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4 Go-To Baseball Drills For Down The Stretch

Seymour baseball - go to drills - the season - gamechanger
From GameChanger and Greg Bates, a freelance reporter for Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Every season as the playoffs near, baseball coaches have to determine which drills are the most important to use down the stretch.

For Seymour (Wis.) High School baseball coach Curt Jefson, the drills he instilled on Day 1 of practice are the same drills he emphasizes with his players on the final day of the season. Jefson, whose team closed out the year with a loss in a regional final, ran a circuit of drills twice a week.

Ichiro Hitting Drill

One drill Jefson hit on hard this season was the “Ichiro Drill,” named after Florida Marlins hit machine Ichiro Suzuki. The best Japanese hitter to ever play the game has an unusual, but effective, approach to his swing.

“The player is standing on his back leg, his front leg is up, and you can just imagine Ichiro in the process of loading,” Jefson said. “The idea is to get the kids to feel what it’s like to load.”

The players hit off a tee. When they stride from the Ichiro position, they focus on going to load their hands back as they stride. Jefson will place a screen about 50 feet in front of the batter so he has a target to aim for.

“They’re not swinging, obviously, as hard as they can,” Jefson said. “They’re just trying to get that feeling to load. I think that helped us stay back this year and hit some off-speed a little bit better than in the past.”

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Infield Fielding Progressions

With infielders, Jefson likes to work on fielding progressions. The coaches begin by placing players 8-10 feet apart and having them roll the ball back and forth to each other.

“We’re emphasizing head down, butt down, glove down — reaching out in front of us to receive the ball,” Jefson said. “When we field the ball, bring it to our belly button.”

The team eventually moves into forehands and backhands, and they might try something more advanced next, such as backhand off the throwing foot.

“It seems to be quicker for us,” Jefson said. “We’ll work on basically just gloving the ball in different positions — forehand, backhand, right at you — and then we’ll work the foot patterns that go with it. We’re always trying to field the ball in motion towards first base.”

Outfield Footwork

For the outfielders, Jefson’s players focus largely on footwork. The player begins by standing about 10 feet from a coach. The coach then points toward one direction, and the player has to drop his back foot and take off.

“(The coach will) just throw him one so the player can get behind the ball, catch it with two hands,” said Jefson, who encourages players to catch the ball right in front of their face, just above the eyes.

One-Pitch Scrimmage

Jefson’s favorite drill is one-pitch scrimmage. In the mock scenario, runners are on base and the count is full as the pitcher delivers to a hitter.

“It puts some pressure on both of those sides,” Jefson said. “You get your base running in during that time. Your pitchers don’t have to throw a whole lot; even in the middle of the season you can still do it. It just emphasizes hustling on and off the field, being ready to go, because it’s a really fast-paced drill.

“That one I really enjoy because you can kind of pick up the pace of the game. For some of these kids, it’s important for them to be able to think on their feet and adjust.”

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