups.
  • Make sure your hitters are not getting to close to one another. Safety first 🙂

PUT YOUR PRACTICE PURPOSE IN PRINT: The Importance of a Practice Plan

By creating a practice plan you give your practice a framework. Putting it on paper gives a coach a few advantages over other coaches that just “keep it upstairs”. Ultimately, the guys that go off the top of their head might as well be dumped on their head because one look at their unorganized practice would make even a bush league team cringe. Some may say, “Big deal, you’re making a list.” Yes, but the list is as detailed as you want it to be. A good practice plan allows a coach to group his players more effectively, manage practice time better, and motivate his/her players more easily.

Baseball and softball are very skill specific sports. Breaking your team up into small groups based on position is essential. For example, if a coach really wants to work on double play pivots with his middle infielders, does the whole team have to be working on this skill? No! The outfielders could be working on their footwork. The catchers, pitchers, and corner infielders could be working on bunt coverage. By separating into groups an hour worth of drill time could be condensed into 20 minutes, thus, leaving more time for other coaching points. The coach without this sort of plan on paper might have the whole team working on pivots. What a waste for the 10 players that may never play 2nd base or shortstop. Even worse, this same coach may have those 10 non-middle infielders just watching.

I am also a big advocate of social grouping at practice. For instance, we break up into 3 to 4 small groups for batting practice. I am the one that determines what players are in which groups. If allow the players to group themselves, they would always end up with the same players based on the buddy system. Thus, they are never building bonds with their other teammates. As well, buddies are more likely to mess around when no one is looking. Of course, my players would never do that. Yeah, right. They sometimes don’t like the fact that I pick the groups, but this is not a democratic process.

Efficiency of time is of the utmost importance with the teenage mind. A practice plan gives your practice a steady flow and quick-moving feel. By placing a time limit on a portion of your practice, a coach can be sure not have that session run too long. It is imperative that the video game, ESPN highlight, music video trained minds in which we are dealing not be under-stimulated. When a session drags on it becomes uninteresting and ultimately counterproductive. The time limit will prevent that from happening. It’s OK to go a little over the set time limit, but most of the time you’re better off to move on to the next portion of practice and return to the dragging session another day. Next, it stops your practices from turning into 3-hour marathons. I feel that a complete practice with 12-18 year olds should rarely last longer than 1 hr. and  45 min. Anything longer than that becomes drudgery for players and coaches. Lastly, by saving the practice plan, a coach can make notes on it for use in developing the next day’s plan or for future seasons’ plans. I know a football coach that has 30 years of practice plans filed away. This may sound crazy, but it’s really not. He explained it to me like this, “Some years are better than others, I want to be able to go back and review what was working in practice during good seasons.”

A curriculum and instruction professor in college discussed “advanced organizers” with our class one day. He started the class by acknowledging the word “TEST” written on the chalkboard. Nothing more, nothing less was written on the board. Being 40 paranoid college students in the room, we were relieved when he did say something about it. Our anticipation of an upcoming exam or possibly a pop quiz had all of us on the edge of our seats. There was no test scheduled for a month. He went on to explain that our focus on him and class was at its height due to an advanced organizer. The word “TEST” was the advanced organizer. It gave a group advance notice of an upcoming event. This tool can be as specific or as vague as you want. In this case it was vague. If your practice plan is posted for your players to see, it can have the same effect. For example, many drills are used daily. If the specific drills are written on the plan, the players will know when to expect a drill change. The transition to the next session will go much smoother. Alternatively, a vague note will spark players’ interest about a portion of practice. For example, I like to include an occasional skill oriented game in my practice plan. Just by putting the word “game” as one session of your practice, your players will anticipate that session eagerly. They will also work harder in preceding sessions, not wanting to lose the opportunity to play the game.  

 Here’s an example practice plan:

practplan

No matter what age of players that you may be coaching, a written practice plan is essential. Another good friend of mine says it like this, “KTSB”. That means “Keep Them Suckers Busy”. The plan eliminates idle time. Idle time leads to unnecessary distractions. Plan everything even down to the water breaks and the length of that break. If you plan for a three-minute water break, it will last three minutes or less. We’ve all seen practices and that the short water break turns into a 10 or 12 minute bull session. Well, if may not seem like a big deal, but in reality that could turn out be 10 to 12% of your practice time. What a waste! By planning for the rest periods at practice, announcing the length of the rest periods when they come, and sticking to that time, you’ll be much happier when the team transitions back to work mode. You’ll find that your team leaders, knowing that the break lasts only lasts a predetermined amount of time, will be back on the field ready to go before they actually need to be.

