Baseball players begin to know what their strengths and weaknesses are in the game prior to their teenage years. The drills that preteen players do are different than the ones adults do. So, baseball fielding drills for 12 year olds focus on developing reflexes and improving coordination of young players.
12 years old is a great age for coaches to instill principles of discipline and good practice habits. At this age, most players are open to instruction from their older and more knowledgeable coaches. Every young player needs to improve everything he does in the game, and learning great habits while young will make him a much better player in high school and college.
Young baseball players enjoy every aspect of fielding practice, from fielding grounders and catching fly balls, to practicing turning double plays. Often it’s more satisfying than batting practice, when players have to stand and wait until it’s their turn to hit at the plate. When they are out on the field, they’re moving constantly.
Infield Outfield Drill
The purpose of this drill is to expose young players to the different speeds and movements a baseball will make when hit on the grass or up in the air. In this drill, the coach stands at home plate with a bucket of baseballs and directs all or part of his team to the infield and outfield.
It is preferable to have a player at all infield positions to practice cutoff throws and running double plays. The more this drill simulates real game situations, the better because everyone gets involved.
Using either a regular baseball bat or a fungo bat, coaches hit balls to players and try to hit a variety of grounders and fly balls. Slow rollers, fast ground balls, peppered ground balls and fly balls should be hit so your 12 year olds are exposed to every kind of ball that will be hit to them in a game.
If you find it difficult to change up your hits, there’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball out to the field, which gives you better ball control.
As the drill progresses, start practicing hitting or throwing to the outfield for players to throw in to the cutoff player in the infield. Set up double play scenarios where you can enlist a player to act as a runner from first to second base.
Spend from 15 to 20 minutes on this fielding drill and make certain you’ve let players try to field as much of a variety of ground and fly balls as possible.
The Call and Catch Drill
After hitting to each player in their respective positions on the field, start the team communicating with each other for defensive plays that will involve multiple players. The drill gets your young players talking to each other to coordinate strategies and convert plays successfully.
The Call and Catch Drill trains the third baseman, left fielder and shortstop to communicate with each other. The coach hits a high fly ball behind the third baseman and in front of the left fielder and to the right of shortstop. Usually, the shortstop will have the best angle, but the real purpose is for one of the three players to call the catch. If the shortstop has the best angle, he will yet, “I got it!”. If the fly is short, the third baseman needs to make the call. If the fly goes deeper, then the left fielder communicates that it’s his catch to make.
The Full Field Fly Ball Drill
This drill is a variation of the Catch and Call Drill. The coach uses a fungo bat and tries to hit the highest fly ball possible anywhere on the field. Then watch to see how well players communicate to see who will make the catch.
In actual games, effective communication can make the difference between winning or losing if catches are not called. The ball can simply drop onto the field as the triangle of players try to avoid running into each other. In these situations, the dropped ball is an error and results in a run scored for the opposing team.
Worse, there could be injuries if all three players converge on the fly ball at once and collide. Simple communication avoids both errors and injuries. Young players such as 12 year olds are enthusiastic and will often forget there are other players trying to field the same ball.
The Full Field Fly Ball drill is highly instructive, and coaches should dedicate lots of time towards communicating on fly balls. 30 minutes between the Catch and Call Drill and this drill is recommended until your young players understand the importance of communication for their own safety and to avoid a game loss that could be prevented.
The Double Play Flip Drill
Another drill that kids really enjoy is the Double Play Flip Drill. Although this drill mostly involves shortstops and second base players, it can be expanded to include players at first base and third base.
The coach his a ground ball to second base and instructs the shortstop to cover the bag at second. Second base flips the ball to the shortstop then throws it back to the coach.
Next, hit the ball to the shortstop and have him flip the ball to the second base player, then throw it back into you. Grounders should be hit five times to second (who flips to the shortstop covering the bag), and then to shortstop five times (the second base player covering second base).
Next, instruct your second base player and shortstop to relay the ball to first base after second base has been tagged. So, on a ground ball hit to second, the second base player flips the ball to the shortstop, who tags second base, then throws on to first. This second to first double play conversion can be practiced for 15 to 20 minutes, and should be repeated often. A team made up of 12-year old preteens that can make double plays will have a big advantage over other teams in a regular season ball game.
Making double plays can be a challenge to young players, but with regular practice they can advance to become superior infielders.
Full Team Relay Drill
This drill gets everyone on the team involved at once, and improves coordination and the idea of teamwork. Split the squad into two teams and make them form a line with an equal amount of space between them. The two lines start at first base and goes all the way out to left field.
A player in each line starts with the ball on one end of the line and throws it down to the next player in line. The player catches the ball, turns toward the next player and throws it to him. That player does the same thing: catch, turn and throw. The first team to get the ball to the last player in line wins.
A variation of this drill is when the coach hits either fly balls or grounders to the first player in the line on either side. Players have to field and throw quickly as they rotate through that slot.
This drill reinforces double play drills by teaching players how to hit cutoff men and turn double plays. The drill improves players’ ability to get the ball out of their gloves quickly. It’s a fun exercise that builds on this skill while reinforcing teamwork.
Warm Up Arm Drill
A lot of young players that arrive at practice most likely haven’t had physical activity for several hours and need to loosen their muscles. It can take up to fifteen minutes before they are ready for more strenuous drills. The Warm Up Arm Drill works to loosen the arm muscles.
The coach teams up two players together to catch and throw to each other. They begin 15 feet apart and increase the distance by 5 feet after every 5 minutes to a maximum of 25 feet. The ball is thrown harder as the distance between them increases.
