Many defensive drills for baseball practices are done with stationary fielders, or at least fielders who start out at one spot and make limited movements. As Dewey Petty sees it, fielding plays are often made on the move, so he likes to put his players in motion with one of his favorite practice drills.
Petty, who also has experience coaching American Legion and Teener baseball, has taken two teams to state tournaments in his seven years of managing in the Abington Little League in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
After watching a high school team do a similar drill while rotating between two stations, Petty modified it for his Little League practices to add a third station and even more movement at a time when players are first learning how to make various catches while in motion.
“We have them break into a sprint, then adjust to the ball,” Petty said. “They’re running and catching grounders or pop-ups. It’s something very simple that we do a ton of.”
Three coaches set up on the field, each with at least a small bucket of balls. Having extra balls available keeps the drill from coming to a halt when one player is unable to make a catch or makes an errant throw.
Cones can be used to show players where to start, finish and even the direction to run during the drill.
Petty starts his players in a single line next to cones along the right field line.
He places three coaches on the field. The first is near where a second baseman would be positioned but closer to the mound. The second is in center field. The third is in the infield near where the third baseman would be aligned.
How it Works
The first player starts a sprint from the right field line across the outfield. As he does, the coach near second base throws a ball for him to field, altering the deliveries to mix the types of plays the outfielders must make.
Petty suggests throwing the balls, rather than hitting, to be more precise and keep the drill moving.
The player fields the ball from the first coach, throws it to that same coach and continues running. The center field coach then throws a ball to be fielded.
As one player is moving through, another is starting behind him.
Players who have fielded balls from the first two coaches then make their next throws to third base and handle one more play as they make it to the left field line.
Once at the left field line, the players wait for those behind them to come through. Then, the drill is run in the opposite direction.
With several rotations, players can handle plays from both sides, running hard or adjusting speed after first originally breaking hard to the ball, and reaching high or low.
“They learn to adjust and it helps us teach good footwork, breaking down to the ball,” Petty said. “Once they catch the ball, they’ll also make throws while on the move.”
Petty generally runs the team through the drill three times in each direction.