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A Drill to Handle Short Hops Like the Wizard

Younger players may not be familiar with Ozzie Smith, but the Hall of Fame shortstop nicknamed “The Wizard” is the inspiration behind a key drill infielders can work into their everyday routine — even in the off-season.
“We call them Ozzies, because of Ozzie Smith,” Justin Cunningham said. “Some kids don’t know who he is, believe it or not, but those drills and the way he played, it’s something any player should copy, right?” 

Cunningham is the coach at the TCS Post Grad Academy in McKinney, Texas. It’s essentially a gap-year program for players out of high school, who can play a collegiate schedule without losing a year of eligibility. One of the caveats is that the team can’t play for a playoff spot or championship, putting an added importance on individual skills and development.

And if you head over to the training facility in McKinney, you’ll find the infielders working on their Ozzies.

It’s a short-hop drill where the infielder starts on his knees and fields short hops thrown by a teammate. After catching the ball, the player quickly fires the ball back to his teammates.

There are several variations that players can work on.

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“You can work on different angles, backhand the ball, use glove hand only, be on one knee,” Cunningham said. “All little things that are slight changes, but keep you working on the same main goal.”

Cunningham said it can also be used to add some competition to practice.

“Set something up where you need a player to get 20 perfect in a row before they can complete the drill, or a competition between a couple players to see who can field the most,” Cunningham said. “Make it fun, because baseball is supposed to be fun.”

It’s also a drill that players can work on away from their teammates.

“Take a tennis ball at home and go against a wall, you're getting the same work in,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes it’s even more difficult because of the bounce you get from a tennis ball and you have to react quicker.”

At TCS, Cunningham also has players work on ladder drills on a daily basis. In the ladder drills, the coaches lay out a ladder and the players will run through them and react to a ground ball, to simulate proper footwork and recovery. 

“That’s another thing a player can work on their own as well,” Cunningham said. “You can take tape in your garage to make the ladder by yourself and run through the same routine. Baseball is a lot like ‘The Karate Kid.’ You do the little things over and over, and the kids don’t realize how much they’re actually working on until they stop and look at their overall improvement.”

Overall, it’s the fundamentals that will come into play during a game.

“Feet and positioning are the keys to being a good infielder,” Cunningham said. “You can be the most talented player in the world, but you aren’t going to get anywhere without training your feet and body how to react to things like this. The little steps in the Ozzies and ladder drills that come in handy when you have to make that play in a game.”

From GameChanger and Sean Shapiro.

Baseball, Baseball Tips & Drills