Home
Sponsored By:   KIMCO
Wilton, CT
 
 
My my My my
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

WILTON LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL

_____________

 

Manager and Coaches Handbook – 2020

Development of fundamental and advanced baseball skillsets for practices and games

 

Introduction

Wilton Little League strives to provide all participants in our baseball program with the highest quality instruction.  We offer our players seasonal, age-appropriate baseball clinics led by both professional instructors and experienced community volunteers, with the goal of establishing a solid understanding of baseball fundamentals that will be developed and refined during team practices and games.  The responsibility for such development and refinement rests primarily with our volunteer managers and coaches.

We appreciate that each of our volunteer managers and coaches – many of whom have experience as baseball or softball players at the high school and/or college level – takes a unique approach to instructing his or her team.  In fact, we encourage the diversity of approaches and actively look to expose the players to as many coaching styles and player development techniques as possible during their respective baseball careers.  There is no “right way” to play (and, accordingly, to teach) the game of baseball, as evidenced by the seemingly endless supply of coaching videos available on YouTube and coaching manuals and books available at your favorite bookseller.

Allowing for such diversity of method, the goal of this handbook is to provide managers and coaches at each level of baseball instruction with a list of skills that Wilton Little League believes are fundamental to proper player development.  Our hope is that, by sharing the information herein with the coaching staffs – in particular, those working with players in our developmental leagues – we will be successful in (1) promoting a degree of uniformity amongst the teams at each level in respect of the skills being taught to the players and (2) as a result, making our program both more enjoyable for the players and more successful in competition at the advanced levels.

 

We appreciate all of the time that each of you continues to dedicate to Wilton youth.  If you have any questions about, or suggested modifications to, any of the information in this handbook, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of the members of our Board of Directors (whose email addresses are listed on the last page of this handbook).

 

Christopher Kelly
Vice President—Baseball
Wilton Little League

 

 

 

General Considerations for Managers and Coaches

 

  • Remember that your coaching style – how you interact with the players, your tone, the message that you attempt to relay to the players, your behavior during games – will leave a LASTING IMPRESSION on the lives of the children of our community far beyond the baseball diamond

 

  • BE POSITIVE – At every level of development and competition, the players will make mistakes
    • Use mistakes as an opportunity to teach the team – without singling out the player

 

  • BE ENERGETIC – Keep your practices fast-paced with a high level of energy – this will prevent kids from viewing the sport as “slow” or “boring” at the younger ages 

 

  • The development of EVERY PLAYER is important
    • Do not get discouraged if players progress at different rates or show a different level of interest in the sport
    • Give each player the same level of effort and attention
    • An average or below-average Little Leaguer could become a talented high school player or better, but only if he is developed alongside the best players in the younger age groups  

 

  • Do not sacrifice PLAYER DEVELOPMENT and the player’s ENJOYMENT OF THE GAMEfor the sake of winning a Little League baseball game
    • Slotting your best hitters at the top of the batting lineup for each game, or having your best defensive players playing the majority of innings at the defensive positions that get the most game action, will slow the development of the players and – worse – could drive players away from the sport

 

  • The best way to learn the game is to WATCH BASEBALL ... encourage your players to watch Major League Baseball and college baseball
    • Players can also learn a lot from watching the Wilton High School baseball team

 

  • Baseball is a game – HAVE FUN teaching the game, and the players will have fun learning the game

 

Conditioning:  Warming Up and Stretching

 

GOALS

 

  • Incorporate conditioning drills before each practice and each game
    • Stress conditioning as an essential component of high-level performance on the field

 

  • Explain to the team why they are performing each conditioning drill
    • Understanding the “why” will help players link a specific conditioning drill with the associated baseball skill
    • In turn, players may approach conditioning with greater effort and less as a mechanical exercise

 

  • Be consistent in your conditioning routine practice-to-practice and game-to-game
    • Players will know what to expect and will be more adept at completing the drills

 

  • At the more-advanced levels, allow one or two players to lead the conditioning drills (on a rotating basis)
    • Look to develop each player’s leadership and communication skills

 

  • The Manager’s most important objective is to make sure that the players take conditioning seriously

 

 

CONDITIONING DRILLS

 

  • Running/cardiovascular drills:  Gets the blood circulating to the muscles before stretching
    • Begin with a low-intensity lap around the perimeter of the baseball field
    • Cardio progression – line up the players on the first base line, and run each drill between the first base line and the line between second base and third base (and back again)
      • High knees
      • Skip, propelling off of the toes and bringing knees to the chest to stretch the calves
      • Carioca drill facing the outfield, in two rounds
      • Side-to-side shuffle step facing the outfield, in two rounds
      • Cross-over “explosive” steps facing the outfield, two cross-over steps to each side
      • Backwards run, stretching the back leg as far as possible to stretch the hamstrings
      • Sprint near maximum speed

 

  • Lower-body stretches
    • Important:  Hold each stretch for approximately 15-20 seconds
    • Hamstrings
      • Toe-touches, emphasizing straight legs and bent hips
      • Seated hamstring stretch, keeping one leg straight and pulling the opposite foot and shin towards the belly (repeat on the other side)
    • Quads
      • Standing quad stretch, pulling one ankle up to your backside (repeat on the other side)
      • Lying quad stretch, lying on one side and pulling the ankle of the top leg to your backside (repeat on the other side)
    • Hips
      • Forward lunge with one knee bent at a 90-degree angle, keeping your chest and back perpendicular to the ground (repeat on the other side)
      • Side lunge, keeping torso pointed forwards
      • Hip cradle, pulling each foot up towards the opposite hip as the player walks approximately 20 paces
    • Groin
      • Seated butterfly stretch, bringing feet as close to your body as possible and gently pushing knees to towards the ground
    • Lower back
      • Seated spinal twist, crossing one leg over the other and turning torso towards the top leg (repeat on the other side)

 

  • Upper-body stretches
    • Important:  Hold each stretch for approximately 15-20 seconds
    • Forearms/biceps
      • Hold one arm out with palm facing towards the ground, and pull fingers up and back using your other hand (repeat on the other side)
      • Hold one arm out with palm facing towards the sky, and pull fingers down and back using your other hand (repeat on the other side)
    • Triceps/shoulders
      • Gently pull the elbow of one arm behind your head using your other arm (repeat on the other side)
      • Pull one arm across (and slightly below) your chest with the other arm (repeat on the other side)
      • Arm circles, alternating between large circles and small circles (make sure to move arms slowly and deliberately)
    • Torso
      • Torso twist, keeping your arms straight out to your side with your palms down

 

Throwing and Catching

 

GOALS

 

  • Develop both throwing accuracy and arm strength by teaching proper mechanics

 

  • Help younger players to overcome their fear of catching and more advanced players to use proper catching mechanics

 

SKILLS TO WORK ON IN PRACTICE

 

