5 Outfield Drills to Work on in Season

5 Outfield Drills to Work on in Season

Developing your outfield doesn't stop in the offseason.  Continuing to work on new drills with your team during the season is crucial as injuries and fatigue begins to set in. 

Implementing new drills in practice will keep your players on their toes and constantly improving as the wear and tear of a grueling multi game week starts to affect their performance. 

Let's take a look at 5 outfield drills you can put your players through when getting ready for a big game. 

Jake Boss Jr. . was appointed the 16th head coach in Michigan State baseball history on July 1, 2008, and has quickly become one of the most successful coaches in the program’s 131-year history. Coach Boss is constantly coming up with new drills to keep his outfielders prepared for any type of ball that comes their way. In the clip below, check out his different drills including diving for fly balls and tracking angles. (click image for video).

Catchers can influence pitchers...for bad or good

Catchers can influence pitchers...for bad or good

“Who's their catcher?” This is the first question many Major League pitchers ask when they are being traded. The pitcher-catcher relationship is critical to the success of a ball team, which means it’s vital to train your youth catchers the art of working with their pitchers. 

Catchers are constantly thinking about the best way to get a batter out. Just like with pitchers, it is always an advantage if a catcher knows the scouting report on the batter or at least pays attention during each at-bat.

Noticing whether a player tends to hit for the fences or pull the ball to left field can make all the difference in a catcher’s performance at calling pitches.

In addition to having strong balance, agility, glove work, toughness, hand and foot speed, and strategic thinking, catchers need to have incredible interpersonal skills. When your catcher can properly communicate with your pitcher, your team can improve its success. 

Tell the Pitcher What He Needs to Hear

Your catcher needs to know his pitcher. Without an understanding of the personality of the pitcher, the catcher will have a hard time knowing what to say. Many pitchers need their catchers to be soft and caring, while others want someone direct.

“He pitches better when he’s mad, so I try to make him that way,” Jorge Posada said about Orlando Hernandez, according to an ESPN article. Certainly, kids shouldn’t be mad on the field, but a little bee in the bonnet can cultivate that competitive spirit.

No matter a pitcher’s preference, they all need to know the truth.

A catcher shouldn’t tell a pitcher he is doing great when it’s clear he’s had much better days. Telling the pitcher the truth is essential, but most pitchers prefer when a catcher does so kindly. Rather than just saying “You need to work the inside of the plate,” catchers must tell the pitcher the way they execute better. Pitchers can often clearly see the areas where they are not effective, but they need to know what they should do to become better. Some kids have this down “naturally,” and others can gain this skill from an understanding parent who doesn’t coddle but suggests guidelines.

Treat Practice Like a Game

Rather than simply placing the glove in the strike zone and merely going through the motions during practice, a catcher can treat practice like the real game. Working all corners of the plate, as well as up and down, will have your pitcher familiar with the way you set up during a game.

Visiting the Pitcher

Paying a visit to the pitcher typically results in an effective partnership. Taking trips to the mound to talk to the pitcher and calm him down can help build his confidence. Effective catchers can make pitchers smile in tough situations, and this can relax them.

Communication Is Key, Too

Certainly, the pitcher-catcher relationship is critical to a team’s success. This makes it vital for coaches to train catcher in this art of social interaction. Certain catchers are simply on the same page as their pitchers, and these relationships often result in a low ERA. Ultimately, overall improved relationships on your team boost morale and improve performance.

Throwing Strikes and Playing Good Defense Equals Wins

Throwing Strikes and Playing Good Defense Equals Wins

Winning consistently in youth sports, particularly in baseball, is more about learning how not to lose, as opposed to learning how to win. Sure, you can focus on hitting line drives, stealing bases, effective bunting or any number of other things, but more often than not, wins and losses will come down to throwing strikes and playing good defense.

At all levels of baseball – even college and professional – far more games are lost than are won.

This means that teams usually do more to cause their own losses than the opposition does to win them.

Throwing Strikes

It seems simple enough, but so many pitchers and coaches focus more on improving velocity than improving location. What good is an 80 MPH fastball that’s always out of the strike zone? You’re better off throwing 40 MPH and consistently locating for strikes.

Before worrying about how fast a player throws or how much hook his curveball has, worry about them getting complete command of the strike zone. This means a pitcher can locate his pitch anywhere within the four quadrants of the strike zone at any time. For younger-level pitchers, this requires that they dial back the velocity a bit. Pitchers are better off focusing on command with a moderate fastball than trying to throw the heat.

Your average youth and high school baseball lineup isn’t stacked with sluggers who can make you pay dearly for leaving a meatball over the plate. In most situations, the worst that will happen is a base hit.

But the nature of baseball (.300 hitter is Hall of Fame material) dictates that even the slowest pitch will generally result in an out. When pitchers realize this and learn to trust their defense, they will find they have a lot more success, without the need for a blazing fastball or deceptive curve.

Remember that pitches off the plate lead to walks, which almost always come around to score. Make players earn their way on base by consistently throwing strikes.

Play Good Defense

One of the worst things you can do in baseball is give a team extra outs through bad defense. Each team is supposed to have three outs per inning – when defensive errors are made, the team is essentially given an extra out to put more runs on the board. It doesn’t take a baseball genius to realize that this eventually leads to crooked numbers on the board against you.

A defensive error not only gives the other team an extra life, it also demoralizes the pitcher and everyone else on the defense. You were about to get out of an inning and get back in the dugout to bat when a routine grounder rolled through the shortstop’s legs. Now, you have to work to get another out, naturally leading to a mental let down. It also invigorates the other team, which now has another chance to do some damage.

