In both baseball and softball ‘Around the Horn’ occurs between batters when the bases are empty. You will see it happen most often following either a strikeout or a double play.
The basemen throw the ball between one another in an effort to keep their arms loose. It is also a mental exercise to help players stay engaged when the pitcher is handling the side alone.
Following a strikeout the ball will begin with the catcher on a caught 3rd strike. They’ll then throw to 3rd who, in turn, throws to 2nd. The throw then heads to short, before they throw it to 1st. Finally, its back to the pitcher. Some catchers prefer to throw to 1st in which case the process is reversed.
After the double play is turned, the 1st baseman begins the rotation throwing to 2nd, where the short stop is covering. From 2nd the throw goes back to the 2nd baseman, who is covering the path between 1st and 2nd. He then throws it 3rd before retuning the ball to the pitcher.
Drill Set Up
There are many ways to run this drill. We’ll show you three different options.
I) Place a player on each base.
II) Place a player at each position.
III) Catcher, 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen. Shortstop with the rest of the players lined up behind short. Coach/player as hitter.
The purpose of this drill is two-fold. First, it is an opportunity for the muscle memory to establish so that the fielders get so accustom to throwing to their most-common spots that they can throw with confidence, and accuracy, no matter the stress of the situation or obstacles obstructing their view including umpires, dust and runners.
Secondly, the drill is intended to increase the speed at which players deliver the ball between bases with the expectation of more frequent putouts.
Important No matter the version, the objective is for the ball to be fielded with the fielder’s foot on their respective bag.
Option Break up into groups and time each to encourage quicker release of the ball using a bit of friendly competition as incentive.
Place a player on each base. Begin with the ball at home plate with the catcher. Catcher throws to 3rd, who then throws to 2nd and finally to first before the first baseman returns the ball home to the catcher. Practice repetitively to see how quickly you can do it without dropping the ball.
With players in each position on the field, start the ball with the pitcher. The pitcher throws to the catcher who then throws it to 3rd. 3rd goes to 2nd. 2nd goes to 1st who sends it back to the catcher.
After the pitcher throws they take 1st then wait to run home until the first baseman returns the ball to the catcher. After the second baseman throws he becomes a 3rd base runner.
The catcher then throws to the shortstop who goes first to right field. Right throws back to short who then throws to center. The centerfielder then throws to 3rd. 3rd then tosses it to left field and the left fielder throws to home. When this final toss is released, the 2nd baseman runs home.
Here’s a video of a little league team demonstrating Version II, completing the task in just 31.82 seconds. Can your team beat these kids?
The hitter grounds to short. The shortstop fields the ball and throws to 1st. The shortstop then runs to first as the first baseman throws to 2nd. The 1st baseman then follows their throw to 2nd. 2nd and 3rd then follow suit. The ball and runners continue around the horn with the catcher running to short following their toss of the ball back to the hitter. Following one rotation you’ll have the SS on 1st. 1st baseman on 2nd. 2nd baseman on 3rd. 3rd baseman at home plate and the catcher lined up at the back of the line at shortstop.
Make a Game of It
You can also practice the drill as a mini-scrimmage.
Set up: two teams of 5 players each.
Teams field: C, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, SS
Batter hits grounders from a T or toss. Fly balls are outs.
Infielder catches the hit and throws it to 1st. First basemen then throws it to one of the other infielders who throws it back to 1st. This continues until all fielders have touched the ball and it is returned to the 1st baseman. The ball then travels ‘around the horn’ – 1st to short to 2nd to 3rd - before being returned to the catcher.
Each fielder must touch their base before throwing except for ‘around the horn’ and home. If the batter-runner can run all the way home before the ball gets to home plate, they score one run. If the ball gets home first, it’s an out.
Fielders rotate one position clockwise following each batter. This continues until each fielder has caught three balls and made three throws. Each catch/throw must be accurate or a run scores. Bat until three outs are made then switch sides. Play 3-7 innings.
Remember, this drill is about improving both speed and accuracy and, as you’ll see, it’s important to get both right.
Language of the Game
Though today most associate the term ‘around the horn’ with baseball, it is actually borrowed from sailing. It is a nautical term referring to navigating the long way around Cape Horn in South America since the creation of the Panama Canal.
More generally it is an idiom used to describe any alternate route chosen despite a simpler aoptions being available.
Finally, when a 5-4-3 or 6-4-3 double play occurs, which mimics the pattern of the drill, the ball is said to have gone, around the horn.