  • Throwing mechanics
    • Hold the ball with a four-seam grip – pointer and middle fingers on the top of the “C” created by the seam of the ball (slightly spread apart), with the thumb positioned on the opposite side of the ball in between the location of the point and middle fingers
      • Ring finger and pinky rest on the side of the ball
      • Hold the ball in your fingertips, not in your palm
      • Advanced drill:  Work on finding the four-seam grip quickly when the ball is still in the glove (without looking)
    • Locate the target (most often, the receiver’s chest) and focus on the target for the entirety of the throwing motion
    • Keep the throwing elbow at shoulder level until the ball is released
    • Turn the body sideways, with your head looking at the target and either your glove or your glove-side elbow pointed at the target
      • Create forward momentum by using a back-leg load – the toes of the back foot should be slightly ahead of the heel of the back foot, forcing the back knee to be ‘inside’ the foot
    • Throwing hand points backwards with the fingers behind (i.e., not on top of) the ball and the thumb facing in the direction opposite the target 
    • Step towards the target with the front toe pointing at the target (or slightly ‘closed’ – pointing towards your throwing arm)
      • The toes of the back foot are dragged across the ground as the player’s motion takes him forward towards his target
    • Torso (hips and shoulders) lead the throwing arm, while pulling the glove-side arm into the body to create torque
    • Snap the wrist and pull your fingers down ‘through’ the ball at release to get a backwards, 6-to-12 o’clock spin on the ball – backwards spin improves accuracy and ‘carry’
    • IMPORTANT:  Follow through after releasing the ball with your weight/momentum moving forward – allow your throwing arm to complete its arc
    • Advanced drill:  Work on ‘crow hops’ to increase velocity
      • Focus on bringing the back knee, and then the front knee, as high as possible, creating maximum momentum towards the target

 

  • Catching mechanics
    • Keep the glove in front of the body and at chest level
    • Receive the ball with the correct glove motion – as a general rule:
      • If the ball is above the waist, catch with the glove fingers pointing upwards
      • If the ball is at or below the waist, catch with the glove fingers pointing downwards
      • Practice stepping ‘into’ the catch with the glove-side leg rather waiting for the ball to come to you
    • Cushion the ball when it touches the glove – ‘soft hands’
    • Practice turning slightly toward the throwing-arm side while making the catch – this will facilitate a quick ‘catch-and-throw’ release (e.g., for outfield relays and double-plays)
    • Use the throwing hand to ‘trap’ the ball in the glove – thumb-to-thumb (if the ball is above the waist) or pinky-to-pinky (if the ball is below the waist)
      • This skill will become important when the players begin to work on fly balls
    • Move towards the ball if it is not thrown on target – stepping to the right, to the left, backwards or forwards, as applicable

 

PRE-PRACTICE AND PRE-GAME THROWING PROGRESSION

 

  • After completing their conditioning drills before each practice and each game, have the players pair off and work through a throwing ‘progression’ 
    • Important:  Suggested distances will vary depending upon the age and skill level of the players
    • Focus is on slow, controlled movements – these drills are not a race
    • Players should feel the ball rotate off of their fingertips with each throw
    • Ball rotation (backwards, 6-to-12 o’clock spin) is the key to all drills
    • Each important element of the throwing motion is isolated and broken into discrete steps
    • At the end of the progression, the players will put it all together – but take care to make sure that the important elements are not abandoned at the later stages (grip, ball rotation, etc.)

 

  • Wrist flips, standing approximately 6-8 feet from your partner
    • Throwing elbow at shoulder height, with forearm at a 90° angle
    • Hold the glove against the throwing-side forearm to isolate the wrist motion
    • Emphasize the creation of backward spin on the ball
      • Using a proper four-seam grip, pull the fingers down, with the ball rolling off the fingers on release – try to get the ball to rotate as many times as possible as it travels to your target
      • The ball should travel in a loop, not in a straight line

 

  • Torso toss, standing approximately 15 feet from your partner
    • Facing your partner, feet shoulder width apart, keep your feet planted when throwing and use your torso to generate power
    • Be sure both thumbs are down as player turns back to emphasize the throwing elbow remaining at shoulder level and the hips and shoulders leading the throwing arm in the motion
    • Fingers pull down, ball release is at the farthest point of arm reach
    • Make sure that the throwing arm completes its arc after release and the throwing shoulder is rotated so that, at the end of the motion, it is closest to your partner

 

  • ‘Goal post’/‘T-Throw’, standing approximately 20 feet from your partner with your body rotated so that the glove side is closest to your partner (feet shoulder-width apart)
    • Do not step or use a very small step
    • Point the glove hand at your partner’s chest, pull back or through with glove hand to generate rotation of the throwing arm
    • Pull down and across when throwing – rotate at hips so throwing arm ends across opposite thigh
    • Finish with throwing shoulder facing partner, forward in stance

 

  • Full throwing motion, increasing velocity on the throw
    • Step to the ball as it is coming at you
    • Transfer – both hands out, catch, turn glove toward you, pull the ball out of glove and back to ear, all in a fluid motion
    • Shuffle step (throwing-side leg steps slightly across the glove-side leg) and step before throwing
    • Emphasize the step towards the target and having the player’s momentum continue towards the target after release

 

  • Long toss, moving back five feet after every ten throws (but only have the players back up to the point where they can still control their throws)
    • Advanced drill:  Use this opportunity to work on ‘crow hops’

 

  • Advanced drill:  Quick toss, standing approximately 10 feet from your partner
    • Catch and return the throw as quickly as possible – step towards the ball, transfer to the throwing hand as the throwing hand and glove are pulled to the throwing-hand side, take a shuffle step and throw
    • Emphasize getting into the throwing position as quickly as possible (as the player is receiving the throw)
    • Focus on throwing to your partner’s throwing side to make the above step easier for your partner

Defense – Infield and Outfield

 

GOALS

 

  • Teach repeatable defensive fundamentals that will serve as the basis for developing more advanced skills as the players progress
    • Set-up, footwork, agility, timing ... the keys to being a successful fielder extend beyond being able to throw and catch

 

  • Transition from thinking to reacting while on defense
    • The players need to learn to cycle through the possible scenarios before the ball is put in play so that, when the ball is put in play, they react to the situation instead of thinking about what they need to do ... which wastes time

 

  • Introduce the players to the nuances of playing each defensive position
    • NOTE:  This Manual does not go into detail as to the nuances of playing each defensive position.  Wilton Little League will offer position-based clinics, open to players at all levels of development, during the season, which clinics will provide in-depth instruction on playing each of the defensive positions

 

  • Allow each player the opportunity, and encourage each player, to play defense at each position both in practices and in games
    • Especially at the developmental levels, we want the players to enhance their understanding of the game by experiencing situational play at each position

 

  • Communicate effectively to the players that, on every ball that is put in play, each of the nine defenders has a roll
    • In addition to being fundamental to proper defensive play, this lesson – and its implementation – will keep each player engaged on defense and, hopefully, enhance each player’s enjoyment of the game 

