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Too many times during the course of a youth baseball season we coaches neglect to practice a lot of things we take for granted. Here are three things I make sure we practice every year:
1) Catching a foul ball near a fence
I've been burnt seeing too many foul balls drop near a fence as tentative youth players are just watching. Line your team up and do the "Fence Drill" throwing pop ups near the fence and have your players reach toward the fence or wall with their nearest hand, either throwing or glove. We are teaching them to feel for the fence while keeping their eyes on the ball then catching it.
Many coaches preach sliding but are reluctant to practice it. I take my team in the outfield grass and have them remove their cleats. I have throw down bases and the players line up and run and slide . We reinforce for them to slide during the game. This drill is not fool proof but very effective.
3) Defending wilds pitches and/or pass balls
I've never seen a youth baseball game without a few wild pitches or pass balls. It is imperative in practice coaches set this up with each pitcher and a live baserunner. Place a ball behind the catcher so he doesn't know where it is. Have the pitcher turn his back also. On the "go" command the baserunner will break for home as the catcher will search for the ball and flip it to the pitcher who is covering home. I have the baserunner stop about three feet from home.
Sources to get ready for season:
Quick tip: I set up my batting practice different from many coaches. There are two cones set up on the 3rd base line as the location that bunts should go. On the first 2 pitches I throw, the players bunt. For each bunt that goes between the two cones, the batter receives one extra swing. This works great motivating your players to learn to bunt.
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