The backbone of any winning team is their defense. In youth baseball, the majority of defensive plays occur in the infield, either short hop ground balls, soft grounders or line drives hits. The better the infield drills you as coach run through with your team for these kinds of hits, the higher in the standings your team will be.
Nothing is better than a well-oiled unit of infield players that can work together to turn double plays and throw out runners between bases. Capitalizing on the running mistakes of the opposing team means more outs and empty bases. These drills focus on all aspects of infield play, covering every scenario your infielders will be exposed to.
Footwork, glove placement, ready fielding position and throwing skills are the unique skills young players need to improve. These team drills show how practice and repetition will improve your infielders’ body movements to successfully approach and field balls. Throwing drills for infield players helps coaches observe and correct their players’ bod mechanics so they throw with more power and accuracy.
Ready Position Drill
In order for an infielder to catch the ball in his glove, he needs to be in the ready position to field it and throw it quickly. One second saved fielding the ball can mean the difference between a single, or an out at the base being thrown to.
This drill can be done anywhere on the baseball field. Gather together your infielders and coach them in the proper ready position as a team. Have them stand a few feet apart from each other and observe how well they get into ready position.
- Players stand on the balls of their feet
- Bend at the knees with legs and feet spread. Tell players to spread in a way where they can’t be pushed over.
- Make sure the player’s rear end is down low
- Glove hand is down on the ground and the free arm is also down, almost touching the ground.
Coach pretends he is going to throw the ball to his players. The moment your arm is raised to throw, your fielders squat into ready position. Observe each infielder, observing how far their feet and legs spread, if their rear is down low, and that their gloves are on the ground.
When infield players field ground balls, above all it is important for them to stay low.
Tag Out the Runner Drill
Tagging out runners between bases helps prevent the opposing team from scoring more runs and takes away a base hit that was given up, or an error on a play by tagging him out. For this infield drill, coaches will use two infield base players and a designated runner. Each baseman uses his glove and a baseball.
Set up your infield players at second and third base to start from the bag. Position a runner between second and third near the shortstop playing position.
When the coach says, “Go”, the player at second base runs towards the runner with the baseball in his throwing hand. The third baseman also runs towards the runner and calls out, “Ball!” to the 2nd baseman, who throws it to him. The third baseman fields the ball and tags out the runner.
Let your defensive players know they control the runner between bases. Whoever has the ball should have his arm raised and the ball in his bare hand, not in his glove, running full speed at the runner.
The player receiving the ball should also move to the runner, closing the gap between him, the other fielder, and the runner. He only calls for the ball when it’s time to make the throw. Fielders should make the runner run faster so it’s more difficult for him to change directions to get back to safety.
Line Drive Over the Head Drill
In youth baseball, batters often hit high line drives that can make it into the outfield for a base hit, unless caught by a player in the infield. This drill teaches players how to time their jump up in the air when a high line drive is hit to them.
For this infield drill, coaches team up two team players to practice together. Instruct the two players to stand about ten to twelve yards apart from each other. If this exercise is for newer and younger players, they can stand about six to eight yards apart.
One of the players throws a soft line drive a few inches over the head of the player who is catching the ball. The player jumps up to catch it, then throws it back to his partner. Repeat about 10 times, throwing the ball a few inches over the head. Once the player has his timing down and catches the ball, proceed to throw the ball 6 inches over his head.
The purpose of this drill is to get the player catching the ball to be able to jump off the ground and stretch their glove arm to catch a line drive hit. Once your infielder perfects his full jump and catch, move him to a base bag and have him practice jumping up to catch, then landing on the bag with his foot.
Back-Handed Catch Drill
This infield drill is suggested for players who have learned the proper ready position infielder stance. It’s a more advanced drill that helps improve players’ reflexes and be able to catch ground balls in an unorthodox position.
For this drill, gather the four players of your infield and have them stand in their game playing position on the field. The first baseman stands to the left of the first base bag, second baseman near the second base bag, and the third baseman moves near the shortstop position, who stand between second and third.
With his players in ready position, the coach rolls the baseball to his first baseman’s left side. The player bends his left foot, and with the back part of the glove touching his bent right foot, he fields the ball backhand, then throws it to the nearest base, which in this instance is second base.