 

SKILLS TO WORK ON IN PRACTICE

 

  • Infielders setting up prior to the pitch – the ‘ready position’
    • When pitcher is on the rubber and makes the first movement, the fielder bends his back and takes his hands off of his body
    • When the pitcher starts to move his arm forward toward home plate, the fielder should take a small step forward and then separate both legs, keeping (1) his back and knees bent, (2) his hands in front of his body (positioned with thumbs pointing up, which puts the fielder in the best position to react to a ground ball, a line drive or a fly ball), (3) his head up and his eyes focused on the ‘contact zone’ (the area in front of the catcher’s mitt), (4) his weight shifted to the balls of the feet, with the feet roughly shoulder-width apart and (5) his shoulders squared to home plate
      • Outfielders can be in a more-upright stance, which facilitates a quick break for balls not hit directly at the outfielder
        • Some coaches recommend that the outfielder set up using an ‘angled-off’ stance with one foot back, although this makes it more difficult to get a quick start if the ball is hit to the opposite side of the fielder
    • Every player should be in motion on every pitch

 

  • Developing proper footwork
    • Use a cross-over step to propel yourself in both the infield and the outfield
      • Using a side-to-side shuffle step to approach ground balls in the infield is usually inefficient and does not put the fielder in an optimal position to receive the ball or to complete the play
    • In the infield, attack and charge grounds balls
      • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  If the situation permits, try to have your momentum moving towards your target at the moment that the ball is fielded
    • In the outfield, use a drop-step to both the glove side and the throwing-hand side (also an important skill for infielders when fielding pop-flies) for deeper fly balls, and charge short fly balls
    • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Reverse pivots, which can be used in both the infield (in particular, by the second baseman fielding a ground ball to his glove side before making a throw back to the second base bag) and in the outfield (particularly, by the right fielder fielding a ground ball to his glove side before making a throw back to the infield)

 

  • Playing in the infield
    • Positioning
      • T-ball/AA:  Introduce players to the appropriate place to stand relative to the other infielders
        • At this level, the infielders (including the middle infielders) will be playing inside the base lines
      • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  The middle infielders normally play behind the baselines, and the corner infielders normally play inside the baselines
        • Introduce the players to drawn-in infields to defend in situations when a runner is on third base with less than two outs and the game situation requires the defense to stop the run from scoring
    • Developing ground ball fundamentals – the player should focus on the following:
      • Field the ball with a wide base – highlight a basketball player playing defense to get the fielders to understand the concept  
      • With the wide base, field the ball out in front of the body so that the player can see both the ball and the glove at the same time (this is no different than a hitter being able to see the bat and the ball at the same time when making contact and avoids blind spots created when the fielder’s feet are not wide enough or have their hands down instead of out in front of their body)
      • After fielding the ball, player should bring the ball to his chest with both thumbs down (this will keep the back elbow from dropping below the back shoulder when throwing – highlight any quarterback bringing the ball to his chest before throwing)  
      • Use a quick shuffle step towards your target to create momentum and set up the throw
        • To shuffle step, the right foot replaces the left foot, and then the left foot steps towards the target
        • Do not cross over but replace, clicking the heels at first if necessary to highlight the concept   
      • Ball should be released with velocity and the player should follow through with two additional steps toward the target after release
      • T-ball/AA:  The player should position himself so that he is fielding the ball at approximately the mid-point between his feet
      • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Try to field the ball off of the inside foot (i.e., the left foot for a right-hand thrower), especially if the fielder is a right-handed thrower playing second base, third base or shortstop and he is making throw to first base
        • This will help the fielder get into throwing position more quickly
    • Charging slow or high-bouncing ground balls
      • Work on fielding slow or high-bouncing ground balls with the fielder’s momentum going towards (and continuing through) the ball
    • Tagging runners
      • Keep your body low, with knees bent in a strong, athletic position
      • Use the outside of the glove to apply the tag and, when possible, hold the ball firmly in the glove using the throwing hand
      • Try to put the tag in the place where the runner’s hand or foot is expected to arrive – don’t ‘chase’ the runner with the tag
      • The tag should begin low to the ground to avoid having the baserunner slide below the tag
    • Underhand flips
      • Keep both the ball and your body low, with the palm of the throwing hand facing the target
      • The fielder wants the ball to travel, with some velocity, on a line to the target’s chest, and not to travel on too much of an arc – ‘push’ the ball to the target with as little spin as possible, and keep your throwing arm extended towards your target
      • Follow the flip – keep your momentum moving towards your target after you release the ball
      • ‘Show’ your teammate the ball at all times when executing a flip – these usually occur at closer distances and you don’t want to surprise your teammate

 

  • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Introduce and develop the following advanced fielding situations and techniques
    • Back-handing ground balls
      • Glove fingers down and glove in front of the body
      • Cross the glove-side leg in front of the throwing-hand leg
      • Head behind the glove
      • Use knees to keep the body low
    • Throws leading the target
      • Throw to the ‘imaginary’ target’s chest, anticipating the time that it will take for the actual target to reach the base
    • Outfield-to-infield relays throws
      • Relay needs to position herself in a line between the outfielder and the target with his hands up to give the outfielder a large area to throw to
      • Catch the ball with your body turned to your glove side so that you are in a position to throw quickly to the target
      • When catching the ball, reach with both hands back towards the ball, as the body begins to build momentum in the opposite direction towards the target
      • Quickly transfer the ball from the glove to the throwing hand, and throw to the target
      • Important:  Listen for the target – he may be calling for the relay to cut off the throw and make a different play
    • Run-downs
      • Infielders need to know their responsibility – a successful run-down cannot be run with only two fielders
      • The player with the ball should always pursue the runner in a manner that provides for a clear throwing lane to the target – avoid throwing over the runner’s head or across the runner’s path to the base
      • However, the player with the ball should run full speed at the runner – this makes it harder for the runner to stop and change directions
      • Hold the ball out of the glove so that the throwing elbow is at or about shoulder height
        • Pump-faking is dangerous, as it often results in an accidental throw or in confusing the target
      • Throw with adequate velocity to the target’s chest
      • The target should be anchored close to the base until the ball is thrown, and then should move ‘through’ the feed (i.e., begin moving towards the ball as it is thrown)
      • The closest fielders to the run-down should get in line at one of the two bases and wait their turn to act as the target if the run-down continues
      • After the player throws the ball, the player should peel off out of the base line and get at the end of the line at the base to which he was running
        • For example, for a run-down between first base and second base, the pitcher will typically get in line at first base behind the first baseman, and the second baseman will get in line at second base behind the shortstop
        • After the first baseman throws to the shortstop, he will get in line at second base
        • After the shortstop throws to the pitcher, he will get in line at first base
      • An effective run-down is performed in one or two throws – players should only throw to the target when the runner is at least three-quarters of the way to the base in order to avoid throwing too early and too often
    • Double plays
      • Speed is key, but getting the first out is necessary
      • Double plays will be extremely rare in Little League play, even at the Majors and Juniors levels
        • In most instances, we should encourage making the play on the lead runner to get the first out
        • The below is an advanced concept that has nuances based on where the ball is hit
      • Above all – a double play is a sign of player awareness – everyone has to be keyed in that there is a double play situation and what they should do in case of the opportunity
      • Positioning of the second baseman at the second base bag if the ball is hit to the left side of the infield
        • Left foot on the outfield edge of the bag
        • Once the ball is caught, step back with the left foot and throw
        • The second baseman can also come through the bag towards the throw if his momentum is moving in that direction when the ball reaches her
      • Positioning of the shortstop at the second base bag if the ball is hit to the right side of the infield
        • In general the shortstop’s position should be dictated by the idea that the ball should not cross the path of the runner (e.g., if the ball is fielded inside the base path, then the shortstop sets up on the inside corner of the bag)
        • Right or left foot on the corner of the bag that keeps the ball out of the path of the runner
        • Once the ball is caught, shuffle step towards the second baseman and make the throw
      • Catch the ball with two hands to secure the ball for the first out and to allow for a quick transfer on the throw to first base
    • Tag plays on stolen base attempts
      • Straddle the bag, giving the runner a clear lane to slide
      • Bring the tag down across the front of the bag in a swiping motion
      • If it is clear that the runner is going to be safe, the fielder should try to cut-off a low or off-line throw before it goes into the outfield, especially if there is more than one runner
    • Fielding the bunt
      • The most common scenario has the third baseman, first baseman, catcher and pitcher crashing the ball, with the second baseman covering first base and the shortstop covering either second base or third base, depending on whether there are other runners
      • Bunt strategies will vary depending on the game situation (e.g., location of other runners, number of outs and placement of the bunt), but in all situations, all nine defensive players have a role – for example:
        • Runner on first base – (1) pitcher crashes the ball and, unless he fields the bunt, covers third base; (2) catcher crashes the ball and, unless he fields the bunt, covers home plate; (3) first baseman crashes the ball and, if the catcher fields the ball, covers home plate; (4) second baseman covers first base; (5) third baseman crashes the ball and, if the pitcher fields the ball, rushes back to cover third base; (6) shortstop covers second base; (7) left fielder backs up third base; (8) center fielder backs up second base; and (9) right fielder backs up first base
        • Runner on second base – (1) pitcher crashes the ball and, unless he fields the bunt, backs up home plate; (2) catcher crashes the ball and, unless he fields the bunt, covers home plate; (3) first baseman crashes the ball and, if the catcher fields the ball, covers home plate; (4) second baseman covers first base; (5) third baseman crashes the ball and, if the catcher fields the ball and the pitcher fails to back up home plate, backs up home plate; (6) shortstop covers third base; (7) left fielder backs up third base; (8) center fielder covers second base; and (9) right fielder backs up first base
      • IMPORTANT:  Fielders should work on calling each other off

 

  • Playing in the outfield
    • IMPORTANT:  Do not overlook working on outfield fundamentals in practice, including at the developmental levels
    • Positioning
      • T-ball/AA:  Be able to identify ‘straight-away’ positioning
      • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Adjust their positioning depending on the game situation
        • Right-handed batters vs. left-handed batters
        • Pull hitters vs. spray hitters
        • Power hitters vs. weaker hitters
        • Game score, number of outs and location of runners
        • Learn from foul balls and adjust their positioning during the at-bat
    • Catching fly balls
      • If possible, get to the spot where the ball is going to land rather than trying to catch the ball while in motion (i.e., sprint to the spot and line up under the ball)
        • Do not reach the glove out while sprinting to the ball – instead, get to the spot with the glove tucked in a full sprint 
      • Once in position, keep both of hands in front of your body and at eye level, with the fingers of both hands pointing towards the sky
      • The outfielder needs to be able to see the ball into his glove and catch it in front of his nose – this will avoid catching the ball too high in the air or stabbing at it
        • Let the ball come to you rather than attacking the ball early
        • When the sun is out, use the glove to shield your eyes
      • When catching the ball, center your body on the ball so that, if the ball drops, it would land between your feet
      • Bring the throwing hand towards the glove as the ball is being caught – this will help if the outfielder bobbles the ball or needs to make a quick transfer for a throw
        • T-Ball/AA:  Encourage the outfielders to catch using two hands, with the throwing hand trapping the ball in the glove by squeezing the glove closed
        • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  If runners are on base, then try to catch the ball slightly towards your throwing-hand side and with the throwing hand near, but not trapping the ball in, the glove – this will further assist in a quick transfer for a throw
    • Approaching fly balls
      • If the outfielder is unsure of whether to come in on a fly ball or go back, the rule of thumb is to go back on the ball, as it is always easier for the outfielder to reverse course and come in on the ball than it is to reverse course and go back on the ball
      • When going back on the ball, use a drop step – the first step is to step back with the leg on the side to which the ball is hit
        • The angle of the drop step depends on the angle that the outfielder needs to take to the ball
          • If the ball is hit in a line to the outfielder, then the drop step will be almost straight back
          • If the ball is hit further to the left or right of the outfielder, then the drop step will be angled further to the left or right, respectively
        • Beginning at the T-ball level, make sure that the outfielders are not back-pedaling to catch up with balls hit over their head
      • Once the outfielder is in stride, he should be pumping both of his arms as he runs – i.e., do not run with your glove extended
        • The glove should not reach for the ball until the outfielder needs to make the catch
      • Work on taking an angle to the ball that will keep the ball in front of you if it cannot be caught
      • When the outfielder needs to charge a short fly ball, use a basket catch (palm of the glove facing upwards) if the ball will be caught below his waist
        • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Start judging when it makes sense to ‘sell out’ on a fly ball to make the catch – if the ball is a pop fly, then it will not move much once it hits the ground (provides a better opportunity for ‘selling out’ to make the catch), but if the ball is a line drive, then a missed catch will likely mean extra bases because the ball will continue to roll behind the outfielder (not optimal for ‘selling out’ to make the catch)
    • Ground balls
      • ‘Safety’ position – no runners on base when the ball is hit, no risk of the hitter advancing to second base, and the ball has enough momentum to reach the outfielder with velocity
        • Drop to one knee (throwing-hand side) when the ball is about 10 feet away, creating a ‘wall’ with his throwing-hand side leg and his body
        • Glove blocks the ‘five hole’
      • ‘Do-or-die’ position – the outfielder needs to field the ball quickly to make a throw back to the infield (e.g., there is a risk that runners will be advancing)
        • Use short ‘chop’ steps as you approach the ball to avoid overrunning the ball
        • Field the ball on the glove-hand side while the foot on the glove-hand side is in front – this allows the outfielder to transfer to a quick, two-step crow hop to throw the ball
        • However, try to field the ball in front of your body and not let the ball get too deep towards your body
    • Throwing back to the infield
      • Rule of thumb:  Throw to the base that is one base ahead of the base to which the lead runner is heading (e.g., if the lead runner is already on his way to second base, then throw to third base)
        • Discuss the scenarios where (1) throwing ahead of the runner does not make sense (e.g., if the outfielder will not be able to throw out the lead runner going to third base, then throwing to second base may be the correct play because it keeps the hitter form advancing to second base) and (2) throwing to the base to which the lead runner is heading makes sense (e.g., if the lead runner is on second base and a line drive is hit to the left fielder, then there is an opportunity to record an out at third base, especially if there is a force at third base)
      • Throws should be hard and on a line (no ‘rainbows’)
      • The outfielder has the option of seeking help from the relay fielder if he does not have the arm strength to throw all the way through to the intended target
        • If a relay is not needed, then throw through the relay rather than to the relay, with the goal of reaching the target on a line drive or on one bounce (the relay should duck down and stay out of the play, unless the target instructs his to cut off the throw)
        • If the outfielder cannot reach the target, then use the relay – the throw should always be at the relay’s chest and not too far over his head that he cannot reach it
      • If he has time, the outfielder can also build momentum on his throws when catching fly balls
        • Instead of setting up at the spot where the ball is going to land, set up about 10 feet behind that spot, and slowly build momentum towards that spot as the ball is descending using short ‘chop’ steps
        • The goal is to catch the ball in motion with your glove-hand side foot in front so that you can transfer to a quick, two-step crow hop to throw the ball back into the infield
    • COMMUNICATION!  Beginning at the development levels, the outfielders need to learn how to call for both fly balls and ground balls, with the center fielder acting as the ‘field general’ in the outfield

