Baseball drills are a great way to improve your skills as a baseball player. If you’re new to the sport, start with these simple batting and fielding drills that will help you develop a solid foundation for high-level play.
Once you’ve mastered those, move on to some more advanced pitching and throwing drills. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when playing after just one week of focused training!
What are the Baseball Drills?
In baseball, drills can be classified as batting drills, fielding drills, pitching drills, or throwing drills. More than that, there are different types of drills you can do to improve your team’s skills and synergy.
Let’s discuss these:
- The First Baseman Pick Drill
- The Aggressive Turn Shuffle Drill
- The Down Angle Drill
- The Work-Up Drill
- The Timed Base Run Drill
- The Two Ball Game Drill
- The Itchy Jones Drill
- The Lean, Look, & Stutter Drill
- The Relay Drill
- The Fence Drill
Baseball: The Relay Drill
The philosophy behind the Relay Drill is to improve teamwork and communication, build trust between players and coaches, and tighten up fielding fundamentals.
This drill can be used by coaches to highlight defensive skills such as relays, cutoff throws, and backing up bases. There are many variations on the Relay Drill including having two balls available for throwing (one in the infield and one near the outfield), however the basic premise is always the same:
There are three players involved in every play:
1) The first base runner is the lead runner, the second base runner is the trail runner and third base is a cutoff.
2) The fielder catches or picks up a ball in no particular order.
3) One of the three players makes a relay throw to get one of the runners out.
When it’s time to make a relay throw, the fielder must yell “I’m going” or “Incoming”.
This lets the rest of the runners know that a relay is coming.
An added benefit to this drill is that it gets players out of their comfort zones and forces them to think on their feet. Players may find themselves surprised by how difficult it can be to think clearly when they are under pressure. This drill can also be used to focus on the best defensive positioning for each runner.
The Relay Drill is an excellent way to improve teamwork, communication, build trust between players and coaches, tighten up fielding fundamentals, get players out of their comfort zone and force them to think on their feet.
Baseball: The Fence Drill
The Fence Drill is a two-player drill that incorporates multiple infield and outfield skills to help players work together.
It’s called the Fence Drill because the object of the play for both defenders is to throw behind a runner at first base who gets a good jump from third base. The actual number of runners you use in the drill will determine what the drill is called.
For example, a drill using one runner would be called the Single Runner Drill or One-Runner Fence Drill, while a two-runner exercise is the Double Fence Drill or Two-Runner Fence Drill.
The catching and throwing skills used in this drill will help you work on different aspects of your team’s defense. For example, if you’re having trouble with balls hit to the right side of your infield, this drill can help. You can also use it to work on back-up and feed throws and anything else that may come up during a game or baseball practice.
When you perform the drill, remember not to keep score. It should be more about 2-players working together to get one runner out.
1) Put runners on first and third base with two outs. The Fence Drill begins when the pitcher delivers the pitch.
2) When a player catches a ball, he makes an underhand toss back to his partner at second base who then tags the bag before the runner gets back.
3) The drill requires a lot of communication between the players, so make sure they know what’s going on before you get started.
4) If you have more than two runners, you could add another at second base or run a line drive through the middle that both players will try to cut off and throw to one another.
5) When you’re done, have the players race each other to see who can throw their runners out the fastest.
Baseball: The First Baseman Pick Drill
The first baseman pick drill is a great warm-up exercise to do before hitting. It can be done before taking batting practice or during pregame hitting drills to get the hands working.
- The first baseman pick drill takes place at home plate with two players about fifteen feet apart (or further if needed) and facing each other. The players hold their gloves up, facing each other. The players should be close enough so they can touch their glove tips together.
- The first player will throw the ball to his partner who has to catch the ball cleanly in the glove before it hits the ground. This is much like a game of pepper or toss-and-catch. The fielder throws the ball directly at the receiver to make it challenging.
- The fielder may also throw overhand or underhand to make it more difficult. After a few throws, switch positions with your partner and let them try catching the ball cleanly in their glove. Once they’ve got that down, mix up throwing different speeds of pitches at their glove.
- This drill works on the hands and the fielder’s reactions. Quick hands and good reaction time will allow you to make more plays in a game.
You can also add fielding grounders while having someone stand on first base. Make sure to give them plenty of room for this option, or they’ll get hit by a bad throw!
Baseball: The Aggressive Turn Shuffle Drill
The Shuffle Drill is a popular drill used to increase practice time devoted to base running. The drill consists of short relays involving anywhere between three and six players (the number of runners on base).
- Players must make it back to their original starting position before the next player begins his sprint. If they fail to do so, they are out. While this is a competition, it should be run at half speed to get the players accustomed to executing base running moves while fatigued.
- Variations of the Shuffle Drill include having runners steal on the move or leading off during their leg of the drill. The latter serves as excellent practice for leadoff in live game situations.