Next, roll the ball to your second baseman’s left side. He bends his left leg and catches the ball against his right ankle, the back of his glove near the ankle. He feels and throws the ball to the shortstop covering second base.
This drill is described assuming your infield players are right handed. Simply reverse the bent leg and ankle for left handed fielders.
Make sure your players’ throwing side foot is forward when catching backhanded. Encourage your players to focus on the ball as it rolls to them, keeping their eyes on it until it’s in their glove before the throw.
Ball off the Wall Fielding Drill
Coaches can turn this drill into a fun competition at baseball practice. It’s designed primarily for infield players, the pitcher and catcher, but the whole team can do it as well. This drill helps players develop hand quickness and is intended to be fast-paced.
Gather your team together and line them up about 4 yards away from a wall. The wall can be the back of the dugout or a cement wall near the field. Every player should have his glove, and it’s suggested to use a rubber ball, because of its extra bounce.
Moving from one side of your line of players to the other and standing behind them, the coach throws the ball against the wall, making sure it bounces. The player drops into fielding position, then he moves to the left or the right, getting in front of the ball and catching it.
If the ball bounces to the player’s right side, he will need to catch it backhanded. The same if he moves to his left. When fielding, he brings it up to his body inside the glove.
Coach moves on to the next player and throws a ball off the wall which bounces back to the player in fielding position. After going through the line of players, go back to the first player. This time, throw a ball that will bounce off the wall as a line drive. Repeat with each player down the line.
Now, going back to the first player, move him in a few feet closer to the wall and throw a ball that bounces off the wall. Shortening the distance between the wall and the player makes the ball harder to catch. Every player that fields the ball stays in the competition. Those who drop the ball are eliminated. The last player remaining is the winner.
Around the Horn Throwing Drill
Infielders must throw accurately to bases quickly when there are runners on base. The quicker and more precise the throws, the easier it is for them to throw out runners caught between the bases and prevent runs from scoring.
For this drill, have your infield take their positions and your catcher holding a baseball. Although this infield drill is designed to throw out runners, no actual runners are required.
- The catcher starts the drill. He rolls the baseball in front of him and home plate.
- Catcher fields it and throws to the first base.
- The first baseman catches the ball and taps the bag with his foot for the out.
- The first baseman now drops the ball in front of him.
- He fields it and throws to the shortstop covering the second base bag.
- Shortstop catches it, then spins (backdoor) and throws to third base.
- The third baseman catches the ball and extends his arm to make a swipe tag.
- Next, third base drops the ball in front of him bends to field it, then throws to the second baseman now covering the bag at second.
- Second baseman catches the ball, throws it to first.
- The first baseman catches it, then throws it back to the catcher, completing the cycle.
This drill requires each player to be alert, since the action is fast. Coaches should observe their players, making sure their throwing is crisp and accurate. Make sure all players step towards the ball and bring the glove to their chest. When throwing they flick their wrists and follow through with their bodies.
The shortstop position is key for most double play situations, and his ability to execute a double play can change the momentum of the ballgame. Turning a double play requires fast reaction, quickness of the feet and alertness. It’s also important to avoid injuries as the shortstop moves, turns and gets out of the way of base runners.
In this drill and the next two, the coach uses his shortstop and first baseman. The coach can either bat balls or throw them to his players. The focus is on the shortstop and effectively he touches the second base bag then throws to first, but the first base player also learns to extend his leg to his bag while stretching his body to catch the ball.
With your first baseman and shortstop in place, hit a ground ball to the first baseman. He fields it and throws to the shortstop approaching the second base bag.
The shortstop steps toward second base using footwork, and catches the ball. Next he taps the bag with his left foot for the first out, then throws the ball cleanly to first. This is a 7-6-3 double play drill.
In this drill, the shortstop practices catching the ball on the inside of the second base bag, between first and second base. The coach instructs his first baseman and shortstop to stand at their regular fielding positions.
The coach or the first baseman throws the baseball toward second base from the first base line. If the coach throws, he can stand away from first base on the foul ball line between home and first. The ball is thrown, the shortstop uses his foot work to get to the right of second base to catch the thrown ball.