Conversely, a great defensive play excites your team and your pitcher. You were about to give up a run or an extra base hit until the centerfielder made a diving catch to get you out of the inning. Now, instead of having runners on base, you’re back in the dugout getting ready to put some runs on the board. On the other hand, robbing a team of surefire runs is a great way to kill the opposition’s spirit.

At worst, you want to have a baseball team that makes all of the routine plays and some of the great ones.

5 Every Day Drills To Help You Become A Better Catcher

5 Every Day Drills To Help You Become A Better Catcher

Catching is one of the most physically taxing positions in baseball. Spending 9 innings in a squat can be tiring, but it is also incredibly important. You must always be posed, aware of your surroundings and ready to jump into action every pitch. In this article I will talk about 5 drills that take a total of about 20 minutes that you should practice every day that will help you develop habits of extremely good catchers.

#1 Slide and Block

Every passed ball or wild pitch leads to a free base for the opposing team. As a catcher, the number one responsibility you have is to keep the ball in front of you. The slide and block drill can be done with a fellow catcher or coach every day and takes just a few minutes.

The drill is simple in that as the catcher, set up in your receiving position and have another person throw a ball in the dirt and to one of your sides. Use your body and slide to get in front of the ball and play it off your chest protector. Remember; always keep the ball in front of you.

Some keys to focus on in this drill:

Start in a good receiving position. Keep your posture solid so that the feel becomes natural in a game.

Don’t reach or stab at the ball with your glove. You’ll miss more than you catch

Slide on your leg protectors to the ball and get as much of your body in front of the ball as possible.

At all costs, keep the ball in front of you

Here’s a good example of a catcher sliding to block a ball.

#2 Field and Throw

Fielding your position as a catcher is more than just catching pitches and throwing out would be base stealers. One of the hardest plays to make in baseball is when a catcher has to get their crouch, field a dribbler in front of the plate and make a throw to a base.

This drill can be done as part of team infield drills. As always, start the drill in a good catching position. Have a coach or teammate toss a ball out in front of the plate. You should jump out of your crouch, field the ball cleanly with you’re throwing hand and make a quick, accurate throw to each base. 

For 1st and 3rd base, practice making throws on both the inside and outside of the bag, verbally letting your teammate know which side of the bag you are throwing on. 

This is a skill that takes practice. You come across this situation most often in bunts which means 1 of 2 things: 

It is a sacrifice situation in which the other team is giving you an out. Take it! Take your time, field the ball and make a good throw and take the free out.

It’s a bunt for hit in which the runner is fast. You need to be quick here and make a good, strong, accurate throw.

#3 Popups Behind Home Plate

Fielding a popup behind home plate may be the hardest pop up to catch in the infield. There are so many variables to account for: get rid of the mask, locate the ball, locate the dugout or wall, read the ball flight correctly. This play may only happen once every few games, but it could end up being a big out.

As usual, begin the drill in your normal catching position. I encourage you to practice this drill with your mask on, so that you mimic what you will have to do in a game. Have someone else stand behind you and throw the ball high in the air, straight up. They should also yell ‘Up’ or something to let you know they have thrown the ball. 

Once the ball is in the air, the first thing you should do is remove your mask, keep it in your hand and try to locate the ball. I encourage you to keep the mask in your hand until you locate the ball so that you don’t drop it somewhere you need to run and trip over it. Once you locate the ball and determine its flight path, throw the mask out of your way and get in the best position to field the ball. Use two hands to catch and secure the ball as catching popups with a catcher’s mitt is difficult.

Now, the biggest thing to practice here is learning how popups straight in the air fly. This just takes practice and repetition.  The more you practice, the more confident you will be in determining the ball flight.

How to Throw A Curveball

How to Throw A Curveball

A curveball has the potential to be a huge weapon for pitchers. If thrown effectively, it can keep hitters on their toes and guessing. Many of the great pitchers in Major League Baseball have perfected their curveballs to know exactly when and where to throw them. However, all of this is easier said than done. Learning to throw one takes plenty of practice, but it is vital to have the fundamentals down to make this practice time worthwhile.

Grip

With a curveball, the grip is vital. This image to the right should be used as a baseline. First, notice the middle finger. It must feel some resistance from the seam in order for the curveball to get the tight rotation that makes it so deadly. Next, your thumb should be placed on the seam on the other side of the ball. The last key point is that the pinky finger shouldn’t be touching the ball. Holding the ball like this may take some time to get used to. I recommend you feel comfortable and knowledgeable of the grip before getting ready to throw.

Quick Tips: Proper Grip For Throwing A Curveball

Keep in mind there are other forms of curveballs, but this is the most basic. After you effectively have this one down, then you can begin experimenting with other grips. 

Decrease the Stride Length

After you feel comfortable with your grip and wrist being relaxed, it is time to alter some of your pitching mechanics. Many recommend that you shorten your stride length by a couple of inches. This will make it easier to come out high with the curveball. Once you come to the point where your foot strikes the ground, your elbow should at least be at the level of your shoulder. All of this becomes much easier when the stride length is shorter than what it is with a fastball.

Release

The release of a curveball is something that takes some time to learn as well. As you release the curveball, your hooked wrists allow your hand to pull down in the front. With this said, it is very important to release the ball closer to your body to avoid throwing a hanging curveball. A hanging curveball means improper mechanics were utilized and is usually a pitcher’s worst nightmare. The Ultimate Pitcher provides some great tips on the release portion of the curveball. “Snap your wrist and arm downward, letting the ball tumble out of your hand off of your middle finger if you’re using a beginners or knuckle curve. Your elbow should be at your belt buckle at the follow through position, and your back should be flat over your landing leg.”

