Another summer has come to an end. The weather is turning with the leaves and all your teammates have moved on to other sports or winter leagues. We’ve got your back. Here are indoor, work-at-home drills to keep your conditioning up throughout the off-season.
Each of the following drills will help softball and baseball players improve their skills on the field come spring. All of them can be completed alone.
Using a softer ball, designed for indoor use, toss the ball overhead and catch it in your glove. Then transfer the ball to your throwing hand and begin again. This helps you maintain the mechanics of catch and release.
Kneeling on the ground with a pillow in front of your knees, softly toss the ball against the wall for a grounder return. On the catch, use two hands then scoop the ball from the glove using a four-seam grip to toss it once more.
You can perform this drill with a new glove to break it in, with an old glove to get your timing down or with no glove at all to enhance your two-handed catch skills.
Time to Run
Set up two cones, pillows, socks, whatever you have, about 8 feet apart. Get down into a squat position so that you’re ready to receive a grounder. Shuffle side-to-side from one cone to the next.
Each time you reach the cone, touch it and go back. Keep the top half of your body up and looking ahead the whole time to practice balance, engagement and readiness. The touching process gets players accustomed to bending over and moving simultaneously for better balance when scooping a grounder. It also allows them to better see the full field of play in game time to assess the best option for fielding the ball once it is in-hand.
A variation of the pillow toss, this exercise is best practiced inside the garage, attic or on a wall in the basement – any unfinished area of the house is best. Throw the ball against a wall from about 5-15 feet away, depending on room size.
Here’s a throwback video to the children’s television show The Baseball Bunch from 1982. In it, MLB shortstop Ozzie Smith, the Wizard of Oz as he was known, teaches the kids some basic wall ball drills. He talks about each drill individually, with demonstration, explaining how they help him to develop different skills as a fielder.
If a friend comes over you can turn it into a game. Play bare-handed with an indoor-appropriate ball. If you touch the ball but do not field it cleanly, you must sprint to the wall and touch it before your friend throws the ball and it hits the wall or they will receive a point. Play to a number you jointly decide in advance.
This drill works on quick reactions, soft hands, throwing and athletic ability.
Expanding on the Time To Run drill, set up four cones in a horizontal line. Moving laterally, weave in front of the first cone, behind the second and repeat.
Look ahead and keep low. This drill allows you to start seeing the full field, as well as your feet, enabling you to avoid inadvertent contact, look to the throw once the catch is complete and maintain balance throughout.
Swing Batter, Batter
Practice your swing indoors using a tea towel. Grip the towel in your bottom hand for batting and position yourself facing a couch or wall as if it were the pitcher and you the batter. Swing the tea towel against the object in front as you release and transfer weight between back and front leg in the swing. This helps you practice the body mechanics of swinging through the full range of motion and avoids stopping your motion on contact.
A variation on the Self Toss is the sock drill.
For this drill you’ll need:
An old tube sock
Tape or an old watch
Here’s a demonstration:
This drill enables you to keep your arm loose without the need for a bucket of balls or a second person to practice. It also allows you to safely, and effectively practice your natural motion indoors.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
This drill requires a partner’s help but you can improvise with a little ingenuity. Consider using an inflatable punching bag with a broom handle attached for example.
Stand with your hips squared to a wall and your hands on hips. Lock your eyes on a singular point on the wall. Have your partner, or bag, lined up facing your hip and with their arm extended 45 degrees from their own hip bending just the elbow down outward - like they are shaking hands from their hip. Turn your shoulders and hips – while maintaining eye contact with your object on the wall – until you hit their arm with your back elbow on the turn.
This helps you develop your batting rotation. By maintaining eye contact with the object on the wall, you’re learning to ready your body to swing while keeping your eye on the ball itself as it continues on its path toward home plate. This is designed to help your body learn to separate the motion of your head from the motion of your body.
Risky Business may have made it popular but you can turn socks on slippery floors into a sliding practice drill.
Here’s a video from the pros that goes over some basic sliding techniques and safety tips. We recommend using a mat on the floor to avoid injury.
Start on your knees. Lay out on your belly, arms in front, and mark where your glove lands. Mark this spot with a piece of tape or an object that is easily removable. If you have a throwing partner, they will aim the ball to that spot. The video below goes over the basics for safely executing a diving drill.
This drill not only involves the lay out but also, equally important, the follow through on the throw. The video teaches how to get your feet up under you, then squared for the throw. Practice this drill to both the glove and backhand sides equally for best results.
For our younger players, please practice safely. Use the proper equipment for indoor play. Get your parent’s approval, select a softer ball appropriate for indoor use and make sure you practice on mats or in padded, object-free areas.