The Baseball Observer Feb 2015 vol 1 - Page 25

DRILLS AND PRACTICE TIPS Dive Backs This drill helps with conditioning, base running, aggressive turns, lead –offs and speed. Plus it moves quickly and involves multiple players. The variations work with position players also. Basic set up: Pitcher on the mound (with no baseball) and a player at home plate. Acting as if he hit the ball, the player at home runs to 1st base and makes an aggressive turn then dives back as if there is a play on him. He gets up and takes a lead. Another player is at home ready to run to 1st. The pitcher on the mound is from the stretch, pauses, then acts as if delivering the ball to home. Upon delivery, the runner on 1st goes to 2nd and again makes an aggressive turn then dives back to 2nd. At the same time the player at home runs to 1st, makes an aggressive turn and dives back to 1st. Again, another player is ready at home. The two base runners take a lead, the pitcher pauses then acts as if delivering the ball home. The batter goes to 1st and the base runners take off and all make aggressive turns and dive back to their respective bases. With bases loaded, the same sequence occurs but the base runner on third slides into home FEET FIRST. At this point, you can have the next batter positioned correctly to practice letting the base runner know to slide – using whatever signs you want them to use to communicate to the base runner. They can instruct him to side inside, outside or straight. Variation 1: Have the pitcher occasionally attempt to pick-off a runner (with or without a baseball). Even if the pitcher goes to first, all base runners dive back as if they are getting picked off. This works on pitchers pick-off moves and the base runners ability to read a pick-off move. Alternate pitchers so all have a chance to get work in too. Variation 2: Include outfielders/ infielders. Have outfielders and a first, second or third basemen (or all three at one time) trying to get a player out every couple of times. As the player rounds the base, an outfielder who already has a ball, throws to a designated base as the runner begins to round the base. Not before. You can rotate players to different fielding positions if needed. This drill and its variations keeps everyone involved, works on multiple skills and conditions at the same time. The whole drill is to move quickly. Softball Warm-Ups This technique helps to insure initial throwing warm-ups are done correctly and reinforces proper glove work. Before throwing a baseball, have the players begin warming up with an 11” softball. This keeps players from trying to throw curve balls, change ups and knuckle balls when warming up when they should be only throwing 2 and 4 seams. Because of the size of the ball, it’s harder to do any other grip than a 2 or 4 seam. Secondly, they don’t try to over throw or throw too hard early in the warm up. Third, because of the ball size, they have to make sure the ball is caught properly in the glove or it tips the glove or pops out. The softball only weighs about an once more on average. Baseball 5 -5 1/4 oz and a softball 5 7/8 oz – 6 1/8 oz so the weight isn’t an issue. Older players use a 12” softball. They throw for about 5 minutes then switch to a regular baseball. Throws are much more accurate and balls caught are almost 100%. Most comments made are that the baseball now feels like a peanut.