How to Assemble a Lock-Down Bullpen

How to Assemble a Lock-Down Bullpen

Former Major Leaguer Dennis Eckersley once described the bullpen when he stated, “When I first came up, the bullpen was pretty much where they put the guys who couldn’t start.” While that might of have been how Eckersley thought of the pen, the truth is this description is not always the case. Yes, sometimes guys are tossed in the pen due to trouble pitching deep into games, but other times player’s skillsets are just designed for 1 or 2 innings at a time. In this article, I’ll look at the different pieces needed in a pen.

Quality of Starting Pitching

When examining a team’s bullpen, you need to first look at the starting pitching. If the starting pitching is horrible, chances are it can turn a good bullpen into a poor one. This is because when the starters only throw three or four innings each game, the bullpen starts having to throw more and more innings. As a result, their effectiveness falls due to fatigue and more runs cross the plate. Conversely, if a team has a starting rotation that can consistently pitch deep into games, the bullpen isn’t used as frequently. If this is the case, then the manager also has more flexibility in choosing who to put out on the mound in late-inning scenarios. Though starting pitching isn’t always a determining factor in the performance of a bullpen, it can definitely affect it.

Closer

On any particular baseball team, the closer can be an integral part of the success of the club. With this importance also comes the possibility to be a scapegoat because your job is to pitch one inning. For this reason, some baseball experts think closers are overrated due to the fact that they’re just pitching one inning, it just happens to be the potential final half-inning of the ballgame. As a result, some people encourage the use of closer-by-committee, which implements a few pitchers as possibilities for 9th inning duties. 

In terms of the player you’re looking for to be a closer, he or she should be a pitcher with dominant swing-and-miss stuff. While pitchers that pitch to contact can be effective as a closer, it often isn’t recommended among coaches. You also want a player that has thick skin, someone that won’t let one bad outing affect future performances. 

Check out this video on CoachTube about utilizing your fastball early and often to rack up the strikeouts as a closer.

Set-Up Man

With the set-up man, the name practically gives it away. The player holding this position pitches the 8th inning and attempts to hold the lead before handing the ball off to the closer. In a way, you could think of the set-up man as being the closer in-waiting. If the closer were to have a couple slip-ups, future save opportunities could be passed to the set-up man.

For a set-up, I recommend looking for similar qualities as your closer. If you’re lucky enough to have two relievers with closer-type stuff, then the 8th and 9th should be lockdown innings on most occasions. However, for most teams, the set-up man might not have the elite swing-and-miss pitches as the closer, but nonetheless is a reliable arm in the latter innings.

Left-Handed Specialist

Pitchers that are considered left-handed specialists are those that throw left-handed and come in to primarily face left-handed hitters. If needed, they can come in to potentially pitch an entire inning, but that is not generally their primary role. Over the years, statistics have proven the point that left-handed hitters generally have more trouble with left-handed pitchers. Part of this is due to how the curveball breaks. The unique aspect with left-handed specialists is that they generally come in to face just one batter in a late inning to preserve the lead. This position leaves little room for error and requires a pitcher that is a model of consistency. Due to the diminished role, managers need pitchers they can trust to deliver in the few pitches they throw on the mound.

Long-Relief

Remember that quote from Dennis Eckersley in the introduction? Well, it actually comes into play with long-relievers. Pitchers in the long-relief role are usually ones that intend to be a starting pitcher, but either due to a lack of talent or crowded rotation are forced to pitch out of the pen. Their main times on the mound are when the starter has to leave early, like in the 3rd through 5th inning. Whether this early departure is the result of ineffectiveness, injury or ejection, the long reliever comes in to mop up some innings and prevent the other relievers from wasting pitches on a possibly already lost game.

For pitchers in the long-relief role, I recommend using this opportunity as a chance to prove something to your coach. By pitching effectively over a few innings as a long reliever, coaches might begin to reevaluate whether you should be a starter. Additionally, long relievers usually come in when the starter isn’t getting the job done, so a spot in the rotation might be on the verge of opening up.

Middle-Relief

Middle relievers offer a few similarities to long relievers. They’re often going to be entering the game in the middle innings, from the fifth to the seventh. These relievers are also capable of throwing multiple innings, so they might have some starting experience in the past. The primary difference between middle and long relievers is the fact that games are still going to be relatively close when they enter the game. While they could come in as early as the fifth, there is a chance this entrance is just the result of a pitcher throwing too many pitches, rather than a blowout being in the making. Coaches looking for middle relievers should look for guys that have starting stuff. At the same time, the manager should have confidence that this player can pitch with a lead and maintain that differential as well. 

Group Unity

A good bullpen can help win games. This bullpen construction becomes much easier when you have the right players personality-wise and the talent in terms of pitchers for each role. This idea of ‘group unity’ defines a bullpen where every player knows their own designated role. You don’t want set-up pitchers that are hoping for the closer to hiccup just so they can steal the 9th inning role. It is ideal to have pitchers in place that feed off the energy of their teammates and are excited each time they get a chance to get on the mound, no matter the situation.

Great Bullpens Top-to-Bottom

Throughout history, there have been a few bullpens that single-handedly help get teams through the regular season and postseason. One in particular is the 2015 Kansas City Royals, who have utilized their pen to help follow up their 2014 American League pennant. Here is what their bullpen is comprised of:

Closer: Greg Holland – The 5-foot-10 closer has been one of the most elite stoppers during his time. The ERA’s over his previous four seasons read 1.80, 2.96, 1.21 and 1.44. At the same time, he’s proven the ability to strike out over a batter per inning.

Set-Up Man: Wade Davis – The set-up man on this Royals squad is actually a former starter, but has been much more effective out of the pen. When given the opportunity, Davis has proven he has the ability to get a save. Were the Royals to trade away Holland, Davis could easily take over.