- The Aggressive Turn Shuffle Drill is a variation of the standard Shuffle Drill. Like its predecessor, it is designed to increase practice time devoted to base running and provides an additional opportunity for players to practice trailing runners’ leads.
- The drill begins with two runners on second and third bases. On the coach’s signal, the first runner sprints towards home plate. As he nears third base, the second runner breaks for second base. The first runner then touches third base and immediately turns towards second base. Once the lead runner reaches the next station, the drill restarts with another player leading off to home plate.
- Variations of this drill can include stealing bases while leading off or having runners break towards second before the lead runner reaches third base.
As with all base running drills, it is important to stress proper technique. Specifically, runners need to execute good secondary leads and turn their shoulders towards the next station as soon as they make contact with the previous one. This ensures that players can reach top speed at every station.
It is also important to stress the importance of leading off correctly, regardless of which position they are playing in the drill. If runners fail to execute good leads, they will not be able to utilize their speed once they begin turning towards the next base. This can severely limit how much ground they can cover while executing this shuffle drill.
Baseball: The Down Angle Drill
The Down Angle Drill is a Fundamental that teaches the pitcher to pick up his target at the foot plant by not lifting his head.
- For pitchers, there are certain fundamentals involved in throwing a ball for strikes. These fundamentals would include everything from arm slots to balance points while on the rubber. One of these fundamentals is what I will be discussing today, the Down Angle Drill.
- This pitching fundamentals teaches the pitcher to pick up his target at the foot plant by not lifting his head. It also helps to prevent many of the negative habits that pitchers create while throwing a ball, such as pulling off or rushing their throw, etc.
- This is almost always due to looking at the target too early in the throwing motion. Many times pitchers try to look at the target as they begin their leg lift and before they plant their back foot on the rubber. This is wrong, for several reasons.
- First of all, if you are trying to pick up your target with your eyes through your entire throwing motion, you are not concentrating on your balance point over the rubber. If you’re trying to pick up your target with your eyes, you will probably not be looking at the right spot to hit on the catcher’s glove and will miss the target.
- Instead of concentrating on a good balance point over the rubber, many pitchers instead try to lift their heads before planting their back foot on the rubber. This causes them to rush and pull off the rubber and miss the target. Instead, you should concentrate on getting a good balance point over the rubber, which will allow you to pick up your target with your eyes as soon as possible after the foot plant.
- To do this drill correctly, you must never lift your head until after your front foot has been planted and after your shoulders have started rotating towards the target. After this, you can then pick up your spot on the catcher’s glove with your eyes.
This should be done in a pitching motion where you are releasing the ball from a height above the catcher’s knees. Do not try this drill unless you are throwing the ball from at least a few feet above the catcher’s knees.
Baseball: The Work-Up Drill
The Work-Up Drill is designed to give players an idea of how far apart they are on the field – or more importantly, how much you have just “lost” on the field.
- The Work-Up Drill involves four players standing in a line at home plate and one player at second base with a ball. The coach hits the ball straight towards the player at second base, who plays it as he would in a normal game.
- As the play progresses, the players at home plate call out their location to the player fielding the ball. They should accurately identify themselves as “in front” or “behind” based upon how far from second base they are standing.
- The coach should hit enough grounders so that each player at home plate has an opportunity to field a grounder. As the players practice, words like “short”, “medium”, and “long” should replace the phrases of “in front” or “behind.”
- The Work-Up Drill is designed to not only familiarize players with their location on the field but also to get them to move quickly and be enthusiastic about moving to any ball hit in their direction.
The Work-Up Drill is a great drill for the beginning of practice or when you have several players out sick or on vacation. It can also be a good “game” at the end of a long, hot day!
Baseball: The Timed Base Run Drill
The Timed Base Run Drill has many variations, but today’s example concerns base running in baseball.
- The drill begins at the start of the game (before any pitches are thrown). Place runners at first and second bases with 1 out. The runner on first makes a maximum effort to steal third base. The runner on second is an average runner; he waits for the throw from left field and then tries to score. The coach or manager (C) stands on third base as a “rabbit”.
- The pitcher (P) throws over to first base, then pivots and runs to cover third base. Ask the runner at second base whether he can make it home without breaking stride; if not, place a coach at the plate. The pitcher retreats to cover third base, and after a maximum of 5 seconds, fires home.
- If the runner breaks stride on his way to third base, he is out; if not, the C blocks the plate and makes the tag. If there is no catcher (i.e., everyone gets a turn at bat), the pitcher is awarded a save.
- With this drill, the coach should vary the pace of the pitcher’s charge home. If he goes too slowly, runners will break stride and get thrown out. If his run is too fast, many more runners will score before being tagged. The right speed can be learned only through practice.
The drill runs for a predetermined number of innings or a set time period.
Baseball: The Two Ball Game Drill
This drill is designed to focus on hands, eyes and footwork.
