If you live in an area where winter forces baseball practice inside, you need quality indoor drills to improve as a player and infielder.
When I coached two of the top junior college programs in the country—one in Illinois and the other in Kentucky—we had only a very small indoor practice area. We played our first game in February, so we had to find creative ways to get our players ready.
Here are some of the drills I found to work well for our players.
Kids love this game. It’s fun, but also quite effective. Players throw the ball against a wall from about 10 to 15 feet away. If someone touches the ball but does not field it cleanly, he must sprint to the wall and touch it before someone else throws the ball and hits the wall.
If the player who bobbled the ball cannot touch the wall before the next throw hits the wall, he has an out. After three outs, a player must sit. If you want more action, don’t worry about outs and let players stay in the game.
This game is very fast if played correctly. It works on quick reactions, soft hands, throwing and athletic ability.
This game works well with three to five players. If you have more than five, create a different game. Use a tennis ball and bare hands, not a glove.
We ran these drills every day, and they had an immediate impact. They only take five to seven minutes. These drills improve focus on fundamentals and teach muscle memory.
Knee drills. Without a glove, sit up straight on both knees about 5 to 7 feet away from a partner. Roll the ball directly to the middle of your partner’s body. The fielders work on having their fingers down, their wrists loose and bringing the ball up quickly to the throwing area of the shoulder.
Progress to rolling the ball to the forehand side and then the backhand side. Keep the focus on loose hands and being athletic.
Standing drills.Do the same as the Knee Drills, but while standing. Back up to about 15 feet away from each other. Focus on footwork, staying low, holding your glove out, and keeping your head down on the ball while fielding. The focus should be on footwork and quickly getting into a good position to throw.
Quick Exchange Throwing. If you have enough room to throw, work on quick exchanges. Get the ball out of your glove as quickly as possible and get into a good throwing position, with your shoulders squared toward the target. Relax and set up for a normal throw. Focus on getting the ball out of your glove quickly and squaring your body to the target, not throwing back quickly. This helps with relays and turning double plays.
4-Corner Flips.Have four infielders stand in a square about 5 to 7 feet away from each other. Roll a ground ball to the fielder directly across from you. He fields it and flips the ball underhand to the player to his left.
Good footwork is integral to performing these drills. It will allow your players to field the ball consistently and make quality throws.
There always seems to be rhetoric that strongly pushes one idea while totally denouncing another. This usually comes in the form of “always do this” or “never do that.” With training, and more specifically training a special population like baseball players, there are far too many variables to speak in absolutes. When these ideas are taken too far in one direction, we get the birth of myths, and while some of these may be well intended, they often end up misinforming people. With that in mind, here are three myths about training baseball players.
1. You Should Never, Ever Lift Overhead
Baseball is an overhead sport, so to say you should never do anything overhead is kind of like telling a 100-meter Hurdler they should never practice jumping. Are there times when baseball players should avoid going overhead? Absolutely. Examples include:
If pain is present while going overhead
If they cant safely do it with good form
If throwing volume is very high, and you want be cautious about total overhead volume
Where I think we go wrong is how we define lifting overhead. When we prescribe overhead movements, they do not have to be your typical overhead press. For baseball guys, it’s important they get strong over head. But what’s even more important is that they have good body mechanics when going over head.
Here are some things to be cognizant of when performing overhead movements:
Does the scapula upwardly rotate and have posterior tilt?
Does they glenohumeral joint stay centered?
Do the ribs stay down and lumbar spine stay neutral?
Here’s a progression model from Eric Cressey that will allow for safe overhead movement, moving from safest to more advanced:
As you can see from this model, all overhead movements are not created equal. Start at a place that best fits you or your athlete’s needs. When in doubt, go with the safer movement and work up from there. It’s important to remember all lifting can be dangerous if prescribed wrong, and overhead lifting is no different. But to say that baseball players should never, ever lift overhead is a myth that needs to die.