Before hitting balls to infielders during practice, the coach or his assistant should teach players the proper stance for fielding ground balls. The better the footwork a player has, the easier it is for him to move his hands quickly and easily to field balls. Movement starts with the feet and moves up to the hand and baseball glove.
The coach demonstrates the stance players use to field ground balls, such as bending at the knees instead of the back, and placing the glove perpendicular to the ground. If the glove is placed parallel to the ground instead, it will be harder to back a ground ball and cause the ball to go up and over the glove, passing behind the fielder. Without using a baseball, the coach shows how to bend and how to place the glove on the infield.
Ground Ball Fielding Drill
Once all the players involved are in the correct stance, start hitting slow ground balls to each player to field and throw back to you. Observe the following and correct fielders if their stance is different.
- Keep hands extended: When players field ground balls, make sure they keep their hands extended. The ball and glove remain in their line of vision. On a bad hop, a fielder still has room to bring the glove into their body to make the play.
- Relax the glove hand while fielding a ball. Players who are relaxed have quicker reflexes than when they tense up. Ground balls will stick in the glove much easier when the body remains relaxed.
- Start low and stay balanced: With a short hop from a throw or a hard hit ball, start with gloves on the ground and walk up to field the ball. It is easier and quicker to move up than down. Once the ball is secure in a player’s glove, bring the glove up to the chest. Keeping the ball in the middle of body helps keep fielders balanced and in a strong position to throw.
Around the Horn
Around the Horn is a throwing drill and time should be spent doing it in each practice. The drill involves the team’s catcher, first, second and third base players, and shortstop.
The catcher throws to first, first throws to second, second throws to third and third to home.
Next, the catcher reverses it by throwing to third, then to second and first in the opposite direction. The shortstop and second base player alternate so each could receive and throw the ball. Remember to have each player stand on the bag instead of near it to field and throw the baseball.
Outfield Throwing Drill
While the infield is throwing around the horn in both directions, the outfielders are throwing to each other in the following order:
- Right Field to center field
- Center to left field
- Left to center
- Center to right
- Right field to left field
- Left field to right field
After three series of throws, the player in center field switches places with the right fielder and goes through the same series of throws and in the same order. Following three more series, the left fielder moves to center field and repeats.
Around the Horn Timed Drill
The key to making double plays and throwing out the runner at home is the speed of the baseball that’s thrown. Using a stopwatch or timer raises practice to a level similar to Little League practicing standards.
The coach uses a timer and instructs the catcher to throw to first base when the timer starts. The ball goes from catcher to first, first to second, then third and back to the catcher at home. The coach tells his infield players how long it took for the ball to go around the horn.
Next, the coach times the ball in a reversed around the horn, from catcher to third, second, first and back to the catcher, and reports to the team how long it took.
Now the coach either sets a time limit for the ball to go around the horn and challenges his players to beat the time. Besides making accurate throws, encourage players to get rid of the baseball faster. To do this, players need to move their feet faster to make quicker throws.
As simple as this drill is, it’s surprising how much improvement there will be to your team’s infield throwing.
Beat the Runner Home
This baseball drill helps players further improve infield play while increasing the speed of base runners. It’s similar to the Around the Horn Drill but also includes base runners.
All the infield positions are filled for this drill with the exception of the pitcher. The catcher is at home plate. A runner stands at first base wearing a helmet.
The coach hits a ground ball to shortstop and the runner starts to run to second base. The shortstop fields and throws the ball to first, and then the first baseman throws to third base.
Next, the third baseman throws to second base and he throws the ball home, trying to beat the runner. The runner, starting from first base, has now circled the bases and is trying to beat the throw home.
Coaches may need to change where the runner starts from by practicing this drill a few times. You can then modify the drill to synchronize with the speed of the throws.
The runner has done a lot of work, so coaches can decide if a reward system should be put in place.
Runner On Third
This drill tests the outfielder throwing accuracy as well as the runner’s tagging ability.
The coach hits a shallow fly ball to the outfield. The runner’s foot is on third base, and he needs to decide if he is going to run to tag and run home or stay.
This drill can start with simple instructions for the runner to tag and run home, so the outfielders’ throw can be tested and refined. Later on, the runner can decide to either run or stay based on his instinct. Success or failure of the thrower and the runner isn’t as important as how instructional this drill will be for the runner, and for the outfielder throwing the ball home.
Rotating Field Position
This drill works especially well for players at 12 years of age. Young players don’t need to stay limited to one fielding position. It’s a great age for players to try out every position (except pitcher), so they can evaluate and specialize when they’re older.
The coach is at the plate with a fungo bat and hits to every position. If the ball is hit to right field, for example, it is fielded and thrown to an infielder who cuts it off.
The two players involved at right field and the second base swap positions. The coach next can hit a ground ball to the third baseman, who throws the ball to first. These two players swap next, so the first baseman is playing third, and vice versa.
Rotating Field Positions With Runner
This drill is almost identical to the previous one, with the addition of a runner. The coach places a runner on third base. Then he hits a fly ball to the outfield and the runner tries to tag up. The outfielder throws to home and the runner attempts a slide.
The runner and the outfielder then switch positions. Now the runner is in the outfield and the left fielder is the runner.
This drill improves the runner’s skills as well as the quickness and accuracy of throws from the field. As practice continues during the season, coaches can begin to try real game scenarios during practice, even to the point of having a five-inning game with designated hitters.