Youth Baseball Fielding Drills- You need to know.
There are a few youth baseball fielding drills you need to know. I would like to go over a few today. The most important part of baseball drills/ practice for young players is to make sure it is fun. The more fun they are having the easier it will be to keep them focused and get the most out of your drills.
Around the horn
This drill is as easy as it gets. It might take your team a little while before they really get good at it but when they do it is fun to watch and there are multiple variations of it so you can always keep it interesting. This drill teaches catching/ soft hands, focus, ball transfer, footwork, throwing and teamwork.
To setup this drill you will put an equal amount of players at each base in the infield. Outfielders and pitchers can get mixed in at the bases the drill has good elements for the whole team if you are at a level where players are starting to focus on a position. You can also use cones or throw down bases in the outfield and set up a second group if you want to get more reps faster. You will need one baseball to start.
Running the drill involves usually the catcher starting by throwing the ball to third base. Then the ball gets thrown to second and on to first then back to home. It is that simple.
What you are looking for is that each position is getting ready to receive the ball properly feet straddling the base at the back edge of the base. Hands should be at chest level with palms facing the baseball. Knees and hips flexed and athletic. When the ball is caught you want the transfer to be quick. As the players progress you are going to look for the ball to get trapped in the open web of the glove with the throwing hand covering so you can remove and be ready to make the next throw quickly. The footwork for the throw should be easy for right handed players. once they catch the ball they are going to clear the base path with a crossover step the right foot crosses in front of or behind the left foot. Then the left foot will come back to the front and throw. You will be looking for these steps to be in the direction of the next target for a more accurate throw.
Once your team gets really good at this drill you can easily add extra balls. I would not recommend more than three. Another great variation is to reverse the drill. Have the catcher start by throwing the ball to first base and so on. If you are going to do this drill it will change the footwork for right handed players. At each base the right handed player will turn glove side. That means that when the first baseman catches the ball they will be facing home plate. The player will spin to his left until his left shoulder is facing his target then he will throw the ball. Doing this drill conventionally the left handed players will have to do this turn to the glove side. The only difference is they will turn to the right instead of left. One final variation would be to start a base runner at second base and see if they can beat the throw to home. The catcher would start by throwing the ball to third and then around the horn trying to get the ball back to home before the runner crosses the plate.
Consecutive ground ball drill
This drill is fun for the players and can be done as a competition. The competition element will keep inactive players watching and learning even when they are not actually doing the drill. All positions can take part in this drill or you can separate infield and outfield.
To setup this drill you will need two to 4 cones. Set up one or two cones at the spot where you want players to start. You will then setup one or two cones where you want the drill to finish. I usually run the drill twice the first time I work the players to their left and the second time work to their right. Position the cones on about a 45 degree angle to either side. You will need anywhere from 3 to as many as you want to do in a row.
Running the drill starts with a coach on a knee about 15 ft. in front of the player. The player is in a good ready position. Feet slightly wider than shoulders knees and hips flexed glove in front of the player between waist and knees with the palm up and open. Players should be light on their feet. If a player is standing still it is going to be harder for them to react to the ball when it is put in play. I like to teach kids to gently rock their weight from foot to foot on their toes. At this point the coach will roll a ball straight at the player. The player will (assuming right handed) move forward with their right foot then left lowering themselves by bending knees and hips and field the ball. Left handed players would have opposite footwork. Once the player catches the ball you are going to look for the throwing hand covering the ball in the glove and the follow through steps again right foot left foot to prepare to throw (Opposite for lefties). As soon as the player fields the ball you will roll the next ball a little to the side you are working to. The player will work feet to the ball in a similar fashion and the drill continues for as many balls as you want. Remember the player will be working toward the coach with each ball so the drill is usually done with 3 to 5 balls per player.
I like to run this drill with at least 2 groups you can run 4 if you have enough coaches. I also like to add the competition aspect to keep the kids at the back of the line paying attention. Have each kid count how many balls they field (Not how many they miss. Keeps the message positive.) Bobbles or misses don’t count they must field the ball clean. You can reward the best fielder. I also like to ask the players at the back of the line questions while running this drill. Once you get the players good at this you can add in a dive ball for the last ball. Most kids love to get dirty and feel like they can do the things their idols are doing on the highlight reels. You can also take this drill to the outfield. Outfielders field ground balls too. When doing the outfield version I would recommend backing up to about 30 or 40 feet and making them cover more ground between fielding balls. As players get better start rolling the balls in quicker succession.
I love this drill because you get to see who is confident and who you really need to work with. The drill works on outfield communication. Communication in the outfield is important. Players are usually covering a lot of ground very quickly and not looking where they are going. They need to have set calls so they know where each other are and you eliminate as many collisions as possible. We have all seen outfielders and infielders run into each other so this is also a good whole team drill.
To setup this drill you will have two lines of players about 20 to 30 feet apart. You will need at least one baseball usually more. A coach will stand about 30 feet in front of the players centered between the two lines.
Running this drill is simple. The coach will throw a fly ball between the two players. One player calls for the ball and tries to catch it the other player backs them up. After all the players have gone through. I usually run the drill again and have one player call for the ball and the other player call them off. Then I run it a third time and have the first player call the ball, the second player calls them off and then the first player demands the ball.
To do this I teach my players a sequence of communications. “Ball, Ball. Me, Me. No No” that is the sequence. I teach my players that when they are calling for a ball they need to yell, “Ball, Ball”. If they want to call off a player after they hear ball ball they are to call, “Me, Me.” Finally if the first player is going to demand the ball he will give the call, “No, No.” Each of these calls should be loud. As my dad taught me if you are going to call for the ball then make sure everybody in the next town knows who is going to catch it.
A side note to this is that you need to teach your players the chain of command when it comes to balls in play. In the infield any ball the shortstop calls for is his then the second baseman and finally the corners. The pitcher should only field a ball if nobody else can get it. They are not in a good fielding position when the ball is hit usually and they have to deal with the pitchers mound under their feet. Balls in the outfield are the center fielder’s if he wants it then the corner outfielders. Finally any shallow fly balls can be caught by infielders if no outfielder calls for them.
There are many more drills for infield and outfield but these will cover almost all the aspects of these positions from a physical standpoint. Footwork, soft hands, and throwing will all be worked on with these drills.
If you have any other drills you like to use or would like a drill you heard about explained in more detail please leave a comment below.