July 16, 2013
MIAMI, Fla. — Practicing to throw in game-like drills has long been needed in baseball to allow players to maximize their throwing skills.
The typical practice routine involves two players throwing the ball back and forth in order to build up arm strength and develop some degree of accuracy and quickness. However, the game requires wide variety of throws, few of which are found in just playing catch.
At the Major League level, teams rarely take “infield” anymore, and as one longtime Major League coach confided in me, “I can’t find four guys who want to.”
This has led to a decreased level of throwing skill. It is my opinion that players do not want to re-warm their arms when batting practice has been completed for both teams, and therefore are inclined to skip infield drill.
Starting in the early ‘80s our teams started to take infield immediately after warming up, and before batting practice at home games.
The advantages of having a freshly maintained field and the players properly warmed up were obvious.
No longer did the players have to be alerted to prepare for “infield in a few minutes” and rush to warm up their arms, sometimes insufficiently. Injured arms were often the result.
I would like to propose a series of throwing drills that involve the use of a various sized square formations, each providing a chance to practice game-related options. Groups of four in square formation can be set up near each foul line.
Getting sufficient repetitions is the basis for all acquired skills and throwing is no exception. Start out slow before picking up the tempo. Insist on proper footwork and arm action.
Four players form the corners of a square 20 feet apart and execute short throws in a clockwise, counter clockwise and diagonal direction.
The two types of throws are the underhand toss and the arm side “flip” where the player extends his arm while pronating (thumb down).
The coach can call out clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal or allow player options.
Reminders: The underhand toss should be executed with a firm wrist extended directly at the receiver’s chest.
The arm side extension is best executed when the fingers also extend to the receiver’s chest. Both types of throws should be completed with a walking follow through.
Four players form the corners of a square 60 feet apart and execute overhand throws, also in a clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal and player optional direction.
The emphasis at this distance is quickness.
Proper footwork will almost automatically occur, something that is missing in just “playing catch.”
Catch ball close to body. Don’t get quick until you secure the catch.
The enlarged square give the players a chance to stretch out their arms in the same directions as the smaller squares and will make the 90-foot infield dimensions seem easier.
This regulation distance is a test for the effectiveness of the other drills.
Coaches may want to use a stopwatch to objectively measure how much improvement is taking place.
Drills afford increased opportunities for needed repetitions. Footwork will come naturally with an occasional reminder from the coach.
Use all four drills each day or place emphasis on one or more. Skills are difficult to store and should be reviewed often.
The square formations provide an efficient method to duplicate game-like throwing challenges.
They are particularly effective for infielders and catchers, but pitchers and outfielders can also benefit.
(This story is part of an ongoing Summer Instructional Series Collegiate Baseball newspaper will be running in July and August. Please check back for more great ideas on playing baseball from top coaches and players. To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.)