 

  • Responsibility to back-up on defensive plays
    • The Manager can enhance the players’ enjoyment of the game (and improve team defense) by stressing that, on every ball put in play, every defensive player has a job to do
    • A defensive player’s responsibility on a particular play will depend on the game situation (number of outs, location of runners, where the ball is hit), but take the opportunity – beginning at the developmental levels– to help each defensive player understand his back-up responsibility when the ball is not hit to his or he is not the target of a throw
      • Pitcher – backs up throws to third base and to home plate
      • Catcher – backs up throws to first base
      • Relays and Cut-offs:
        • T-Ball/AA:  Encourage all outfielders to get the ball back to the infield as quickly as possible by throwing the ball to the either the shortstop (for balls hit to the left fielder and to left side of the center fielder) or the second baseman (for balls hit to the right fielder or to the right side of the center fielder) – the emphasis should not be on where the ball is thrown so long as the throw is made quickly back into the infield
        • AAA/Majors/Juniors:
          • First baseman – cut-off on throws to home plate from right field and center field (standing near the pitcher’s circle)
          • Second baseman – relay on throws from the right side of the outfield
          • Third baseman – cut-off on throws from left field to home plate (standing near the pitcher’s circle)
          • Shortstop – relay on throws from the left side of the outfield
            • Preference is for the shortstop to act as the relay on balls hit to center field given that he typically has a stronger throwing arm
          • Left fielder – backs up throws to third base, backs up throws to second base from the right side of the field, and backs up balls hit to the left side of the outfield that are called by the center fielder
          • Center fielder – backs up throws to second base from the right side or left side of the field, backs up balls hit to the left side of the outfield that are called by the left fielder, and backs up balls hit to the right side of the outfield that are called by the right fielder
          • Right fielder – backs up throws to first base, backs up throws to second base from the left side of the field, and backs up balls hit to the right side of the outfield that are called by the center fielder

 

  •  

 

GOALS

 

  • Introduce players to the components of a baseball swing:  grip, stance, load, stride, swing and follow-through

 

  • Encourage the players to develop consistent swing mechanics, which will allow the batter to react to the pitch rather than divert part of his focus to his swing

 

  • Teach the players to judge balls from strikes and to recognize both pitch type and location – and how to react to a particular pitch (e.g., getting ahead of pitches on the inside corner and letting pitches on the outside corner travel deeper in the strike zone)

 

  • Develop proper bunting mechanics and, for more advanced players, the ability to bunt directionally

 

  • Most importantly, impress upon the players that a ‘successful’ at-bat does not necessarily result in a hit or, often times, contact – the ability to repeat solid swing fundamentals and/or make solid contact will determine whether an at-bat is successful or not

 

SKILLS TO WORK ON IN PRACTICE

 

  • REMEMBER:  There is no ‘perfect swing’ – swing mechanics will differ from player to player
    • Check the batter’s swing for a few basic components, but otherwise promote a swing that is comfortable for the batter
    • One of the keys to hitting is focusing on the ball from the moment that it enters into the ‘release zone’ (i.e., the area where the pitcher generally releases the ball) to the moment (or as close to the moment) when the bat makes contact with the ball
      • To develop this skill, the batter should focus on the ball even when he is not swinging at it (i.e., watch the ball into the catcher’s glove)

 

  • Stepping Up to the Plate
    • Positive thoughts:  Do not underestimate the mental side of hitting
      • Approach the plate with an idea of what you want to do:  (1) see the ball for the entire duration of its flight, (2) attack a pitch that is in your hitting zone and (3) make solid contact and hit the ball hard someplace
        • Focus only the aspects of hitting that you can control
    • Before each pitch, reset yourself by stepping out of the batter’s box with one foot and taking a deep breath
      • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Take this opportunity to look down to the third base coach for the signs
    • When in the batter’s box, the batter should be able to reach the outside corner of home plate with his bat (holding it in the hand closest to the pitcher and with a slight bend at the waist)
    • Whether the batter stands towards the front or the back of the batter’s box will depend upon several factors
      • The pitcher’s velocity – for pitcher’s with greater velocity, stand towards the back of the batter’s box to allow for more time to react to the pitch
      • Whether the third base coach has given a bunt sign – especially for a sacrifice bunt, stand towards the front of the batter’s box to increase your chance of keeping the bunt in fair territory

 

  • The Grip
    • Grip the bat at the base of the fingers rather than in the palm of the hand
    • Rotate your hands so that the ‘knocker’ knuckles on each hand are more or less in a straight line
    • Your grip should be loose – this helps to remove tension from the swing

 