Left-Handed Specialist: Franklin Morales – The Royals only have one lefty in the pen and that man happens to be Morales. Even though he can pitch to more batters, the depth of the Royals’ pen allows them to mainly pitch Morales to lefties.

Long-Relief: Chris Young and Kris Medlen – The long relievers include two former starters. Young has been in and out of the rotation and Medlen is coming off an injury. Both pitchers have the ability to be starters, but at the time, can’t crack the starting rotation.

Middle-Relief: Luke Hochevar, Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera – The unique part about the Royals pen is that all of these middle relievers have the stuff to be elite set-up men. Their strikeout numbers and low ERA’s warrant this recognition. Right now, they all take turns in pitching in tight games, from the 6th inning on.

Piece-by-Piece

The way I look at assembling a bullpen involves getting numerous pitchers in place. Just having a shut-down closer doesn’t mean much if the rest of the pen is weak. This is because the closer will never get in there in a save situation if the other guys are blowing the lead earlier. So, in essence, you must look at every piece and the personnel available before defining roles. Taking it on a piece-by-piece approach will get the pen to shut-down status quicker than going after one top closer.

How to Throw a Sinker

How to Throw a Sinker

Former Dodgers great Sandy Koufax said, “I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.” Although Koufax was known for his knee-buckling curveball, this quote applies perfectly to the art of a sinkerball. The sinker isn’t designed to be a major strikeout pitch. It doesn’t have the coolness factor of a 100mph fastball or a 12-6 curveball, but it does do one thing effectively: get hitters out.

Primary Use of the Sinker: Ground Balls

The sinker is effective because it consistently forces hitters to turn over on the ball and induce a ground ball. Keeping the ball on the ground in the infield provides a number of ways to record outs. For example, take a situation where there are runners on the corners with one out. If you want to get out of this jam without anyone crossing home plate, you have two strategies to work towards. If you possess a dominant strikeout pitch, then you can go for the strikeout and then attempt to get the final hitter out. However, not everyone has nasty strikeout pitches they can lean on in jams. In this case, you try to get the hitter to turn over into a ground ball double play. In essence, this is the core use for a sinker.

Understanding the Grip

The nice thing about the sinker is that it isn’t a difficult pitch to learn the grip and release for. In fact, you can start out with the same grip as the two-seamer. Helpful Baseball Drills Provides a terrific narrative on how to get this grip.

“Place your index and middle fingers over the seams where the seams are closest together. With the sinker you could try placing the index and middle fingers on the outside edge of the seams. And the thumb rests directly underneath these two fingers in the open area on the baseball.” The more pitches you learn how to throw, the more you’ll realize the importance of mastering the grips before even learning how to throw the pitch.

How to be a Smart Baserunner

How to be a Smart Baserunner

Base running has always served a major role in every baseball game. Coaches are consistently intrigued to have players on their roster with the speed necessary to change games. Anyone who has followed last year’s playoff run from the Kansas City Royals remembers outfielder Jarrod Dyson using the line, “That’s what speed does!” However, players must realize there’s more to it than just stealing bags.

Yes, stolen bases are intriguing to many, but you can still be an effective base runner without a ton of stolen bases.

 Know the Value of Your Run

Be Mindful of the Situation. No matter what level you’re playing at, it is vital for players to be aware of what is going on in the game. This includes the inning, score and place in the batting order. The base running strategy will vary depending on these characteristics, no matter how fast you are on the base paths. It doesn’t make much sense for a player to attempt a stolen base when their team is down by 5 runs in the 7th inning. This is because that player’s run isn’t very valuable. Yes, it will be needed to complete the comeback, but a stolen base alone isn’t always worth the risk. Not only could it take a runner off the bases and cost the team an out, but it can be mentally draining for a team. Teammates may have some hope after the leadoff single, only to be let down due to a mental error.

Home to First

The thing coaches always want to see in this route is hustle from their players.

Obviously, you can get down the path quicker if you’re a faster player, but there is no reason for a player to be doggin it. Immediately after contact, you must drive your back foot and get out of the box with pace. Only after this is done should you look where the ball is going and decide whether extra bases will be a possibility. Even if it’s a routine grounder to short, you never know when an error will occur. As a side note, on grounders in the infield, run through first base even when it may seem sliding will be quicker

First to Second 

Due to the distance between first and second, it often witnesses the most stolen bases because of the difficult throw it places on the catcher. However, knowing proper base stealing techniques is only part of the trick. Upon getting to first base, players need to get the signal from the third base coach and then prepare to lead off the base. A couple of useful tips include staying in an athletic position and keeping an eye on the pitcher the entire time. Don’t let the pitcher catch you day-dreaming and be a victim of an easy pickoff. Another critical concept is the secondary lead, also known as a shuffle. Try to take a second shuffle as the ball crosses the plate, thus allowing you momentum in case the ball is hit.

Improving a player

Improving a player's slugging average

A player with the strength to hit for the fences is something any coach lies awake at night hoping for. During those intense, close games in late innings, nothing is better than having your number one power batter step to the plate with a confident and determined look in his eyes.

While having a few power baters is not necessary to be a winning team, it certainly helps clinch a few of the tighter contests.

Developing a slugging average in young players can be tough because at this age many youth ball players typically grab the most comfortable bat…which is usually also the lightest bat. Sure, it’s easier at first to swing a light bat much faster than a heavy bat. But getting your players used to heavier lumber will likely improve your team’s overall performance.

Understanding the optimal bat weight for each player

Choosing the right bat is a top component to ensuring your player hits for the fences. However, it can also be the most difficult factor to determine.

