Mark Zender Drills - Baseball and Softball Playing Pepper
I believe strongly that Pepper builds bat and ball skills + it’s really fun! If you’re not familiar, here are three YouTube videos that will be helpful.
First of all competitions can be team vs team, individual in nature or simply having specific tasks be goal-oriented. Some are quite obvious, while others are subtle.
Two Ball - 2 pitches max per batter. Let the 2nd pitch go by, you’re out. I explained this one (it is my favorite with younger kids). I recommend 4 on 4 on 4. Play lots of ball. Go Go Go!
Whiffle Ball - The best part of this is the kids can play it at home. Play at practice a couple times, it will be a blast, build love of the game and they will play more ball at home! The key is to have a smaller field. There is a fun element to “miniature baseball.”
Kick Ball – Baseball/Softball concept. The kids play this during recess at school. Playing this will be unexpected and they will get excited that you are doing it. This is especially good if you have 9-10 year olds, ideally later in the season if practice seems a bit stale. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdX7cZYgQ6k
Timed Base Running – Especially with younger players, run the bases frequently during practice and time them.
Live Base Running - Have runners on base during batting practice. They read balls of the bat and react live. Don’t have them react to every ball – that is too fast. Every 2 or 3 is about right. Use runners at all 3 bases and work their way around. They will get tired. That is a good thing!
Live Tee infield - Batters hit off tee and run to 1st. Infielders are in position, field ground balls and throw to 1st. If a batter hits a fly ball to OF they go chase it. This is a great drill. Be sure to clear bats left near home plate. This moves along quickly and will result in lots of “live, game-like reps”.
Pop-to-pops - Use a stopwatch to time from the time a player touches a ball until they throw and it reaches any target. Ideally this mimics a real game situation… C to 2nd on steal, infield to 1st on ground ball, OF on ball to gap getting it to 2nd or 3rd.
4-corner infield drills - Place players into 4-corners 25-40 feet apart. They throw the ball quickly around the square. They can execute a variety of skills.
Throw the ball to the outside, receive and spin to throw the next player.
Throw to the inside, receiver rotates feet to throw
Call “reverse” and reverse the direction of throws
Call “diagonal” and they throw to the opposite corner
Call “turn it loose” and they throw to whomever they want
Tag sliding runner out with each throw.
As they do all this, have them take a step inward so the throws become shorter, the game gets quicker and the skill speed gets faster (open the skill). …. This can reduce down to being so small that it then becomes a “flip” game where they can only use the glove to control the ball on to the next player, still telling them where to go, etc.
Work up - 3 or 4 batters. All other players in the field. When the batter goes out he goes to RF. RF moves to CF, CF to LF, LF to 3B and so on. 1B goes to the batter. Don’t use a catcher. If possible, have a sock net to catch pitches. Use a full bucket of baseballs.
Dueling bullpen - Have 2 pitchers play HORSE (just like basketball) trying to outduel each other for accuracy. This can be done at full distance or as a closed skill closer and easier where concentration and execution are the premium.
Ground ball elimination - I like to call it “Gold Glove” – sounds better! Players in a line. Hit each ground ball. If they bobble or make a poor throw back to you they are out. Last player left is the winner.
Relay races - Condition using a relay race or with a stopwatch timing each player’s performance to get maximum effort. If timing, go twice and complete with self.
Run-Down progression - Split into 2 teams. Each must execute 3 rundowns (pickles). Use a stopwatch to time each rundown. Add up all 3 times. Team A gets a cumulative time. Team B has to beat that cumulative time. The runners are from the other team so they are motivated to run their hardest. This simulates the intensity of rundowns in a real game. I like to have the 3 rundowns take place between the 3 baselines (1-2, 2-3, 3-home).
Live hit and run - During batting practice have a runner on 1st base. Pitcher throws from a stretch. Runner and first steals 2nd, peaking in. Batter must swing with goal of ground ball to 2nd or SS. One of those players is going to cover the steal at 2nd. If the ball is hit where the fielder vacates, the runner continues on to 3rd. This is an advanced play. But trying to execute gets the kids to see what advanced play looks like and gets their concentration level higher.
Game Winner - Split into 2 teams. Set up a last inning of the game situation (I like runner on 2nd with 0 outs). Coach pitches, Team A on defense. Each team bats with the goal of a “walk-off win.” Each team gets equal tries. Put something on it – push ups running, clean-up, etc. Create intensity and fun. You need “buy in” from the kids to mimic the situation but if they do it can be very valuable. We practiced the last inning of the state title game several times during the season. The goal is relaxation when the real situation demands it.
18 Outs - Very difficult. Entire team on defense. Hit balls to them completing 3 outs per inning ( 6 innings = 18). Must complete 18 in a row without an error. Very hard to do. At our level it is 21 outs. Seems easy, but very tough. You may want to try it at the 12-out level and see how it goes, but really only for Little League Majors and older.