Nothing is cooler than having a player tell you that they really enjoy your practices, because the time goes so fast. Pace is everything. The trick is to mix pace with purpose. Chocking a practice plan full of activities for the sake of filling time is not the point. As a coach, you are a teacher. Each practice (or class) has a goal. Is it introduction of a new skill? Review? Quiz?

Lastly, I love hearing horror stories about the bad behavior of players. “Wait ‘til you get this kid. She/he is a real handful.” Or “That kid never practices hard.” As coaches we need to thrive on that challenge. Providing a quickly paced, skill filled, purposeful practice on a daily basis will typically meet that challenge head on. If you decide to wing it, without writing out a plan, you asked for it. The problem kid will eat you up, just like all of the other chumps that tried to work with that kid and couldn’t get it done.

POLISH PRE-GAME: Ideas on How to Design a Great Pre-game Routine

No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes a whole orchestra to play it. 

~H.E. Luccock

Your pre-game infield/outfield routine is extremely important. First impressions are important, aren’t they? Well here’s your chance. A fungo routine should be organized, positive, and keep everyone involved. If it is well structured your team can gain an edge in the “intimidation” factor.

For the routine to be effective, it has to be organized and practiced. That’s right, you need to practice your pre-game practice. You should run your pre-game routine around 30 times prior to the first game. If you have a youngner group of players, often times the amount of practices that you are allowed is less.  My advice its to practice it as much as you can, but maybe add levels of difficulty to it as the season progresses.

You and your players should shift from drill to drill in unison, quickly and efficiently. This tells your opponent that your team means business that day. If I have to tell my players where to go and what drill to start during pre-game, that says that my team is undisciplined and not well-practiced. I love showing up and seeing opposing players stumble around their supposed routine. As well, I doubly enjoy seeing their coach getting frustrated when it is going smoothly. My players and I can smell the blood in the water.

Keep in mind that being organized doesn’t mean flawless. Keep in mind that it is a pre-game practice. If a player makes a physical mistake, that’s a great time to make one. Better then than after the first pitch. The only time a reprimand should occur is when a player or players show a lack of hustle, not a lack of physical skill. Do not verbally reprimand your players for physical errors during this time. If a ball is misplayed come right back to that player and allow him to shore up his technique and boost his confidence. A positive vibe during this time is essential. Praise players all during this session. Also encourage the other players to encourage each other verbally. “Chatter” during this time keeps your guys loose and focused on the task at hand at the same time. To encourage positive talk during our pre-game infield sessions we’ve incorporated a specific point at which the chatter is to begin. We perform a “silent round” of fungoed ground balls. During this section the players simply focus on proper fielding and throwing technique for ground balls. When the round is done I say, “Hey Dogs! Ready to go?” I then announced the name of the next round, “5-4-3” which is a double play round. As well, the announcement of “5-4-3” serves as our players cue to begin chatter. The atmospheric contrast between the silent round and the chatter is a great attention grabber. The focus of our players is increased, and the other team knows who’s in town. I like to finish our full pre-game session with a loud team led “break”. For example, we use “1, 2, 3, TEAM!!!”

If you’d like to see a diagram of our routine click the link below:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/pre-game-infieldoutfield-routine/

Organization is key. For the “teacher slash coaches” reading this, it’s all classroom management. Keep them moving with a purpose. A great way to do this is to have 2 or even 3 fungoes going simultaneously. We use 2. Standing between 2nd base and the mound, I start working cuts to the outfielders. Meanwhile, an assistant coach works ground balls and bunt fielding technique to the idle infielders. Later we add a second 1st baseman, or “short 1st” and work double plays and single put outs. I stand in foul territory on the 1st base side or home plate and my assistant stands opposite to me on the 3rd base side. Later still, we work our catchers’ throws to bases and pitchers covering first base during the same session. We try to get as a many important skills covered during a short period of time (usually 12-15 min.) as we can. In the same vein we try to get each individual player as many “touches” or times active with the baseball as we can. It really is a thing of beauty when the routine becomes etched in players’ minds. They move form session to session like clockwork and much more gets done. It will take time and practice though. Lastly, remember 2 or more fungoes going at once is a great idea, but this also means that 2 or more baseballs are flying around too. Baseballs will get loose. Keep this in mind when designing yours. Finally, when designing something for junior high players, modify for ability level. Arms are simply not as strong at that age. Modify, but don’t dumb it down.

Here are some cool Youtube clips that I found.  They are good examples of a teams maximizing their time and touching upon many skills during pre-game. The first two clips are baseball and the third is a softball example.  Fastpitch softball teams, often times, have very quick and efficient pre-game routines. There are a ton of things to be learned by watching  good softball teams do their pre-game routines. Although, these are not the only examples. My advice is to watch what other teams do and ultimately create something that is yours. 

Please feel free to comment. Especially, if you have any ideas to share 🙂