According to research from Penn State University, optimal bat weight depends on the league in which the player competes. Hmm, well, what if there were a handy rule of thumb a coach could use? There is! Those great researchers at PSU have come up with just the equation: For junior leaguers aged 13 to 17 years, the bat weight in ounces is the player’s height divided by 3 plus 1.

Determining detailed weight

PSU researcher Terry Bahill even takes this general formula a step further in determining optimal power potential.

Along with his team, Bahill studied the relationship between bat weight and bat speed. His data reveal that players are not able to swing heavy bats as quickly as lighter ones, but the specifics vary considerably from player to player. The specific bat speed is also determined by the player’s abilities.

He determined that the measurement of bat speed among junior leaguers is made clear by a straight-line equation, also developed by the team at PSU. Now, this equation is for math geeks and maybe those who take finding the perfect bat weight a bit too seriously, so don’t be dismayed if you can’t capture the essence of this equation immediately.

This calculation assumes an average height and weight of the player, as well as an average pitch speed. Essentially, it is important to measure your player’s bat swing with a device like the Bat Chooser. This device is like a radar detector for your bat. Knowing your player’s bat speed with a given bat is a major factor in the equation.

Here’s what Terry writes: “[B]atted ball velocity initially increases as the bat weight increases until the bat swing speed drops below a certain level after which the batted velocity begins to decrease again.” The result is choosing a bat that allows your player to have the optimum bat swing.

So, only by looking at the more complicated calculation can make choosing the right bat weight complicated. However, the section “Understanding Bat Weight for Your Player” simplifies the equation. [this previous sentence is a bit clunky and awkward…rephrase.]

Calculating the specific optimal bat speed will never be easy without conducting a full-scale bat velocity test on your players. However, just follow the more straightforward equation of the bat weight (in ounces) of the player’s height divided by 3 plus 1. This will give each player on your team the best bat weight, in turn most likely leading to a better slugging average for each player and for your team as a whole.

The 8 Fundamentals of Pitching

The 8 Fundamentals of Pitching

If you don’t have a reliable arm on the mound, every game is going to be difficult to win.

You might not have ever been a pitcher, but that doesn’t mean you can’t coach the proper mechanics and techniques to help your hurlers improve and stay healthy.

Help your pitchers master these 8 fundamentals of pitching, and you’ll watch your team’s ERA drop and their confidence skyrocket.

 

Number 1: Grip

Let’s start with the basics: how a pitcher grips the ball can dictate accuracy, movement, and speed.

For most youth pitchers, you’re going to want to stay away from throwing curveballs, so start them off with a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball (which will give you more movement than the 4-seam) and some sort of a change up.

Remember: a grip doesn’t mean a squeeze. Your players should have a comfortable, strong grip, but they shouldn’t be getting a forearm workout in!

 

Number 2: Arm Angle

Let’s kill this misconception: there’s not one arm angle that’s perfect for every pitcher.What’s important to remember here is that each pitcher should have his own consistent and natural arm angle.

●Using a consistent arm angle allows players to better control and utilize their pitches. It’s simple: if they know how a “good pitch” feels and how the ball is going to move, they’ll turn into a better pitcher. If their arm angle is always changing, it will be much tougher for them to find consistency… and the strike zone.

●A natural arm angle is even more important. By changing how a kid is throwing, a lot of times you’re going to be putting him in more risk for an arm injury.

Not every pitcher throws the same way! There are may examples if you just watch any MLB game.

We can’t stress this enough:

Coaches, do NOT force arm angles to change!

Fix the other mechanics of a pitching motion, and allow the pitcher to throw the ball naturally.

 

Number 3: The Windup

Just like a batter’s stance, the most important aspect of a pitcher’s windup is comfort. If Hideo Nomo can be successful with his wild windup, you can be sure that there is no perfect windup.

Aside from comfort, there is one similarity that every successful windup has: balance.Even Nomo was balanced all the way through his windup. If you start off-balance, you’ll end off-balance. If you end off-balance, you’ll never be able to locate.

 

Number 4: The Pivot

As the windup concludes, the real pitching motion begins.

To finish the pitching motion properly, you have to start with a good, strong pivot. At the pivot, the back foot becomes parallel with the pitching rubber, and gives the pitcher a strong foundation off which to throw. The pivot should leave your pitcher in an athletic position, with his knees bent, and with his lead hip aimed towards the plate. His hands are still together, and he’s preparing to lift his leg to drive to the plate.

If your pitcher is throwing from the stretch, the pivot should be his first position after taking his sign.

 

Number 5: The Leg Lift

Now that your pitcher has prepared his grip and readied himself for the delivery, he can begin to drive toward the plate.

As the pitcher begins his leg lift, here are some key things to remember:

Keep the hips completely closed- The pitcher’s hip bone should be pointing to the plate. The body will follow the hip, and the ball will follow the body.

Lift the knee- The purpose of the knee lift is to generate force “behind the ball.” When lifting the knee, have the toe point down very slightly, but without flexing the calf.

Hands- Keep the hands in the middle of the body for optimal balance. If your pitcher is more advanced, his hands can drift towards his back leg slightly- giving him a little extra forces.

Eyes- Stay focused on the catcher’s mitt. Your head will help lead your body (and the ball) to the strike zone.

Stay balanced- You don’t want fall flat on your face, do you?

 

Number 6: The Stride

The stride is the most important fundamental in a pitching delivery. A good stride can give a pitcher extra velocity and better location, but a poor one will completely throw off a game plan.

Here are the basics:

Length- In general, the stride length should be about 80-90% of your pitcher’s height. Overextension will lead to bad timing and control problems, and underextension will lead to the ball staying up in the zone and a decrease in velocity.

Hands- The pitcher’s hands will come apart, with his throwing arm being extended back and his glove hand aimed towards the plate. 

