TIPS AND DRILLS

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PEPPER GAMES

Pepper games are very beneficial to development from both offensive and defensive standpoints, yet are often undervalued. Players tend to simply go through the motions when playing pepper.

Like any drill, if this drill is not done properly you will not get the most out of it. The drill works best with 4 players; three fielders and one hitter. The hitter focuses on these keys:

o Use a short, direct path to the ball.
o Hit the ball squarely.
o Control the bat.

The fielders focus on these keys:

o Catch the ball in a proper fielding position.
o Move the feet correctly before throwing.
o Throw accurately.

The hitter lays his glove down as a home plate, and the three fielders stand 10 to 20 feet in front of him.

Players use one ball. The fielders are expected to field the ball cleanly and throw a strike to the hitter. The hitter chokes up on the bat. He works on handling the bat, putting the barrel on the ball, and squaring it up. (The hitter is essentially preparing to gear back and hit with two strikes in a game--but still make solid contact). The hitter tries to hit the ball to each fielder in order from left to right on one hop.

Fielders must work on proper fielding techniques, or the drill is a waste of time. They field the ball properly, bringing it up to the center of their body while they are pivoting towards their target. They must move their feet and turn their glove side shoulder so that it is pointing at their target. From this short distance they are expected to be able to throw a strike to the hitter.

Everyone wants to hit. The hitter gives up his position when any of the following occurs:

o The hitter swings and misses.
o The hitter hits a second foul tip, provided the fielder has thrown a strike.
o The fielder catches a line drive.

When giving up his position, the hitter moves to the far right fielding position and the fielder on the far left becomes the hitter. If a fielder catches a line drive he will become the hitter and the hitter will still go to the far right fielding position.

A fielder can lose his position, as well. If a fielder makes an error he moves to the far right fielding position.

This game will sharpen the hitting and fielding skills of your players. The friendly competition helps players bond as they improve their skills.

I like this drill before games and also for practices. There is no reason for any players to be standing around when they could be playing pepper.                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                         

FLY BALL COMMUNICATION 

Purpose of Drill: To work on player communication and confidence on fly balls and pop-ups.

Setup: Need a minimum of three players. One player will play 2nd base, one player in short center field, and one player in short right field. A coach will stand just behind the mound, facing his players.

Procedure: The coach will throw a baseball high in the air, in the middle of his 3 fielders. All three fielders will go for the catch. The fielders will have to get used to calling for the ball. One word "ball" is what I would suggest, to avoid confusion.

Coaching Points: Teach your players the priority of who makes the catch. The player coming in always has the play, if he can get there first. The center fielder has the play before the right fielder. If it is a tie to the ball, and the right fielder is a right handed thrower, the center fielder may let the right fielder catch the ball if a throw is needed.

NOTE: I coach my infielders to go after every ball hit over their head, as hard as they can go. It is their play to make unless, or until, an outfielder calls for the ball. If they are called off of the play, they angle away to avoid contact. However they do not give up on the play. They will be the player that runs down the baseball if it gets by both outfielders.

If the ball is hit deep, over the outfielder's head, the infielder will be in position to be the first cutoff.

VARIATIONS: If you have more players available, you can have two, or more, at each position. Just make sure that the players, not in the play, stay away from the three players involved.

Another option would be to set up another set of players on the left field side. Use a shortstop, left fielder, and a center fielder. You could have another coach do the throwing on this side.

If you have, only four players available, you could have a shortstop when working on the right side. You could have throws come in to 2nd base.

ANOTHER NOTE: To save strain on your throwing arm you could use tennis balls and a tennis racket. This adds another element to the drill. Tennis balls are harder to catch because they tend to bounce out of the glove. This teaches more concentration by the fielders.