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.

Advertisements

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 🙂

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 🙂

Baseball & Softball Hitting: The Finish

tedwilliams2 - CopyThe previous three posts related to hitting dealt with:

  1. Stance or Rest Position
  2. Negative Movement or Launch Position
  3. Contact Position

The fourth installment of this series of posts deals with the end of the swing or “The Finish”.   Basically, I want to describe what a hitter’s body should look like after contact is made. The focus of this description will be related to balance and direction of of bat path. Here are 4 questions to ask your hitters at the end of the swing:

  1. Are you hitting off a firm front side with your front knee still locked?
  2. Are you still balanced with your head centered between both legs so as not to be lunging forward? Could you take a steel rod and insert it through the top of the skull, go down through the spine, and come out the bottom of the femur?
  3. Is your head still and steady? Does the neck look and feel relaxed? Did the head remain at a consistent altitude?
  4. Is the bat completely wrapped around your back? This may vary, based on whether you are a top hand release hitter (ex. Mark MacGwire) or a no release hitter (ex. Mike Schmidt).

IMG_0234 - Copy

The Test- Repeatedly, look to see if  the hitter is in a steady, controlled position upon finishing the swing. If not, continuously look to improve until he/she is in that position. Depending on core strength, age, and amount of built up muscle memory the amount of time to correct improper balance will vary.  For some hitters it may take 1,000 repetitions to get to “comfortable” 🙂

Please feel free to comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably enjoy the following:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/baseball-softball-hitting-qualities-of-a-great-batting-stance/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/baseball-softball-hitting-loading-launching-slotting-getting-a-negative-movement/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/baseball-softball-hitting-the-contact-position/

Baseball & Softball Hitting: Qualities of a Great Batting Stance

IMG_0795This post and the following three will all deal with hitting. I feel comfortable discussing both baseball and softball hitting together.  There was a point where I wasn’t so comfortable.  When I first spent time around fast-pitch softball players, I heard some coaches say that the softball swing was totally different from a baseball swing.  So, I sat back and watched.  I saw girls having the same problems as boys.  I saw myself giving the same advice to female hitters as I would with a male hitter.  The major difference that I had observed was that some of the girls had holes in the backs of their helmet for ponytails.  Ultimately, hitting is hitting. 

We can get into the baseball and softball difference of pitching angles and hitting approach on off-speed pitches at another juncture.  I am going to present, what I consider to be, universal fundamentals of both baseball and softball hitting.

Let’s begin with what is most commonly referred to as the STANCE.  I’ve always preferred the term “rest position”.  I like that term better due a difference in connotation.  For example, “stance” connotes readiness but with stiffness and rigidity.  Try this, walk up to players and say, “Show me your stance.”  More often than not you will see a mechanically sound product, but take a closer look at the player’s forearms, neck, jaw, and legs.  You will see muscle tension.  “Rest position” connotes comfort and relaxation which is much more conducive for focus and overall success.  Promoting a proper mental framework at the plate starts with the stance…. Oh sorry, I meant rest position. 

IMG_0789

So what does it look like:

  • Weight distribution at 40/60.  4o% of the hitter’s weight is on the front foot and 60% on the back foot.  Weight should be on the balls of the feet.
  • Knees comfortably flexed and positioned inside the feet.
  • Feet parallel to slightly pigeon toed.  This will ensure that later on in the swing the big muscle groups in the legs will be allowed to do their job. One of the easiest corrections, seldom made for many youth through high school hitters fixing “duck toes” or both toes pointing outward with the back foot be the most blatant. These hitters are typically all arms and have very little pop.  The sad part is many of those same hitters have tremendous hand-eye coordination, but due to bad foot position from the start, singles and doubles are turned into easy outs.
  • Feet should also be one and a quarter to one and a half of shoulder width.
  • Hands should be shoulder to ear hole of the helmet high and 4 to 6 inches from the body. This will vary greatly. It is really most important where the hands go after this point. I will further address the hand in the next post.
  • Forearms should be in the shape of an upside-down letter “V”. DO NOT resort to the old-school advice, “Get that back elbow up.” I cringe when I hear that from someone in the crowd.  It usually works against the next step in this sequence…. the grip.
  • Bat should be held in the fingers, not in the palms of the hands.   The “door knocking knuckles” should be aligned.  There are many tricks for getting the correct grip.  One of my favorites is to have the player point both index fingers while holding the bat. If they go in the same direction, the grip is correct.
  • The hitter should maintain a tall backside and keep his/her head equidistant between both feet.
  • Both eyes should be level and facing the pitcher.

