Bunt Coverage #3: Suicide Squeeze Play

Situation: This coverage is a defense for a suicide squeeze play.

C: The catcher’s first priority is covering home plate. The only bunt that the catcher should field is one in which the ball stops so close to home plate that it can be fielded with very little movement. Otherwise, as with other bunt coverages, the catcher’s job is to direct traffic after another fielder gets the ball.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The first baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 1st base.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover third base.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

P: The pitcher is  responsible for fielding a bunt directly in front of home plate. Since the catcher is most likely staying home, the pitcher must cover ground that would normally be covered by the catcher.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to cover second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to third base.

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Basic Bunt Coverage #2: Runner at 2nd

Situation: Runner at 2nd base or runners at both 1st and 2nd. Less than 2 outs.

C: The catcher must field any bunt in front of the plate. In essence, we’d like the catcher to be able to field any bunt he can get to within reason. The catcher is the only player with momentum already going into the throw as the ball is fielded.  If the catcher does not field the ball, he needs to call the base that the ball should be thrown to. Based on positioning, the catcher has a vision advantage compared to the rest of the defense.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for covering first base. The only bunt the first baseman should field is a foul pop-up or a bunt so hard down the line that a tag play on the batter is essential.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 2nd base. This player may cheat towards 2nd base in an obvious bunt scenario.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover third base.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

P: The pitcher is also responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to third base.

Mountains: Setting Player Expectations

Below is a handout that I gave to prospective players during an off-season meeting. I drew it up about 6 years ago. Simply, it describes the types of players needed to have a successful program.  I also like to share this at the pre-season parent meeting. I guess it would be similar to the classic, John Wooden “Pyramid of Success”.  The link below has a great printable version of Wooden’s “Pyramid”.

http://www.coachwooden.com/

 

Bulldog Baseball Player Types

Mountain- a champion, dedicated student, serious about weights, encourages others, involved in other sports, + leader, goes to camps, always relaxed & focused, wants to do extra, bottom line is “will help the team”

Rock- good student, does lift weights, occasional detention for tardy, sometimes satisfied with performance, plays summer ball, could be a leader but sometimes chooses not to be, bottom line is “won’t hurt the team”

Gravel- up & down student, very seldom in the weightroom, In School Suspension, frequent detentions for preventable reasons, leadership is limited to weekend party locations, plays summer ball, bottom line is “if things are going well he’s fine; if things get rough he may jump ship and point fingers”

Dust- MUST BE ELIMINATED, poor student, no weights,  In School Suspension, Out of School Suspension, constant detentions, KO of classes, talks a good game, may be very athletically gifted (not willing to be coached), party scene is central focus, nothing extra beyond the season, bottom line is “he will destroy team concept”

 Where do you fit?

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.

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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 🙂

How to Get Baseball & Softball Players into an Effective Pre-pitch or “Ready” Position

“I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.”

Abraham Lincoln

IMG_0265I get sick and tired of seeing teams that aren’t ready to play.  When I first teach my players to “creep-step” or get a “walk-in”, other coaches look at me and wonder why I’m so concerned about what happens in between pitches. Well, it usually takes about 3 innings into the first game of the season for them to figure it out. The first hot shot hit to a mediocre fielder that makes a great play will typically settle the argument.

Getting your players in a effective pre-pitch position not only ensures that your players will be in the proper physical position to make a play, but also the correct mental frame of mind.  Here’s what we teach from beginning to end:

  1. Stand relatively upright with weight on the balls of feet; glove side foot slightly in front of the other; knees slightly flexed.
  2. Shoulders squared to home plate.
  3. Glove should be open to home plate; The rule for the glove hand is “Thumb out, elbow in”.
  4. With the pitcher’s motion, take two “soft, but aggressive” steps towards home plate. Younger players will hop and/or kick up dirt.  Don’t punish them for this movement.  If you get them moving forward, just try to get them to get to “soft, but aggressive” footwork.
  5. During the steps towards home plate, the player shoulder work their posture lower to the ground.  Basically, get their butts and gloves down.  Their gloves should still be open and their weight should still be on the balls of their feet.
  6. Outfielders should still creep-step, but they do not need to be as low as infielders. They need to remain a bit more upright in order to be ready to sprint in many directions.