  • The Set-up
    • Again, remember that comfort is a key component of a ‘successful’ swing – use the recommendations below as a guideline, but allow for some deviation to ensure that the batter is comfortable before the pitch is thrown
    • Feet
      • Approximately shoulder-width apart
      • The toes of each foot should be pointing towards home plate, and you should be able to draw a line across the front of the toes that extends towards the pitcher
        • An open stance makes it more difficult for the batter to handle the outside pitch
        • A closed stance makes it more difficult for the batter to open his hips on pitches middle-in
    • Knees
      • Slightly bent in an athletic stance
    • Torso
      • Square to home plate, with the front shoulder pointing towards the pitcher or slightly closed
    • Hands
      • Slightly above and in front of the back shoulder, with the bat head angled at an approximately 45-degree angle to the ground
      • Avoid the pointing towards the sky
      • Also, avoid having the bat head wrapped behind your head – this delays the bat head’s reaching the strike zone
    • Arms
      • If the batter’s hands are held correctly, his arms should form an upside-down “V”, and his front arm should be at a 90-degree angle
    • Weight distribution and motion
      • Stay off of your heels!  The batter wants his weight distributed towards the front, inside edge of his feet
      • Be loose – practice a slight rocking motion that moves the weight between your front and back feet
      • At the same time, the batter may want to keep his arms and hands loose by slowly shifting his hands over his shoulder
      • If the batter uses pre-swing motion, make sure that the motion is fluid and that the batter is in controlof the motion

 

  • The Swing
    • Weight shift
      • Once the pitcher is in the wind-up, shift your weight slightly to your back leg (approximately 60%/40% split)
      • The batter wants to feel the weight on the inside part of the leg, which can be accomplished by making sure that the weight is kept on the inside edge of the back foot (do not load directly over the back foot) 
    • Striding with the front foot
      • The stride should be comfortable for the hitter, with a  soft landing on the toes of the front foot 
      • Stride directly towards the pitcher
    • The Launch Position
      • Once committed to swing at the pitch, the front foot heel should land – this is known as the Launch Position.
      • How the player’s body is positioned at this point is critical: 
        • Players should have 60% of their weight on a bent front leg, with their front shoulder slightly lower than the back shoulder
        • The head should remain centered between both legs - be sure to keep the head from moving forward to get to the Launch Position
      • Back shoulder should be slightly turned back toward the pitcher at this point, such that the player can still see the pitcher and the pitcher can see the hitter’s number
        • Imagine an elastic band from the knob of the bat to the front toe being stretched to create torque.   
      • Hands should be almost directly over the back shoulder and not barred back and away from the body
        • This connection is key – most little leaguers will have their hands away from their body at this point 
      • Knob of the bat should be pointing directly at the catcher’s glove 
      • Most major leaguers’ Launch Positions look the same:

A picture containing grass, photo, different, outdoor

Description automatically generated

 

 

  • Hip rotation and contact
    • Hands should follow the hips
      • The batter initiates the swing by pushing the front leg into the ground, straightening it into a locked position
      • Bat should stay connected on or close to the shoulder on the approach, allowing the knob to remain ahead of the back elbow 
      • Player will slide the knob toward the pitcher and then disconnect bat from the shoulder to take the bat head directly to the ball 
      • If the batter is driving into a locked front leg at contact, the back leg should end up pivoting on the toes and moving toward the front leg
    • Palm up, palm down – at the point of contact, the palm of the lead (i.e., bottom) hand should point towards the ground, and the palm of the trailing (i.e., top) hand should point towards the sky
    • When to disconnect the bat from the shoulder area depends on pitch location: 
      • For inside pitches, the bat head needs to get out in front of the plate in order to make solid contact, which requires the batter to stay connected to the shoulder longer
      • For outside pitches, the bat will need to disconnect earlier in the swing in order for the bat head to reach the outside part of the plate, but contact will need to be deeper in the zone for the outside pitch 
  • Extension
    • The swing does not end after contact is made – a truncated swing means a slower swing
    • Once contact has been made, top hand should remain palm up as long as possible before extending in a “Power V” and rolling over 
  • However, even solid, repeatable swing mechanics will not work unless the batter tracks the path of the pitch from the pitching plate to the bat
    • Before the pitch, focus on the pitcher’s release point rather than focusing on the ball itself and the pitcher’s motion
  • IMPORTANT:  Do not jump out of the batter’s box as the pitch crosses the plate – encourage batters to stay in the batter’s box and watch the ball all the way into the glove (unless he is in danger of getting hit)
  • IMPORTANT:  Teach the players do drop the bat after making contact – throwing the bat can hurt a player (or the umpire) and result in an out (or an ejection from the game)

 

  • Laying Down a Bunt
    • T-Ball/AA:  Introduce the batter to the proper grip and stance
      • Pivot both feet so that the back toe is pointing generally towards the pitcher
        • In order to help with balance during the pivot, the batter can slightly stagger his feet (front foot closer to home plate than the back foot) when he sets up
      • Square our shoulders to the pitcher, and keep your eye level above the barrel of the bat
      • Grip the bat loosely, with the bottom hand near the knob of the bat and the top hand sliding up to the area just below the barrel of the bat
      • The top hand grips the bat with the thumb behind the bat and with the bat resting on top of the pointer finger (do not wrap your fingers around the bat)
      • Angle the bat such that the bat head is above the knob of the bat – doing so makes it easier for the batter to stay on top of the pitch
      • The head of the bat should be kept at or near the top of the strike zone, not by your waist – pitches above the bat head should be taken as balls
      • Knees should be bent – track the pitch using your knees to control the height of the bat rather than moving the bat with your hands
      • The bat is held in front of the body with loose arms
      • If the pitch is a ball, pull the bat head back so that it is above your back shoulder
    • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  At this level, focus on ‘catching’ the ball with the bat to deaden the ball and adjusting the position of the bat to direct the bunt down the first base or third base line
      • At the point of contact, the batter ‘catches’ the ball with the bat by slightly pulling the bat back with both hands
        • This is particularly effective for sacrifice bunts
        • When bunting for a hit, the batter may want to hold his hands more firmly so that the ball travels further from home plate
      • The batter can direct the bunt by either pulling the bottom hand slightly closer to his body (which directs the ball towards third base for right-handed hitters and towards first base for left-handed hitters) or pushing the bottom hand slightly further from his body (which directs the ball towards first base for right-handed hitters and towards third base for left-handed hitters)
      • Positioning in the batter’s box
        • Setting up closer to the front of the batter’s box gives the batter more fair territory to work with and allows the batter to bunt before the ball ‘breaks’ (drops for a drop ball, curves, etc.)
        • However, setting up near the front of the batter’s box reduces the time that the batter has to react to the pitch
      • When to square to bunt
        • For sacrifice bunts, square earlier (e.g., when the pitcher goes into his wind-up) because the batter needs to make sure that he is in a comfortable position to get the bunt down
        • When bunting for a hit, square as late in the pitch delivery as possible to avoid drawing the corner infielders in
          • The batter can even begin to move forward in the batter’s box as the pitch is being delivered to get his momentum moving towards first base – this is called a drag bunt
            • The goal is to bunt the ball so that it rolls as close to the first base line (for left-handed batters) or third base line (for right-handed batters) as possible
          • For a push bunt, the batter is trying to get the ball past the pitcher into the area between the first baseman and second baseman (for right-handed batters) or between the third baseman and shortstop (for left-handed batters)
  • After the At-Bat
    • Hitting is difficult and can be discouraging to young players – regardless of the outcome of an at-bat, make sure that the batter remains confident
    • Recognize the positive aspects of an at-bat and discuss what the batter can improve during his next at-bat
    • Again, the results of an at-bat should not define the success of an at-bat – this is the mindset that the batters should take with them when they step up to the plate and when they return to the dugout