IMG_0228

In the next post, I will discuss the next step after the rest position.  My favorite name for this position is “launch”.  It is also referred to as the slot, trigger, load, and etc.  No matter what you call it, it is the negative movement needed on every pitch in order to initiate a great swing.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As always, please feel free to comment.

If you enjoyed this post you might like the following posts:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/how-to-get-baseball-softball-players-into-an-effective-pre-pitch-or-ready-position/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/tips-for-baseball-pitchers-finding-target-line/

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!!!

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably enjoy the following:

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/baseball-softball-fielding-drill-fungo-baseballsoftball/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/baseball-softball-fielding-drill-the-bucket-game/

https://coach5150.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/throwing-progression-for-accuracy-arm-strength-playing-catch-the-right-way/

Baseball & Softball Fielding Drill: Fungo Baseball/Softball

First things first. Let’s define an underused word in baseball and softball circles. That word is……… FUNGO. Here is the definition from the following source:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fungo

fun·go (fngg)

n. pl. fun·goes Baseball A fly ball hit for fielding practice by a player who tosses the ball up and hits it on its way down with a long, thin, light bat.
 
Fungo bats are usually 36 or 37 inches long.  Due their thinner, lighter design, they are a very versatile tool for any coach. It is so much easier to hit hundreds of grounders and fly balls with a fungo than with a regular bat.  As well, with the prices of today’s top end bats, a $35 fungo makes more sense. Don’t dent the $350 war clubs in your bat bag.
 
They can either be wood or aluminum. I encourage you to use a wood one. If not, I will make fun of you like I do my good friend Bill Booker at LaSalle-Peru H.S. for using his aluminum one. If you choose the wood fungo, I would recommend taping the barrel.  If you hit a good number of fungoes, the tape will increase the durability of the bat. I took the tape off of one once. The barrell was like sawdust, but I re-taped it and it was ready to go.  One season, I figured it out, between the  high school, American Legion, an junior high seasons I had hit over 10,000 fungoes. Tape it up!
 
Below, you’ll see two fungo bats in comparison to a regular baseball bat.
Two Fungo Bats in Comparison to a Regular Baseball Bat  
Alright, let’s get to the drill. “Fungo Baseball/Softball” is a great drill for fielding and base running.  It’s the same as playing an inter-squad scrimmage, except the pitchers do not throw live, and the hitters toss the ball to themselves and hit fungoes where they want.  It is set up as a competitive game with an endless amount of teaching points. I really like to do this drill early in the season in order to simulate some real game like situations, and also when you’re on a hot streak and you’re looking to keep your team sharp on the little things like relays, backing up, and communication.
 
Here’s the set up: 
  1. Break your team up into 2 or 3 teams. If you do 2 teams you’ll need 8 or 9 on a team with a player for each defensive position. If you only have 8 on a team you can eliminate either the pitcher, catcher, or one outfielder based on what is a priority for your team that day.  If  you only have 12-15 players on your team break it up into 3 teams of 4-5. Then place two of the teams on defense and one team hitting fungoes. No matter what, have the teams and batting orders pre-made before practice. This will eliminate unnecessary downtime during practice.
  2. The game can last as long as you want. I recommend no longer than 45 min.
  3. You play 3 out half innings, just like a real game.
  4. Each inning can start differently in order to add a twist. I would encourage you to script it. For example:
  • 1st inning- nobody on base
  • 2nd inning- runner on first
  • 3rd inning- bases loaded
  • 4th inning- ????? whatever you want, be creative!

Offensive rules:

  1. A swing and a miss = out (you’ll be surprised how many of these you’ll see)
  2. Home run= out
  3. Foul ball= out (rules 1,2, & 3 are there to encourage work for your defense & no wasted time)
  4. All other outs are accumulated according to regular rules.
  5. Base runners are limited to a one step lead or no lead at all.
  6. No bunts. Full swings only.
  7. No stealing.

Defensive rules:

  1. Pitcher must simulate a pitch to start the action, only then can the hitter swing.
  2. In the case that an outfielder catches a fly ball in foul territory it shall count as 2 outs for the offense.
  3. All defensive players must perform a pre-pitch walk-in or “creep step” with the pitchers motion.

As I had previously mentioned, the amount of teaching points is limitless.  The length of the game will really depend on how often you stop the action in order to discuss points related to base running, backing up throws, fielding techniques, and etc.  If you have assistant coaches, have them distributed throughout the field in order to help with certain teaching points on the spot, thus eliminating full stoppages of the game.  Now get out there and start putting the “FUN” back into fungo. I know that’s pretty corny, but I couldn’t help myself 🙂

If you have any comments, suggestions, or additions to this post, please feel free to comment.
 
If you liked this post, you’ll probably enjoy the following: