Youth Baseball First Base Drills
The important thing to remember about position specific drill in youth baseball is that you might not have practice time to really work on these drills. They are good to know and if you have dedicated players these drills will be something that they will be able to do on their own time. You can spend a few minutes before or after practice showing players these drills and they can work on them at home.
There are really two important things that a first baseman has to be able to do in youth baseball. The first thing is obvious. They have to be able to catch the baseball. The second is harder to learn but just as important. Young players have to be able to find the base with their feet. Footwork is a pet peeve of mine. So many coaches ignore the fact that if you can’t get where you are going you can’t do your job. Footwork is the most important part of everything a player does on the baseball field. These baseball first base drills should help with that.
Drill 1 – Shuffling
Shuffling is really easy. I love simple drills. There are 4 sides on a base. In this drill the player will simple use a base or a similar size square object. The player will stand on the right side of the base shuffle on the base with both feet and then off to the left side. Then back on and off to the front. The player will then shuffle back onto the bag and off the back. Finally back on and off to the right side. Repeat this 8 to 10 times. Try to do it as quickly as possible. The player will probably start off slow but should be able to pick up the pace before the first 10 reps are done.
Drill 2 – Right Foot Left Foot
This drill is simple the player will start with their throwing hand foot on the second base edge of the bag. The player is then going to start alternating putting their opposite foot on the base while removing the first foot. Repeat this 15 to 20 times. Again you will want to move as quickly as possible.
Drill 3 – Quick Hand Pic
Footwork is great but we do need to make sure that we can catch the baseball. In this baseball first base drill we are going to work on the “Pick.” Picking a low throw out of the dirt distinguishes a great first baseman from an average one. In this drill the player will need help or a hard flat wall and a tennis ball. I prefer to do this drill with a tennis ball most of the time anyway because a tennis ball won’t catch itself. What I mean is a baseball has weight to it. When it goes into the glove if you have soft hand and broken in glove the glove basically closes itself. A tennis ball won’t do that. The first baseman will get ready one foot back as if on a base and the other foot forward. The coach, another player or the wall is going to throw or rebound the ball to the player with varying hops some short, some long, some low, and some high. The first baseman is going to have to judge the hop and catch the ball. You will want to work on this for as long as you can. Don’t skimp on this one. Make sure some throws are to the fore hand and others to the backhand.
Drill 4 – Come off and Block
Young players will take you at your word. If you tell them to catch the ball with their foot on the base they are not going to leave the base. Even if it means the ball doesn’t get caught. So practice this. Work with the player on finding out how far they can reach off the base. Teach them that sometimes it is better to come off the base and catch the ball keeping the base runner at first base than it is to miss the ball and allow the runner to advance to second. You will also need to teach them that sometimes the runner is going to be safe. If the ball is not going to reach first base before the runner then move off the base give the runner the base. It is safer than the possible collision and also gives the first baseman one less thing to think about. When this situation happens and the ball is thrown in the dirt it is going to be better for the first baseman to block the ball and keep it in front of them than it will be for them to try to pick it and maybe miss. To block a ball is simple the player just has to be willing to get in front of the ball. I would not go as far as my dad did when teaching this to kids but I understood his point. My dad taught me that and I quote, “If the only thing you have to stop the ball is your teeth, then bite the ball.” I love my dad and he didn’t mean for me to get hurt he was just explaining that you have to determine how bad you want something. If you want to be good O. K. do what you do. If you want to be truly great you might have to bite the ball. You will know which kids this applies to.
Summary and Basics
With the baseball first base drills you should be able to have some competent young baseball first basemen. They will have to work on most of them on their own but don’t be afraid to mix a couple in during your pre-practice warm ups.
There are a few things that you need to know about the first base position. Most of the time a first baseman is going to receive the ball at first base with their throwing side foot on the base. Having the the glove side foot on the base reduces the first baseman’s reach by not allowing them to cover as much ground when they stretch. When coaching young players to play first base you will need to teach them positioning. Before the pitch is thrown I usually teach them to play about 3 strides over and 2 steps back from the base. This is a general position. Sometimes you will adjust this a step or two right or left depending on the batter’s tendencies left hand batters may be more inclined to hit the ball to first base than right handed batters. You also may want them to play a little bit deeper for stronger hitters and in closer for a hitter who is weaker or more likely to bunt. One of the most important things that a player must learn about first base is the safety issues that are more prevalent than some of the other positions. More base runners go to first base than any other. The first baseman is generally going to use the inside or fair territory side of the base and allow the base runner to use the outside or foul territory side of the base. Teach your first basemen to keep their foot off the center of the base whenever possible. They must also learn to move out of the way. If the ball is hit into the outfield or to a place in the infield where there won’t be a play at first base the first baseman should move to the grass of the infield to be out of the way. If the ball is hit into the outfield the first baseman should watch the base runner to make sure they touch first base. Once the runner touches the base the first baseman should then move to the right field side of first base (the back of the base). By doing this the player is still out of the way if the runner comes back to first but is also in position for a throw behind the runner if the runner strays too far from the base. In my mind safety comes first so please teach this to every player you have and if the other team’s players are in the way teach them too. Nobody needs to get hurt because they didn’t know.
I hope these first base tips are helpful and feel free to comment if you are so inclined.