Hips- The pitcher’s hips are still closed during the stride. As their front foot lands, the throwing motion will demand they the explode open, which will generate velocity.

Timing- The biggest problem most young pitchers will have is trying to “rush” through their delivery. Even through the stride, the upper body should remain in synch with the lower body- with the head in line with the belly button. 

 

Number 7: The Delivery

At the end of the stride, the pitcher’s front foot will land pointed in the direction of the catcher.

As he lands, his hips and his throwing arm will begin to open- forcing the core of the pitcher’s body to face towards the plate.

The back foot will follow the hips and the arm, causing the foot to come of of the ground around the time the pitch is released.

The glove hand should come into the body of the pitcher, allowing extra velocity and keeping the pitcher’s momentum going towards home plate.

Number 8: The Follow-through

A pitcher’s follow-through is important for velocity, control and for fielding his position. A great follow-through should continue the allow the pitcher’s arm to continue the path it took to release the ball, helping him “finish” over his knee.

Remember how we mentioned that the back foot will follow the hips and the arms and come off the ground? This helps during follow-through, because it allows the pitcher to land in a fielding position just in case a ball is hit back at him.

 

So what now?

Now that you’ve got the basics, check out this in-depth video course on pitching mechanics.

Continue to watch the masters of the craft in the MLB, and pay special attention to the pitcher’s mechanics during every pitch. You’ll start to notice that every pitch consists of these same fundamental elements.

Master the fundamentals. Master your pitch.

How to Throw a Deceiving Changeup

How to Throw a Deceiving Changeup

As a pitcher, one of your key responsibilities is to make the hitter feel uncomfortable at the plate. They shouldn’t step up there with the feeling that they can easily get a base hit. One way to achieve this is to work both sides of the plate. Another method is to utilize a variety of pitches. Possessing speed on your fastball is nice, but it is even better when matched with reliable off-speed pitches. These are what force a hitter to start guessing.

• The Purpose

 For years, the changeup has been one of the predominant off-speed weapons for pitchers. It should be thrown to look like a fastball, but actually come in slower as it approaches the plate. The key concept behind this is deception. In doing so, the hitter’s timing will be disrupted. As for the speed difference between the changeup and fastball, the changeup should be approximately 10-15 miles per hour slower than the fastball. While the purpose is to keep hitters off-balance, pitchers throw it in varying frequencies. Some pitchers rely heavily on it, while others will toss it out there at a 15% clip just to surprise hitters. It is entirely up to you when it comes to how comfortable you feel throwing it.

• The Grip

As with many pitches, there has been adaptation on how the changeup is thrown. Pitchers have consistently tinkered with the grip to something that they feel comfortable with. For beginners, I recommend using the 3-Finger Changeup. This is also best suited for younger pitchers, as it works well with individuals with smaller hands. The grip for this starts with the middle three fingers (ring, middle, and index) being placed on the top of the baseball. Then, your thumb and pinky should be directly underneath the baseball on the smooth leather. To get a better idea of how it should feel, the thumb and pinky should touch each other.

For more advanced pitchers, it might be time to try the circle changeup. Simply put, you’ll want to make a circle with your index finger and thumb. Once you have that set, then center the ball between the final three fingers and place it comfortably against the circle. The images below provide a nice example of how the circle change should look in your hands.

Step Up Your Outfield Defense With These Three Drills

Step Up Your Outfield Defense With These Three Drills

Your outfielders are your last line of defense. You'll rely on them to keep singles from turning into doubles, and doubles from turning into triples. Playing bounces correctly, making accurate relay throws, having high game-situation awareness and making routine catches are just a few of the things you'll need from your outfielders.

Use preseason training time to work on the basics so your team will develop the right habits.

On both the youth and high school levels, a fundamentally sound team wins a lot more often than they lose - even without an all-star player.

Here are three drills to work on with your outfielders:

1. Hard Charge Ground Balls and Crow Hop 

When the opponent dunks in a base hit, you need your outfielders to charge the ball and be ready to throw as quickly as possible - especially with men on base.

Start this drill with two players lined up about 20 yards apart. Have them chuck hard ground balls to each other and practice aggressively charging and fielding the baseball, making sure to get in front and get the ball low.

The next move is for the outfielder to make a quick hop onto his strong-arm side and stride forward with the other leg for a throw back to his partner. This is a crow hop throw, and is a quick way for your outfielders to get rid of the ball. Have the partners switch sides after about five throws, then have them practice throws to the left and right.

2. Drop Step Drill

Outfielders should never backpedal to chase down a fly ball, always take a drop step, turn and run.

First of all, most people don't run backwards very quickly, secondly a backpedaling player is more likely to trip than make a play. But for youngsters who haven't been taught, this will likely be a natural reaction to a hard hit ball their way. Instead, practice the drop step.

The first phase of this drill involves two players - one who is throwing "fly-balls," the other is tracking and catching. Standing about 10 yards apart, have the thrower point to the right or left, and the outfielder takes a small drop step in that direction. When the fly ball goes up, the outfielder either runs and chases the ball down or gets behind it to make the catch.

Have your outfielders practice this over each shoulder multiple times so they can get used to drop stepping in either direction. To take this drill to the next level, hit some line drives at them.

8 Baseball Drills Every Player Should Practice

8 Baseball Drills Every Player Should Practice

The old saying that “defense wins championships” doesn’t just apply to the gridiron. Last year, the Houston Astros led the MLB in Defensive Wins Above Replacement. Not surprisingly, they made it all the way to the World Series. Your team isn’t playing in front of thousands, but the games are still important. In big games, every play counts, and your infielders have to be able to field their position. Defensive excellence starts in practice, and here are 5 tips to get your infield ready for the big game.