2. Lifting Weights Will Make You ‘Tight’
This is something I feel like almost all sports have gone through at one point or another. Basketball, baseball, soccer, gymnastics–athletes and coaches from each of these respected sports have shared their concerns and fears of lifting weights, feeling weight training will make them tight, bulky and unable to perform as desired in their respective sport.
But as many baseball players who’ve improved their game in the weight room will tell you, that fear is unfounded. And the research backs them up.
If lifting weights really makes you tight, bulky, slower, less flexible or all of the above, chances are you are doing the wrong exercises or using the wrong form. I think the narrative of “lifting makes you tight” comes from the notion that all lifting looks like body building. If you train like a bodybuilder, you will move like a bodybuilder. Perform lifts and movements that increase range of motion, athleticism and functional strength, and you won’t have to worry about being “tight.” And in the long-run, you’ll be dominating any competition who’s afraid to step foot in the weight room.
3. Baseball Players Only Need Power in the Frontal Plane
From Olympic lifts to Squats to Box Jumps, power development can be achieved through several methods. But baseball is a bit different than other sports. Like other sports, baseball requires power. However, it requires it both in the frontal and transverse planes. In other words, you better be powerful laterally and not just in a straight line if you want to be successful. A Single-Leg Lateral Hop would be a better indicator of baseball-specific power then a great Vertical Jump, just as being able to perform a Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss with power is a better way to measure your training success than a max Bench Press.
Here are several exercises that can help baseball players develop that all-important transversal plane power:
Single-Leg Lateral Hops
Medball Throwing Variations
Lateral Walking Sled Drags
Power can be a great tool for any athlete, but that power must be able to translate to the game to be useful. For baseball players, that means power must be developed in both the frontal and transverse planes.
Hopefully, this article has cleared up a few myths that have long surrounded training and baseball players. When training to improve baseball performance, remember that it’s OK to train overhead, lifting has been shown to make you more flexible, and power development needs to be done with lateral movements in mind. Train smart, train properly and don’t let a myth prevent you from becoming a better ballplayer.
For many baseball players, fall marks the end of a very long season. College players have been playing since February. High school and youth players, since March. Some players will not play competitively again until next spring, while others have three or four weeks off before fall teams or college fall practices start-up.
During this break, there are two things you can do to improve your recovery and set the stage for better performance and lower injury risk.
1. Take time away from baseball
As much as you love playing baseball, time away is essential, both mentally and physically. Physically, baseball is a frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotational) plane-dominated game. Throwing and hitting, the two most common activities in the game, are examples of frontal and transverse movements. In addition, almost every movement in baseball is an explosive, powerful movement. Over the course of a six- to the seven-month season, countless throws, swings and sprints can take a toll on the body and lead to injury.
Give the body time to recover from this volume of work.
Avoid frontal plane movement such as Side Lunges, Heidens, Shuffles, etc.
Avoid rotational work, such as Medicine Ball Throws, and limit hitting.
Limit plyometrics and sprint work.
Put the bat down and take a break from hitting.
Take time away from throwing, especially pitchers.
Baseball pitching, especially, puts a tremendous amount of stress on the entire body, especially the shoulder and elbow.
The number one risk factor in a throwing-related injury is pitching too much. Among many other statistics, they state that pitching more than 8 months a year can lead to an increased risk of serious elbow or shoulder injury.
2. Restore your body
Given the repetitive nature of baseball, you risk overusing many areas of the body and losing mobility and stability over the course of the season. This is especially true of throwing.
In the pitching motion, the humerus internally rotates at over 6,000 degrees per second, and certain muscle groups work hard on every throw to slow the arm down. So by the end of the season, some parts of the body are pretty beat up, including the posterior (back), shoulder, biceps, and medial (inside) elbow.
In addition to the muscles that help slow down the arm, the muscles that help accelerate or internally rotate the arm—the lats and pecs—can show a loss of mobility over the course of the season. Restoring proper tissue quality in these areas can decrease injury risk in the throwing arm.
Finally, the lower body can take a beating during the season. Spend some time foam rolling the adductors (inner thighs) and quads to allow for proper lower-body function.
Use this foam-rolling circuit to restore normal tissue quality in these areas.