Benefits of making this mandatory for your players:IMG_0230

  • Obviously, they are in a great position to make a defensive play.
  • Mentally, they have a job to do on every pitch.  It keeps the body moving, keeps the blood flowing, and keeps the brain focused. 
  • It’s intimidating as hell to your opponents.  Your players may be all thumbs, but when all 7 defensive positions are performing “creep-steps”, it says that your team is ready to play.
  • Players still have to make plays, but you increase the probability of any ball hit to any position on the field will be caught.
  • As players become more advanced, you can teach them to focus on other clues, such as position of the catcher, that may lead them to predict where balls are likely to be hit.

Ultimately, this concept has to be drilled. Simulate, the real thing at practice, both individually and as a team. Then continuously reinforce the skill throughout the season.  Give many verbal reminders a day, both during practices and games.  Do not allow your team to forget to perform an effective pre-pitch position.  If you do, don’t whine at your left fielder when he/she barely misses catching that game winning single by inches. That one will be on you!

Check out this You Tube video. Not all of the examples are perfect. Some are works in progress.  They include players age 4-18.

Please feel free to comment 🙂

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Base Running Drill: Runner at Second Base “Decision Drill”

runner at 2nd drill

This drill was developed due to a fatal mistake that I had made.  The mistake was using the most ridiculous 6 word sentence that any coach in any sport  ever uses, which is, “THEY SHOULD KNOW THAT BY NOW!”  Never assume that your players know the right things to do, especially in situational aspects of the game.  Just because you might be a good teacher of the game doesn’t mean that any other coach that your players have had are good teachers. What I was running into was, that when runners were on second base with less than 2 outs they were getting greedy on ground balls hit to 3rd base and shortstop.  They would wait for the infielder to throw the ball and then attempt to take third base.  Or, they would increase their secondary lead so much that they were too far from 2nd base. Some of you are reading this and are thinking, that’s what  they should do.  I will admit that in little league and against some of your poorer junior high and high school competition, that getting to 3rd base in this situation is very easy, but I don’t think that is the correct way to prepare young baseball and softball players for real competitive situations.  In reality, a good team will look the runner back, fake a throw to first and pick the runner off at 2nd base, or throw over to 1st base and the 1st baseman will throw the runner out at third. I just don’t think that kids are consistently given a set of rules for how to react when they are a runner at 2nd base with less than 2 outs.

Needed for this drill:

  • 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, SS, & third baseman
  • Line of base runnersin short CF. Don’t be afraid to have 2 base runners go during each repetition. Have one runner stand deeper than the other runner. This is a good way to increase reps.
  • Coach and catch-in person at home plate

Here are the rules for the base runners that they are given before we run this drill:

  1. Ball hit in front of you (3rd base side of the runner) take two steps back towards 2nd base.  Find 2nd baseman in order make sure the throw from 3rd or SS isn’t coming to 2nd base. Basically, it a no go.
  2. Ball hit at you, break for 3rd base.
  3. Ball hit behind you (2nd base side of the runner), break for 3rd base.
  4. Make sure line drives get through. There is nothing worse than losing a runner at 2nd base on a line drive to SS, especially to end and inning. What a momentum killer!

Benefits of the drill:

  • Runners get realistic look at an awkward baseball situation
  • Emphasizes the important of being in scoring position and how not to lose it
  • Infielders get to simulate a real situation too. 3b and SS get work looking runners back. 2b gets to react back to the base. All of them get fielding practice.
  • As a coach, you can have a runner make a mistake on purpose.  This will lead into more coaching points. For example, have a runner get off to far and get in a rundown.  Rundowns can never be practiced enough.
  • Players are forced to think!!! And they are given the tools to make it easier.

If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to comment. Your thoughts are welcome!!!

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