- The pitcher throws a baseball with a partner standing behind him. He must catch the ball without watching it into his glove and then return the ball as soon as possible to his partner.
- After he makes four or five successful throws, another outfielder takes over from the pitcher’s position. The second outfielder must also catch the ball without watching it into his glove and then return the ball as soon as possible to his pitcher.
- The roles of each fielder change several times until all players have had an opportunity to field balls without watching them into their gloves. After this, the drill is repeated with only one player fielding.
Three outfielders are used in this variation. In the final phase of the drill, each outfielder fields a ground ball with eyes on the ball until it reaches his glove and then turns to complete a relay back to home plate.
Baseball: The Itchy Jones Drill
The Itchy Jones Drill is a great drill that works on throwing mechanics to develop an accurate overhand throw.
I have used this in my career to build accuracy in pitchers during the early season when they are just trying to get loose by playing catch, pre-practice warm-ups, or even when working with older players who are struggling with their release points.
It also is a great activity for younger players who have issues throwing strikes during batting practice. I have had parents tell me they have noticed the difference in their kids accuracy after just one session of working on this drill.
Take a square section of dirt or an area about 10ft by 10ft and draw two lines from the corners of the square that extend into a circle with a radius of 5ft.
These circles represent throwing lanes for each infielder and basemen, representing an area they must get to when receiving a throw.
How It Works:
Have the players get in their fielding positions inside their respective circles, making sure to face towards home plate.
- The coach should be between the third base circle and home.
- For an overhand throw, the arm starts past the hip with the palm down.
- From this position, roll onto your thumb (as if turning a doorknob) while pointing your index finger at the target you are throwing to. The other three fingers act as guides to keep the arm in the correct position.
- The arm then comes up to shoulder level, with your palm facing towards home plate.
- The elbow stays at a right angle during the throw and it is important for players not to “chicken-wing” their throwing hand when throwing. This means their forearms should stay perpendicular to their upper arms through the release of the ball.
- The entire throwing motion is powered by the legs and hips, not just using arm strength.
- To help kids coordinate this motion, I tell them to imagine they are slapping the bottom of an imaginary bucket with their throwing hand as they bring it forward towards home plate. Kids love this analogy and it really helps them feel what they are trying to do.
Once players have mastered level one, you can increase the distance between them and home plate, or add an element of defense by having infielders wave a glove at the coach while fielding his throws. This will encourage kids to learn how to get on top of their throws to really challenge the infielder’s range.
Baseball: The Lean, Look, & Stutter Drill
There are many base running drills that simulate game-like conditions, but not every drill prepares the athlete for the exact scenario they are about to face. One such drill is the Lean, Look and Stutter Drill.
- This drill teaches base runners to slow down when approaching a base and gives them the ability to read and react to defenders on the field of play. It also helps runners maintain their balance after slowing themselves down so they can explode off of the next base if they’ve judged things correctly.
- This drill is best done on a fairly long stretch of outfield. It can be used to help teach base runners about both stealing and leading off bases, but the main focus here will be slowing down around the bag. One player should stand in center field while another starts at one of the lines that runs through second base.
- The runner should start at a jog speed, then once they are about halfway between the starting line and second base the outfielder should yell “slow down.” The runner must react by slowing their pace significantly. After stepping off for a moment to read the outfielders actions, the runner should attempt to explode back up to full speed in order to reach third base before being tagged out.
- A great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on the outfielder in this drill, as they are the ones that will determine what happens next for the runner. The outfielder should never attempt to throw a player out without giving them a legitimate opportunity to read and react to their play. If an outfielder yells “slow down” only to then throw the ball into second base, they are just hurting the drill for everyone.
- The outfielder needs to yell “slow down” and then judge whether or not the runner is slowing his pace enough before throwing the ball. One way they can help control this is by teaching players that if their foot comes off of the bag in an attempt to start a quick throw, the runner is not slowing down enough.
- The outfielder should always yell “slow down” loud enough for the player on third base to hear them clearly. This will allow the catcher and pitcher to understand what’s going on as well. If a fielder comes out empty handed from this drill every time, they are not giving their teammate on third base enough time to react.
- The outfielder should lay out for any ball they think the runner might be able to beat them with a jump, but never throw someone out without first giving them a legitimate chance at slowing down. If you are working on leading off, have players try to steal on the outfielders as well. The drill can be run the other way around as well, with players starting at third base and starting in full sprint before coming to a complete stop when the outfielder yells “slow down.”
This drill is incredibly important for younger players because it gives them experience at slowing themselves down without coming to an absolute standstill. The main focus of this drill should be about maintaining a good enough balance after slowing down in order to explode back up to full speed.
If you are a baseball player and are looking for ways to improve your game, drills are an excellent way of doing so. By practicing base running and fielding in a good environment that mimics realistic situations, players can learn how to react under pressure while using their body more efficiently.