Shortstop catches the ball, tags second base with his left foot, then throws the ball to the first baseman at first. The first baseman stretches to receive the shortstop’s throw with the ball of his foot on the side of the bag for the double play. This is a 3-6-3 double play practice drill.
Shortstop Footwork Drill
This drill is designed to train your shortstop how to field ground balls and use footwork to run to second base, tag it and throw the ball he fielded to first base.
The coach stands at home plate with a bat and a baseball. He hits the ball to the left of second base near the shortstop.
The shortstop approaches the ball, using his footwork, bends to scoop it up. Next, he shuffles to second base, tags it with his left foot, then throws to first for the double play.
These drills involving your shortstop are meant to help him moving his feet as he approaches and fields the ball, then his shuffling motion on his way to the second base bag. When you feel your shortstop has improved these footwork drills, select two players to run the bases, one at home plate and one at second base.
Practice this drill and the two previous ones with runners next. Hit a ground ball to the first baseman, who then throws to the shortstop tagging second, then back to first base. The idea is to beat the runner heading to second base, then throwing the runner out at first.
Third Baseman Barehand Fielding Drill
Most hitters are right handed, and younger hitters tend to pull the ball before they learn how to place hit. Balls hit down the third base line are often moving very fast, and third basemen need to react quickly and learn how to stop the ball creatively, either barehanded or backhanded.
A third baseman who can field and and can throw accurately and fast down to first for the out are invaluable and can make the difference between a high or low scoring game by the opposition. Coaches should know that for every extra step his third baseman makes, a base runner will gain sex feet.
This drill shows how a third base player practices catching slow rollers or against a fast runner using his bare hand to make the play. The bare hand is used whenever the third base player needs to move to his right to throw out a runner in time who’s heading to first. Coaches should instruct his player at third base to stay low and to use the correct throwing technique.
The coach stands a few feet away from home plate up the first base line, facing his third baseman. He rolls the ball out to the infield, observing his player charging the ball and fielding it with his right hand.
Coaches throw about 10 balls into the infield for the third baseman to charge and pick up. After this series of 10, place a player at first and a runner at home plate. As soon as the ball leaves your hand, the runner sprints to first and the third baseman charges the ball, picks it up barehanded and throws it to first base.
The third base player should try to make his throw beat the runner to first in 10 tries. Repetition will raise his awareness to help him modify his fielding and throwing mechanics. You can also try to roll the ball and have your third baseman throw to second base. You can also incorporate this drill with a double play drill. The third baseman bare hands the ball, throws to second, and the second baseman throws to first, with runners sprinting from home and first base.
Third Baseman Backhand Fielding Drill
One of the most challenging plays a third baseman makes is fielding a ground ball back-handed. Usually the hit ball pulls hard to his right, forcing him to move quickly towards the line and twisting his hand so the back of the glove faces him as he scoops the ball into it.
Throws near the third base line all the way to first are exceptionally long and need to have some force behind them to reach first base in time and on a fly. This drill works on the third baseman’s backhanded fielding as well as his long throw to first.
The coach stands at home with a bat and a bucket of balls. The third baseman stands away from the bag about 6 feet into the infield towards shortstop. The coach hits a soft grounder to him, forcing the third base player to move to his right and field the ball backhanded.
After hitting 10 soft grounders to your player, begin hitting the ball harder so it moves faster and closer to the third base line. This forces the third baseman to move farther and stretch his arm more to backhand the ball into his glove. Repeat and hit hitting harder balls down third about 10 times.
Last, place a runner at home. Hit a soft grounder to third for your player to catch backhanded. The moment you hit the ball, a runner sprints from home plate to first. The baseman tries to reach first with the ball before the runner.
Catching and Throwing Warmup Drill
This drill is great when starting baseball practice. Your infield can begin to work on their catching and throwing mechanics before they move on to more complex and challenging drills.
Every play involving an infielder and the ball requires him to catch and then pivot his body to throw. The coach separates his players into pairs, each player with his glove, and one baseball. The pairs of players can stand anywhere on the field, at about 10 feet apart.
During this warmup drill, the coach looks at each pair, observing their catching and throwing mechanics. Make sure payers throw to each other above the waist, so the player catching the ball learns to keep his thumbs together, palms of both hands facing his ball throwing partner. Make sure fielders are catching the ball with both hands, one hand behind the glove.