1: Game Speed Matters

If you practice with low energy, you’ll play with low energy. As a coach, the level of intensity starts with you. Are we saying that you need to scream when your second baseman boots a two-hopper? Of course not, but fielding routine ground balls every day never helped anyone. Add a little “umph” on those grounders and give your fielders a challenge.  What’s the most important fielding drill you can practice with your players? Making them play each practice ground ball like a game ground ball.

2: Work The Backhand

 It’s simple: the ability to field a ball backhanded allows a player to quickly get to more balls. Keep an eye on how many balls your infield boots next practice. I’d bet that most of them were hit to the backhand. If you don’t practice it, your players will never make the backhanded play. It takes flexibility and a weight-shift that’s unique in the game. When your shortstop can go to his right, backhand a ball, and make the throw, that’s when you know your infield is clicking.

How To Become An Elite Defensive Outfielder

How To Become An Elite Defensive Outfielder

In baseball, especially youth baseball, the outfield is the position where most coaches place a player they want to hide from the action so as to not cause a weakness for the team. As you progress through your baseball career you will find that becoming an elite defensive outfielder makes you invaluable to your team. Mookie Betts has made many heads turn over the past few years with his excellent play in Right Field, with many GM’s and scouts believing he can secure a contract of over $150M despite having average offensive numbers. Here are some key principles to becoming an elite defensive outfielder.

1. Run On Your Toes

 Run On Your Toes, Not Your Heels

This is a principle I cannot stress enough. If you are going to become an elite defensive outfielder there are plenty of times when you are going to need to get on your horse and go get a ball deep in the gap. As you run down a ball in the gap your coaches will teach you to always keep an eye on the ball as you track it into your glove. Many times when I was younger I would run a long way to get a fly ball and be right there to catch it only to have it deflect off the side of my glove. The problem was that I was running on my heels.

When you run on your heels, your eyes can’t stay steady and the ball tends to bounce in your vision. If you are landing on your heel right as the ball gets to your glove, the ball will bounce in your vision and increase the potential for a misplay.

Practice running on your toes when you go to get the ball in the gap or anytime you are running in general. This allows you to steadily track the ball into your glove. Players like Mike Trout, Alex Gordon, Mookie Betts and Adam Duvall are great at running on their toes and make it look like they are gliding to the ball.

2. Develop A Feared Arm

 Develop A Feared Arm

Every pregame fielding routine for an outfielder ends with the same throw; catch a fly ball and fire it home on a rope to catch a guy trying to tag from 3rd. When the opposing team is in the field, you are watching each outfielder to know which one you can try to take the extra base on and which one you know to hold up and not risk being thrown out.

Developing a feared arm takes more than just arm strength. Flexibility and conditioning play a major role as well. Every day you should be doing shoulder and elbow stretches and exercises so that your arm stays healthy. Long toss is your friend. Spend the extra 10-15 minutes warming up each day and extend your range and be sure that you are completely warmed up before trying to launch a ball from the wall.

5 Tips For Crushing A Curveball

5 Tips For Crushing A Curveball

How To Hit A Curveball

There goes the old saying that when life throws you a curveball, hit it out of the park. However, as easy as that sounds, hitting a curveball is one of the toughest tasks that every batter will face over the course of the game. The movement on a curveball differs from pitcher to pitcher.  The way the pitcher grips the ball, and their delivery of the pitch has an effect on the trajectory, and the aerodynamics on the way to the plate. The 12-to-6 curve is one of the most common curveballs fans are familiar with, which references the vertical movement from starting high and ending low. Another breaking pitch is the 11-to-5 curve, which entails more horizontal movement but not as much as vertical. There are also curveballs called “slurvy” curves, or sliders, that do not have much vertical movement, but have a strong amount of horizontal movement. One of the hottest pitchers right now who throws a nasty 12-to-6 curve is Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zach Greinke, who has completely left batters stone cold and motionless at the plate. One memorable at bat came against White Sox second-baseman Yomer Sanchez, where he threw his 65mph eephus curveball, which is defined as a very low-speed junk ball. The end result was Sanchez completing his swing before the pitch even got there. Click here to watch to admire this devastating and demoralizing pitch.

Do you want to become the next person who looks as lost as Yomer Sanchez at the plate against someone who has an outstanding curveball? I doubt anyone wants to look like a fool at the plate and this is why I have produced my top 5 steps of hitting a curveball.

1. Study the pitcher: While he is throwing in-game, or in the bullpen, analyze the pitcher’s movements in his windup. See if the pitcher changes up his release points depending on the pitch he is throwing. It is essential to find out if there are any potential tells in his windup of when he will throw a curveball. For example, a twitch in the glove or an adjustment in the windup. Every advantage will count because batters have under a second to determine the pitch, whether the pitch is a ball or strike, and the speed of the pitch. Watch the pitchers arm and observe whether or not it snaps downward, this is an indication a curveball.

LEGENDS FOR YOUTH INCLUSION BASEBALL CLINIC

LEGENDS FOR YOUTH INCLUSION BASEBALL CLINIC

  • By Phil
  • 2016-04-21

Last week hundreds of families and MLB, NFL, and NBA legends came out to join CTX Ability Sports and MLB Players Alumni for their Inclusion Baseball Clinic in Pflugerville, TX. Every year this event gives kids with all abilities the opportunity to get out on the field, learn life lessons, and have fun.

It was incredible to participate and witness the joy of sports this program gives to children who wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience. This is something that we at CoachTube believe in whole-heartedly, and we were proud to help capture the amazing things CTXAS and their partners are doing to promote inclusion in sports.

Watch this video to see for yourself!

