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How to Run Batting Practice

Preparing your baseball team for the season requires a tremendous amount of preparation and hard work. As a team manager or coach it is your responsibility to make sure that your team has been given every available opportunity to work on the skills needed to be successful during the season. In this article I will focus on one aspect of the game that is very important to the success of your baseball team, running an effective batting practice.

The very first thing you need to do as a manager or coach in charge of the hitting is to have a batting practice plan for your team. This is not only important in the winter work outs, it is important at every batting practice session. All too often you see teams that have no rhyme or reason to their batting practice sessions. It becomes a glorified home run derby session if it is not organized properly.

Our Method for Batting Practice

My coaching staff and I like to take BP with a purpose. We break it down into 4 rounds. Each round consists of 12-15 pitches per batter.

In the first round we have our batters start off with five clean sacrifice bunts when they first come to the cage. They are then instructed try to hit ground balls and nothing but ground balls with their remaining pitches.

In the second round of the batting practice we work on situational hitting of advancing a runner and moving him over. All too often players do not know how to effectively advance a runner when the situation calls for it. This is why we work on this with each and every hitter during batting practice.

In the third round we work on driving in a runner from third base. How many times have you been frustrated as a coach leaving a runner at third base after two or three failed attempts to get him home? Working on this situation in batting practice can turn some of these situations into runs and some of these runs into wins.

The fourth and final round of the batting practice is to have the batter hit the ball as hard as they can while not trying to hit a home run. I know many coaches will want their players to try and swing for the fences, I do not. I want my players to drive the ball as hard they can in this round. All too many times you see what could be a big inning end because a player was swinging for the fences and flying out instead of hitting a hard line drive into the gap.

The Purpose of Batting Practice

The sole purpose of planning a batting practice is to make sure the batter works on each and every aspect of the game he may face as a batter. Doing this over and over each batting practice, before and during the season, will make each and every hitter on your team a better all around hitter. It will also help make your team become a successful hitting team as well as a winning team.

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How to Coach Little League Baseball

When you coach baseball at the lower levels — I’m talking Little League here — don’t get too fancy. Remember these are young children and you have to keep them moving and engaged. You don’t want kids standing around and being bored, or sitting down and picking blades of grass.

Some Practice Ideas

Let’s say you have 12 kids on your team. Divide them up into three groups of four players. The first group goes to third base and stands in a line. You stand at home and hit the first kid a ground ball. He has to throw it to first. You hit the second kid a ground ball. He has to throw it to first. The point of this exercise is simple. You want the kids to practice getting a ground ball and throwing it to first as much as they can. Hit them ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. You can have a parent or older kid playing first base. After the kids have taken at least 15 ground balls, move the parent to second base. Now the kids have to take at least 15 more ground balls and throw them to second.

Meanwhile, the second group of kids is going to practice hitting. Take them to a corner of the outfield and have a parent throw them wiffle golf balls. Not a regular size ball, but wiffle golf balls. You can pick them up at any sporting goods store. Each kid gets five swings a piece. Then the next kid takes five swings. You do this as long as possible. The wiffle golf balls are much smaller than a regular baseball and they force the player to focus on the ball and swing through it.

The third group of kids goes to the outfield. Three kids stand in line and one kid stands by you. The player by you represents the cut-off man, which they have to hit with the ball chest high. Do not hit the ball with a bat. Have the kids stand about 20 yards away and throw them a pop-up. They have to catch it, position themselves properly and throw it to the cut-off man. Do not throw the pop-up right at the player – throw it to the side of in front of him or her. Make them move for it. This exercise is all about tracking the ball, catching the ball and throwing it to the cut-off man. Do as many reps as you can. Then line all four kids up and throw a ball over each kid’s head – much like a football pass. This makes the player turn and catch the ball over his shoulder. Do not overthrow the ball, just toss it high enough over the kid’s head, so he has to turn, track it and catch it.

Have the kids change stations – ground ball, fly ball and hitting stations when you think it is time. Note that each station is designed to give each player as many reps as possible in catching ground balls and fly balls, while making a good throw to the base or to the cutoff man. The hitting area with the golf wiffle balls is again, designed to give each kid as many reps as possible in tracking a small ball and swinging through it. At this age, little league age, it is all about getting as much fielding and hitting in as possible and that is what these stations will accomplish.

A good drill to end practice with is to pair off the players and make them stand about 15 yards apart. Then the first play throws the second player a ball that bounces in front of him. This is “short hop” practice” and gives the players numerous reps in handling bad hops. The short hops should not be thrown hard. This is just to improve the glove work of each player.

To give you an idea of the sorts of things you can try, here’s a brief video of some practice drills:

There you have it. A short practice where no player is standing around and they get as much practice as they can in handling groundballs, fly balls, throwing and hitting.

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Tee Ball and Little League Baseball Coaching Tips

Coaching little league baseball and softball is one of the most rewarding activities a parent or adult can enjoy with children. Here are some little league baseball/softball coaching tips to help your team win games, but more importantly learn and have fun.

I’ve compiled this list from years of organizing physical education lessons in a Montessori school in which teachers were responsible for creating lessons on all subjects. My career has also included several stints as assistant little league coach and track and field day coordinator. As a special needs teacher, I have developed and implemented methods for inclusive team sports.

Little League Coaching Tip #1

Start your little league team off with tee ball. Tee ball is the precursor to little league baseball or softball. In place of pitching balls to each other, the tee ball is batted from a stationary tee, like golf. Tee ball (usually played with ages 6 or 7 and under) is an ideal game to introduce children to baseball and softball. Tee ball helps coaches focus on batting, hitting, running, catching and baseball rules and game play; tee ball delays the more advanced skills of pitching and introduces children to those skills at age and developmentally appropriate levels.

Little League Coaching Tip #2

Keep your team players moving at practice. One of the biggest reasons children drop out of little league is because they spend too much time sitting on the bench waiting for their turn. Boredom spells disaster, especially for young children. Organize your drills and practice activities in small groups to keep all team players actively engaged.

coach pointing to first

Every team has better and poorer players; keeping everyone involved hones your better players’ skills while boosting poorer players confidence and ability level. In the classroom, we call this kind of teaching ‘learning center based’. Set up center activities where team players practice in small groups for 15 minutes and rotate among three to five activity zones.

Little League Coaching Tip #3

Avoid the prima dona syndrome; it’s futile and archaic. Yes, you want to win. Yes, your team wants to win. You won’t achieve that by over working better players and benching poorer players. Baseball and softball are team sports. If you turn your games and practices into individual sports featuring a handful of players and making it a spectator sport for the rest of the team, you’ll burn out your better players and lose your support players. I assure you that you will not have the support of your team members’ parents if you favor your better players.

It’s a wise coach who encourages, inspires and motivates all the players on his team to give their best. You may be in for some pleasant surprises. That the overweight kid who doesn’t run well? He can hit like George Herman Ruth. The skinny kid? He may not be a great hitter but he can field like Brandon Inch.

Most of all, show your little league players and parent boosters that you genuinely appreciate them. They will appreciate you and pour their heart out for you on the ball field.