Players face their partners when catching the ball. Encourage each pair to turn quickly to throw the ball back. Instruct them that the best way to turn is to twist the lower body, and then throw.
Long Throw Drill
The three integral steps of throwing an accurate line drive or one-hop ball to another player are first positioning the glove. Second, eyes are focused on the target. Third, throwing and releasing the ball with power and accuracy.
A good standing posture is required on order to throw a baseball far. Perhaps the longest infield throw goes from third base to the first. Yet before practicing fielding ground balls, then throwing, this drill duplicates the throwing technique of outfielders, because infield players need to use the same posture outfielders do when throwing around the bases.
The coach separates his team into pairs, but they stand a distance apart equal to the distance between bases, 90 feet. Coaches walk around the field, calling out, “gloves, eyes, ball, out in front, posture,” around his players as reminders.
Keep in mind these key points while you observe your player pairs throwing back and forth:
- Make sure when throwing, players keep the ball thrown inside the the frame of the catcher’s body, accurate and inside a rectangle.
- Adjust posture when throwing if the ball is thrown wide until your throwers can target within the catcher’s body frame.
- Make sure players are slightly flexed at the knees. Their posture should be almost the same as when they are in the batter’s box.
- To throw long line drives, make sure players step behind then move forward into the throw.
- The eyes are level, looking straight ahead of him.
- His glove is in front of his body.
Fielding a ball correctly can be broken down into several steps. Having a tight infield that works well individually will make them work well as a single unit when trying to throw out runners and turn double plays.
This driver requires ever infielder to be at their positions by the bases. The coach stands at home with a bat and a bucket of balls.
First, show your infield players how to creep slowly onto the infield grass. They do this by taking a small step with their right foot, followed by a small step with the left. As he creeps forward he opens his hands. He is in his ready position, his arms are spread, the player is bent as he creeps up.
Now hit a ground ball to the first baseman and watch as he charges the ball. Players approach the ball quickly in controlled movements. Charging should be slow and studied and not fast. A slow approach prevents fielders from over running a ground ball.
To field the ball, infielders spread their legs shoulder width apart, head down. The bare hand is on top and the gloved hand is on the ground. When they reach the ball, they trap it between the glove and the infield grass.
Now that it’s in the infielder’s glove, players take their right foot, step inside their left, square their shoulders to the target. Hips square with the knees, they make a good strong throw.
Ball Handling Drill
Infielders are constantly touching the baseball during practice and in games. Feeling comfortable with handling the ball, becoming familiar with its grip and weight will make it easier for players to throw the ball better and field with confidence.
A great drill to do before practice is the Ball Handling Drill. Players just need a couple of minutes to perform this exercise. It should be done every day, using just a baseball and no glove.
Holding the ball, bend slightly at the waist and pass it from the front to the back of the torso of the body. Over time, pass the ball faster and faster around you. When you’ve reached your fastest speed passing it around yourself, switch the direction from left-right to right-left.
Still bending, move the ball around your knees, front to back, again starting slowly and pitching up speed, and reversing the direction of your pass like before.
Handling the ball in this manner helps infielders develop soft hands that can grasp and grip the ball well, giving them self-confidence to throw and catch the ball. Spend about 2 to three minutes passing the ball around torso, then knees, going slowly at first until it’s easy to move it faster around you.
Course Running Drill
More advanced infield drills require your players to use elaborate footwork. After fielding a ground ball, for example, the shortstop shuffles over to the bag at second, taps it with his foot, then throws. Drills outside of play that focus on complex footwork will improve players movement at every infield position.
The coach sets up 8 traffic cones in two lines of 4, about 5 feet apart on either side and in between them. One or two baseballs are placed between at the halfway point and at the end of the rows of cones.
Players are instructed to run through the course, moving from the outside and back between the cones until they reach the ball. Picking up the ball, they throw it back to the coach, who replaces the ball between the cones for the next infelder.
The Course Running Drill requires your infielders to move around the cones with the same movements they’ll use when fielding an infield hit. The cones block forward movement, requiring them to move in semicircular movement towards the ball. This drill is great for improving coordination and quickness.