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.
This is designed to be a fun fielding drill. Divide the players into 2 teams. Place one team at SS and the other at 2B. Have 2 coaches alternate hitting to each team. Each coach will need a bucket of balls.
Objective: Field a ground ball cleanly while moving forward and hit one of the two buckets placed on home plate.
Scoring: One bucket should be placed on top of the other. The top bucket is worth 3 points. The bottom bucket is worth 1 point. The top bucket is worth more in order to encourage better throws that a catcher could handle in a game situation. It’s up to you, but I allow younger kids to bounce it in, and it still counts. Depending on age and the skill level of your group adjust the scoring accordingly.
I like to draw a line in the dirt as starting point for 2 reasons:
If you don’t, the players will start creeping closer to the bucket in order to make the throw shorter as the drill continues.
You want to keep the players in the habit of moving forward on ground balls. They must actually field the ball in front of the line, but they can’t cross the line until the ball is hit by the coach.
It also allow me to adjust the depth. One day your team may do it at the edge of the infield grass, and sometimes deeper. Depth could also be varied throughout the game.
I recommend hitting through each team 5-7 times. The team with the most points wins. I also suggest making it worth something for the winning team. The winning team could have their end of practice conditioning cut in half, or maybe they could watch the other team put all of the gear away. Be creative. I like the competitive nature of the drill, and it simulates an aggressive throw to the plate. Players of all ages (t-ball to college) will really get into it. Enjoy 🙂
If you have any variations on this drill or ideas on how to make this drill better please leave a comment.
One question that I get all the time is, “My son or daughter’s arm needs to get stronger. What can I do?”
Well, I really think it depends on age. For players ages 5-11, I say…… “Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics”. Learning to use larger muscle groups more effectively is the key. This is difficult, because much of it requires balance and core strength, which the majority of these players ages 5-11 have very little. Teaching concepts, such as:
Getting weight on the balls of their feet prior to throwing
Weight slightly back
Reaching back and showing the ball as if someone was standing behind them. This is especially difficult with girls because they really have to fight “big ball, little hands”. I saw it when my daughter first picked up an 11″ ball, from playing with a 9″ baseball in t-ball. Then I saw it again this year when she transitioned into a league that uses a 12″ ball.
Eyes on target. I like to tell kids to pick a spot in their partners glove the size of a dime, see it, and throw to it.
Step with the glove-side foot towards the target. Although, I suggest refraining from telling them to “point their toe at their partner”. I believe that this eventually promotes players, especially future pitchers, to landing heavy (too much weight forward). Focus on getting the whole leg and foot going towards the target in a soft, but aggressive manner.
Extend the previous step by teaching a crow hop to help smaller bodies use momentum.
Getting elbows “equal & opposite” distance from each other after separation.
Release ball in front and let arm follow through after release. I like to tell kids to “waive good-bye”.
Finish with a “clean glove-side”. This simply means allowing the glove-side elbow to collapse as the throwing arm comes through its motion. When the glove-side elbow remains stiff , the glove will finish below the waist. Often times this will lead to players losing accuracy, usually high.
Lastly, make sure that their “playing catch” partners provide a good chest high target. You should emphasize that recievers of throws have their thumbs together at chest level in order to help their partner.
For older players (ages 12 & beyond) here’s a typical throwing progression that I’ve used:
Daily Throwing or “Playing Catch” Progression
On Knees; place throwing elbow on glove at chest high & elbow up; allow upper to remain still & only bend elbow and release the ball; make sure hand extends downward after release (hand should not look like it’s throwing darts); possibly use a ball with one ring of tape around it in order to emphasize proper rotation; 8-12′ apart; 10-12 reps.
Glide (Transfer weight on balls of feet); place feet on target line at a distance as thought they’ve already strided the glove-side foot to throw; opposite foot position of the previous step; rock forward-back-forward while maintaining the nose over the belly button; release ball to partner on 2nd forward movement; 20-30′ apart ; 8-10 reps.
Step & Throw (separation & strike point); Basically, just like #5 listed above ; now emphasize glove-side foot landing on the in-step ball of foot at about a 45 degree angle; 40-60′ apart based on age & strength; 10-15 reps.
Step Behinds; baseball pitchers only; for balance & target line; start in a stretch position; back foot steps behind front foot towards target; knee lift towards rear armpit & throw; great chance to work on touch pitches like change-ups; 45-60′ apart; 10-15 reps
Long-toss; gradually moving back from each other; using crow hops; emphasize “no rainbows”; straight throws as if they were an outfielder throwing through a cut-off man; the highest a ball should get is twice the players height; get to a distance where partners are one hopping each other; 100-130′ apart based on age & strength; 5-7 reps.
Run Daily; Running helps the arm recover.
On a regular basis, players need to do more than “loosen up”. To often this “loosening up” time ends up being a social session for not only the players, but also the coaches. Thus, this allotted time usually lasts longer than necessary with no goal in mind. Arms need to get stronger as the season progresses. Be patient. In turn, keep an eye on your team. If you’ve played 6 games in 5 days. It may be wise to have a light arm day. Rest is necessary. That’s you have your team “loosen up” with 5 minutes as the maximum, or do not throw at all.
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