 

 

 

Base Running

 

GOALS

 

  • Ensure that the players are running efficiently, both in their running form and in their approach to the bases
    • Note that the shortest path to a base may not always be the most efficient path for purposes of circling the bases

 

  • Improve the players’ stolen base success rates by using proper mechanics and timing when leaving the base

 

  • Teach players to read and evaluate balls that are put in play and use that information to dictate their approach on the bases
    • At the same time, teach the players how to effectively use their base coaches

 

  • Instill in the players that they can be successful runners by being smart on the base paths, regardless of their raw running speed

 

SKILLS TO WORK ON IN PRACTICE

 

  • Running form
    • Evaluate each player’s running form during the conditioning exercises at the beginning of practice – use the same form in practice that you would use in the game
    • Head and eyes should be up and focused on the runner’s destination (or, as described below, on the appropriate base coach or on the ball), and the arms should be pumping close to the body and parallel to each other (not across the body)

 

  • Signs
    • Introduce players at the developmental level to signs (in particular, bunting and stealing signs)
    • At more advanced levels, introduce additional signs, including signs for taking a pitch, showing bunt (but pulling back), straight steals, hit-and-runs and delayed steals

 

  • Base running path
    • T-Ball/AA:  Introduce the players to the correct running path and teach them to pick up the appropriate base coach – players at the developmental levels should not be analyzing the defensive situation and making base running decisions on their own
    • Home plate to first base
      • When (1) the ball is hit in the infield on the ground or as a pop-up, (2) the ball is hit to short right field or (3) the catcher drops the third strike (at the Majors and Juniors levels or when otherwise playing with dropped third strikes), run ‘through’ the first base bag at full speed
        • Leave the batter’s box and run directly to first base along (or just to the foul side of) the base line
        • The runner’s goal is to hit the front edge of the first base bag (or, if used, the orange ‘safety’ bag) at full speed
        • Once the runner is through the bag, slow down using a stutter step
        • Always look to your right (and listen to the first base coach) to make sure that the ball was not overthrown, which may allow you to take another base
        • If you are returning to first base after running through it, turn to your right and get back to the base – if you turn to your left, you run the risk of being tagged out if the umpire determines that you were making an attempt to advance to second base
      • When the ball is hit into the outfield (other than a hit to short right field), take a ‘banana’-shaped route to first base that arcs towards the first base dugout and then returns towards the infield as you approach first base
        • The runner’s goal is to hit the front inside corner of the base as he rounds the base (using either foot, but not breaking stride)
        • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  On balls hit to the left side of the field, take a quick peak about half-way down the first base line to gauge the location of the ball and any baserunners in front of you
          • Encourage the players to analyze base running situations and make informed decisions as they are running
          • That said, the runner should also rely on the first base coach, who has a better view of the field of play
        • On balls hit to the right side of the field, the runner has a good view of the defensive situation as he approaches first base and can use that information when deciding whether to advance to second base
        • Even if you do not initially intend to advance to second base, round first base and square your shoulders to the location of the ball
          • This will allow you to make a decision as to whether an opportunity to advance to the next base has presented itself (e.g., if the defense makes an error or throws to third base or home plate)
      • IMPORTANT:  Never turn your back to the ball
    • Rounding the bases
      • Use the techniques described above when approaching second base and third base
        • If there will be a play at the base that you are approaching, then slide into the base (otherwise, you run the risk of overrunning the base, prematurely slowing down before reaching the base or being called out for obstruction or interference)
        • If there will not be a play at the base that you are approaching, but the ball will be nearby, then use a stutter step to slow down as you approach the base (and don’t overrun the base!)
        • If you (or the third base coach) makes the determination that you should advance to the next base, then take the same ‘banana’-shaped path to the bag and hit the inside corner as you round the base
        • In other situations (unless the ball is behind the runner), the runner may want to make the turn at the base while checking with the third base coach for instructions
      • When approaching second base, balls hit to the left side of the field or up the middle are in front of you – use that information to determine whether to advance to third base
        • Balls hit to the right side of the field are behind you, so it is necessary to pick up the third base coach before you are half-way between first base and second base
      • When approaching third base, it is best to rely on the third base coach when determining whether to advance to home plate, given that the field of play will be behind you or to your side
      • When approaching home plate, use the most direct path possible to reduce the distance to be run

 

  • Sliding
    • Regardless of level, never slide hands-first into a base – doing so rarely saves time and increases the chance of injury
    • Teach the runners to use a ‘pop-up’ slide, where the runner approaches the base at full speed, lowers his body and drops to his backside with one leg straight towards the base and the other leg bent and resting below the straight leg (forming a ‘figure four’)
      • The runner’s hands should be raised – using your hands to break the slide results in injuries to the hands and wrists
      • The runner’s momentum as he reaches the bag should help his ‘pop up’ into a standing position
    • Sliding rules of thumb
      • Run through first base – do not slide into the base
      • When sliding, turn your head away from the direction that the ball is coming – this not only protects your face, but it also allows you to see if the ball gets by the fielder
      • Try to slide to the side of the bag that is furthest from the fielder – this not only reduces the risk of injury to the runner and the fielder, but it also makes it hard for the fielder to apply the tag in a non-force situation

 

