This is an excerpt from Youth Baseball Drills by Peter Caliendo.
The skill of throwing and catching a baseball is difficult for young players to accomplish. Many players have a fear of the ball, which is a natural thought process, and after they get hit by the ball, the fear may become even more real. One thing that coaches can say to ruin their credibility with young players is, "Come on. That ball doesn’t hurt." If I were a young player, I would ask the coach whether I could throw the ball at him to see whether it hurts. At the same time, to have confidence in their ability to throw and catch a baseball, players have to become confident in their technique first.
Glove Care and Size
As for receiving the baseball, we need to make sure that players do a few things technique wise to build their confidence. First, the player’s glove is extremely important. It is not about how much a glove costs; it’s about how it is broken in and maintained throughout the year. Many of us, including me, were taught to break in a glove by putting a baseball in it, tying a string around it, and keeping it like that in the off-season. The problem is that the glove forms into a closed position, and a young player may not be able to open it up with his hand. So instead of breaking in the glove the old way, players should try a new way. They should turn the glove inside out and leave it like that when they do not use it. Players should not use a big glove because then they just reach out and hope that the ball lands in it. You want young players to have a small glove that forces them to use two hands. They can get the ball out easier, and they have to move to the baseball with their feet rather than reach out with an oversized glove.
Many young players have to grip the ball with three fingers across the seam or even four because their hands are too small to hold the ball properly. The Japanese have gone to a smaller baseball for young players so that they can grip it and throw it correctly. Later they build up to throwing a regulation-size baseball. This approach is a good way to teach young players to throw the ball correctly. In the United States, people are against it because they believe that using a small ball is not real baseball. We need more coaches who think outside the box when it comes to developing young players. Most of us tend to teach the way that we were taught, and most of the time that is the same old way of traditional teaching.
Players who set up in proper receiving position will gain the confidence to stay in the right position or get out of the way if for some reason someone throws the ball to them and the sun gets in their eyes. We used to teach players not to throw the ball unless the receiver was looking at them and his hands were out in front. We still do this, but we now teach different hand positioning. The old way was to have the thumbs of the glove and the bare hand together and the fingertips facing up to the sky. Because of this teaching and because players often used big gloves, many players, as the ball got closer to them, had to flip the palm of the glove to the sky to see the ball. The ball would sometimes hit the heel of the glove and then hit them in the head. To make sure that they can see the ball as it is on the way, which will allow them to use their depth perception, we now start the hands and the glove with the thumbs up to the sky and the hands out in front. The player is in a good balanced position. The feet are about shoulder-width apart, and the right foot is slightly behind the left (opposite for left-handed throwers). The toes of the rear foot should be about even with the instep of the other foot.
12. Wrist Stride
The second phase of the throwing motion is important because it begins to work with balance and velocity. In this drill players use the wrist, arm, and chest to throw.
Baseball colored in half for each group playing catch
Number of Players
Place players farther apart than they were in the previous drill. Players with the baseball have the stride foot forward and grip the ball correctly, placing the throwing arm in a 90-degree angle, elbow even with the shoulder. Throw the baseball by taking the head, eyes, chest, arm, and wrist forward.
- On your whistle, the players with the ball throw it to their partners.
- A soon as the ball hits the receiving player’s glove, he takes it out quickly and gets to the 90-degree angle, with the stride foot forward.
- Throwing continues back and forth on your whistle for 5 to 10 throws.
- When you yell, "Ready," make sure that players are in proper position.
- The player throwing the ball should have the hand behind the baseball, not to the side. Make sure that players use the whole upper body to go forward to release the baseball so that the back leg comes up and forward. When players throw the ball, the wrist should go forward, not to one side.
13. Toss-Up Grip
Players can practice this grip by tossing the ball up, catching it, and getting the proper grip as they simulate a throw. Getting the proper grip in a game will become second nature after performing this drill consistently. The important thing is to have the thumb underneath the baseball to keep it firm and balanced in the hand.
Baseball for each player
Number of Players
Give each player a baseball and put them in a circle with about 20 feet between each player.
- When you blow the whistle, the players toss the ball up and catch it.
- As they catch it, they transfer the baseball from the glove to the hand and try to come up with a good grip. When you blow the whistle again, the process continues.
- At the start of this drill, have the players toss the ball up and slowly take the ball out of the glove. They work on the feel of how to get a good grip.
- As they improve, have them pick up the speed and see whether they can still get the proper grip.
- When they get good at this, have them take the ball out and get the correct grip as they get into a throwing position.
21. Bad Grip Shuffle
What happens if a player does everything well but does not have a good grip? Or what happens when the target player is not looking or not ready? What should the player do? The answer is that the player should shuffle the feet, keep or get the proper grip, and then throw the ball with rhythm. For example, when a ball is hit right back to the pitcher, he usually has plenty of time to throw the ball to first, but the first baseman may not be at the base yet. The pitcher should shuffle his feet until the first baseman gets to the base and then throw the ball in rhythm.
Number of Players
Have six players on one side and six on the other. Each has a partner. Players on one side have baseballs.
- On your whistle, the players toss the ball up to themselves.
- As soon as they catch the baseball, they throw it to their partner. This drill works on the entire process of catching, transferring, turning the body in a good position, and throwing.
- When you blow the whistle, the partners throw the ball back.
- After each line does it once, the players catch the baseball and shuffle one or two times before throwing. Then the players in the other line do the same.
- Players must not throw the ball until their partner is looking. They shuffle their feet until he is ready.
- As they shuffle, they gain momentum. When they throw the ball, they keep their rhythm.
- They shuffle their feet because if their feet are moving as they throw the ball, the body will be in rhythm with the arms.
- Make sure that the players look before they throw.
After the players improve, you can yell for them to shuffle or throw as they are catching the baseball. If you yell, "Shuffle," they have to catch the ball, shuffle a couple of times, and then throw. If you yell, "Throw," they catch it, turn, and throw.
Learn more about Youth Baseball Drills.