Fourteen Ways To Turn A .300 Hitter Into A .210 Hitter

Fourteen Ways To Turn A .300 Hitter Into A .210 Hitter

Here are a few tips that can help pitchers throw more strikes in those big games:

Utilize records, data and video from previous games to better understand the hitters you will be up against and learn how best to pitch to certain batters. For instance, if the hitter likes to extend on the ball, it makes sense to pitch to him inside. Similarly, if a hitter has trouble with a fastball, the pitcher may want to rely on this basic pitch.

Diversify your pitches. Pitchers can benefit from mastering four or five pitches. While this is not a physically easy task, having a variety of pitches can keep batters guessing and consequently off balance.

Throw more strikes. Throwing strikes is very important. In addition, focusing on throwing strikes can help to remove mental clutter from the pitcher’s mind and can help to simplify the task at hand for many pitchers.

Stay ahead of the hitter. At the major league level, staying ahead of the hitter can actually turn at .300 hitter into a .210 hitter as found by the sports statistical researchers at Carlton Chin. This ninety-point swing can be a huge advantage for the hurler. Pitchers need to have an appreciation of this simple mathematical fact.

Build relationships. Pitchers need to have a good working relationship with their pitching coach, their head coach and their catcher.

Develop a positive self-talk. A Pitcher needs to know what kind of self-talk allows them to “enter the zone” on the mound. It is all about how you communicate and drive yourself when it comes to getting positive outcomes.

Clear your mind. Some pitchers benefit from knowing how to empty their minds of all distractions before each and every pitch. This empty mind helps them to allow their athleticism and years of training to take over when they are on the pitching mound.

Visualize your target. Some pitchers think in terms of hitting the catcher’s mitt. Others try to hit portions of the plate. Pitchers need to choose a target that gives them the right amount of focus, without creating too much anxiety for them. The right target can very from pitcher to pitcher.

Disrupt the hitter’s timing. While location of pitches is very important, pitchers need to remember that good pitching is also about disrupting the hitter’s timing. Varying speeds can be a very useful skill for baseball hurlers.

Limit self-inflicted pressure. Some pitchers put too much pressure on themselves by forgetting that they have teammates on the field that can help them win games. A ground out or fly out is as good as strikeout much of the time in baseball.

Focus on one thing. Some baseball hurlers do well by focusing on a simple part of their mechanics. For example, a pitcher might focus on the follow through or their leg maneuvers. Another pitcher might repeat a short phrase to himself like “easy does it.” Find what works for you to simplify your pitch.

Develop a pre-pitch routine. Having a consistent pre-pitch routing helps many pitchers to perform well.

Find your pitching habit. Knowing the pace that you like to pitch at is also important. Some pitchers like to work rapidly. Others need more time between each pitch. Pitchers who are struggling may want to adjust their pace of pitching accordingly. Experiment with less time or more time and see what works best.

Focus your mind with mental training exercises. Pitchers can benefit from mental toughness training to show them how to be relaxed, confident, focused and resilient when the pressure is on. Hypnosis, visualization and meditation can help pitchers to maintain the right mindset in the dugout, in the bullpen and on the mound.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, author and founder of www.StayInTheZone.com

Learn more about how you can start pitch in the zone in Dr. Granat’s full course on CoachTube:How To Throw More Strikes With Sport Psychology & Self-Hypnosis

How To Become The Ideal Leadoff Man

How To Become The Ideal Leadoff Man

Simply put, you can’t describe a leadoff man with just one skill. Analysts

will typically say they prefer certain attributes, but the truth is they

need to possess a little bit of everything. Legendary leadoff man Kenny

Lofton once said, “You can’t put your shoes on without your socks.

Everything works together – shoes, socks, pants and shirts. If one is

missing, you’re in trouble.” This analogy is referring to the varying

skillsets needed to effectively be the man at the top.

Understanding The Shift

Understanding The Shift

Baseball is a constant game of adjustments. In the 1940’s, Ted Williams

essentially forced opposing managers to enact a shift because it was the

only way to slow him down. It worked for a little while until the Red Sox

slugger made an adjustment to hit more to the opposite field. This is just

one of many examples on how teams have implemented the shift to

serve as an adjustment to get more hitters out.

Basic Positioning

In terms of the actual positioning, we have seen more varieties arise in

recent years. However, for the sake of this article, I’ll give the most

general one that’s been used. Here is how it looks: The third baseman

will move over to where the shortstop normally is. The shortstop will

slide over to the right of second base. Meanwhile, the second baseman

will move back into the grass and in-between second and first. The first

baseman will slide over closer to the line. As for the outfield, the right

fielder can get closer to the line and the center fielder will move into

right-center. This is the most commonly used shift, but it is still

important to gauge the hitting abilities of the player at the plate and

adjust appropriately.

Advantages of Using the Shift on Defense

Before even starting this section, I want to make it clear that merely

shifting a lot is not always an effective strategy. There is a substantial

difference between shifting a lot and shifting effectively (recording

outs). For younger levels, it might be hard to determine when to shift. If

it’s a team you’ve played before or one that you can watch the opposing

players take batting practice, then this might be a little easier. However,

there are plenty of advantages that can arise from implementing a shift.

The most prevalent one is limiting a hitter’s ability to pull the ball.

Obviously, baseball players love to pull the ball to nab extra base hits. It

is much more difficult to be a consistent opposite field hitter. In fact,

we’ve even seen some players dominate throughout the minors only to

struggle in the majors once managers start shifting against them. The

shift also benefits pitchers. When there defense is aligned appropriately,

they can limit hits against them and basically have to throw less pitches,

thus allowing them to go deeper into the game. In addition, they can

focus solely on the inner half of the plate to force the hitter to pull it.

These are two of the primary advantages that can be brought about by

shifting effectively.