  • Leading and stealing bases
    • Setting up
      • Left foot either on the front edge of the bag or on the side of the bag, and right foot a step behind the left foot
      • Knees bent in an athletic position that will allow the runner to explode off of the base
    • The rules
      • T-Ball/AA/AAA:  The runner can only leave the base after the ball crosses home plate
      • Majors/Juniors:  The runner can leave the base after the pitcher releases the ball
    • ‘Rocker’ step
      • After the pitch is thrown (or, at the Majors and Juniors levels, as the pitcher is in his wind up), shift your weight backwards, and then forwards at the point when the pitch crosses the plate (or, at the Majors and Juniors levels, when the pitch is released)
      • This motion helps to propel the runner off of the base
    • Stealing
      • If the third base coach has given the ‘steal’ sign, sprint at full speed towards the destination base
      • BE ALERT!
        • If you hear the ball hit the bat, locate the ball (without breaking stride)
          • Line drives – freeze until the ball lands without being caught (continue to the destination base) or is caught (get back to the original base)
          • Ground balls – continue to the destination base
          • Pop flies in the infield – start returning to the original base, but be prepared to run to the destination base if the ball is dropped
          • Fly balls in the outfield – slow down and position yourself close enough to the original base so that you can beat a throw to that base if the ball is caught
          • Two outs – regardless of where the ball is hit, continue to run to the destination base
        • If you do not hear the ball hit the bat, take a quick peak at the catcher (without breaking stride) to make sure that the ball did not get by the catcher, which may allow you to advance another base
      • Always slide into the destination base if the catcher is making a throw to that base
    • Leading
      • Sprint two or three steps off of the base and then square your body towards the catcher, with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your center of weight low in an athletic stance – standing up straight will make it more difficult to return to the base if the catcher attempts a pick-off
        • When leading off of third base, it is a good idea to take your lead slightly in foul territory
          • The runner is out if he is hit by a batted ball while standing in fair territory or on the foul line
      • If the pitch gets by the catcher, then the runner has an opportunity to advance to the next base – accelerate by crossing your left leg over your right leg towards the destination base
      • BE ALERT!
        • A good catcher will snap-throw to a base (usually, first base or third base) if the runner’s lead is too large or if the runner is not paying attention
        • If the catcher throws down to the base, dive back to the bag by crossing your right leg over your left leg
          • Keep your body low to the ground
          • Reach for the outfield corner of the base (if returning to first base) or to the foul corner of the base (if returning to third base) with your right hand
      • When returning to the base in between pitches, always keep your eye on the ball – the catcher may overthrow the pitcher, allowing you to advance to the next base
        • Turn sideways (facing home plate) and walk back while watching the pitcher rather than walking backwards

 

  • Tagging up
    • T-Ball/AA:  Introduce the players to the fundamentals of tagging up on fly balls with less than two outs
      • Return to the origin base and set up as if you are about to lead off the base or steal
      • Let the appropriate base coach give the signal to run or stay
      • Discuss situations where the runner would be forced to run if the ball is not caught (e.g., if the runner can be forced out at the destination base if he does not run)
    • AAA/Majors/Juniors:  Focus on base running strategy – when to tag up and when to be more aggressive
    • Rules of thumb
      • Runner on first base
        • Get a lead off of first base with your body squared to the outfielder to see if he will catch the ball
        • On a spectrum, the runner’s distance from the first base bag should increase as the fly ball moves from right field to left field – the goal is to be able to beat a throw back to first base if the ball is caught
        • The runner will rarely tag up at first base, unless a runner ahead of him tags up and the outfielder throws to that runner’s destination base
        • Listen for the first base coach’s single to run or stay
      • Runner on second base
        • If the ball is hit to left field, then get a lead off of second base with your body squared to the outfielder to see if he will catch the ball
        • If the ball is hit to right field, then tag up and watch for the third base coach’s signal to run or stay
        • If the ball is hit to center field, then the runner may want to take a short lead (with his body squared to the outfielder), unless the ball is taking the center fielder towards right-center field (which may present an opportunity to tag up)
      • Runner on third base
        • If the ball is hit deep enough that the runner can tag up and score if it is caught, then tag up – the runner should focus on home plate and listen for the third base coach’s single to run or stay
        • If the ball is not hit deep enough that the runner can tag up and score if it is caught, then the runner should take reasonable lead off of the bag and watch to see if the ball drops
      • Foul Balls
        • Always return to the bag immediately because, if the ball is caught in foul territory, the runner is permitted to tag up

 

  • REMEMBER:  In any base running situation, the runner must always know where the runners in front of him are and what they are doing – you do not want to find yourself advancing to a base on which another runner is standing

 

  • AND FINALLY:  There is never an excuse for not hustling or for not paying attention when you are on the bases

 

 

 

Sample Practice Plan

 

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE

 

S –       Start on time, with a plan for each practice.

 

A –      Active practices will keep the players interested.  

 

F –      Fun.  Add variety and competition to the practice drills.

 

E –      Encourage the players.

 

 

T-BALL PRACTICES (60-MINUTE PRACTICE, BUT WARM -UPS SHOULD BEGIN 10 MINUTES BEFORE THE HOUR TO MAXIMIZE PLAYING TIME)

 

  • Conditioning and warm-ups (10 minutes)
    • Running progression
    • Stretching

 

  • Throwing and catching drills (10 minutes)

 

  • Station-to-station drills – three groups (30 minutes total – 10 minutes each, then rotate)
    • Hitting stations
      • Batting tee / side-toss
      • Front-toss (using wiffle balls or baseballs if there is enough room at the field and sufficient help for chasing them down)
    • Ground Ball Station: 
      • Begin by rolling to focus on fundamentals and throw to a coach playing first base
      • After seeing some consistency, incorporate bouncing and batted balls 
    • Pop Fly Station: 
      • Flies thrown at them, back right, back left, in front and directly behind

 

  • Base Running (5 minutes): 
    • Focus on full sprints through the 1B bag and not watching the baseball!

 

  • Team defense and game fundamentals drills (10 minutes)
    • Players in positions with runners to get everyone comfortable with game situations 
  • Fun Game to End: Be creative! (5 minutes)

 

 

MINORS/MAJORS (90-MINUTE PRACTICE, BUT WARM-UPS SHOULD BEGIN 10 MINUTES BEFORE THE HOUR TO MAXIMIZE PLAYING TIME)

 

  • Conditioning and warm-ups (20 minutes)
    • Running progression
    • Stretching
    • Throwing progression

 

  • Discuss practice goals (5 minutes)

 

  • Station-to-station drills – three groups (30 minutes total – 10 minutes each, then rotate)
    • Hitting stations
      • Batting tee / side-toss, focusing on extension with the top hand staying palm up and punching through contact and extending to “Power V” (vs. rolling over at or just after contact) 
      • Hitting against a mat if available, focusing on getting to the right Launch Position and on swing and lower body fundamentals to the point of contact
      • Fence drill:  set up 2 feet away from a fence and swing without hitting it (key is to stay connected and lead with the knob) 
      • Pitching tunnel / bunting
    • Infield station
    • Outfield station
    • Pitching and Catching:  Pull kids from the three stations above for pitching and catching clinics during practice
      • Work to develop the players each week to put them in a position to succeed when put in the games 

 

  • Team defense, base running and strategy drills (30 minutes)

 

  • Discuss practice results and game plan (5 minutes)

 

 

Contact Information

 

If you have any questions about the information contained in this Manual, or if you would like suggestions for practice drills that can be used to develop any of the skills highlighted in this Manual, please feel free to reach out to any of the following members of Wilton Little League’s Board of Directors:

 

David Drew (President)

 

Christopher Kelly (Vice President—Baseball)

 

Marty Avallone (Secretary)

 

Paul Behar (Player Representative)

pauljbehar@yahoo.com

 

Kevin Toohill (Player Development)

ktoohill7@gmail.com 

 

 

We will be contacting Managers and Coaches throughout the season as additional clinics are scheduled.  Wilton Little League will be offering clinics for defensive players (including separate clinics for pitchers, catchers, first basemen, third basemen, middle infielders, and outfielders) as well as hitting clinics and base running clinics.