The Marianna Middle School baseball team in Florida is a perennial power in large part due to sound infield play. Coach Clint Brock’s Bullpups captured the Panhandle Conference championship in 2018, and a determining factor was defense on the diamond.
Brock has a core set of daily infield drills that he’s established for the team, a sequence that takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. He shared those drills with theSeason.
Step 1: The players pair off, and each pair gets down on their knees. From there, they roll the ball to each other, reaching out front and fielding the ball with their glove hand (without a glove) and then shoveling it back and forth. “This is to get their hands warmed up and to see the ball into their glove hand,” Brock said. The players repeat this for 10-15 reps.
Step 2: Next the players stand up and get into the dirt part of the infield. Getting into a fielding position, they do 10-15 reps of short hop drills with their glove.“This is working on taking it away, charging the ball and fielding it on a short hop,” Brock said. “They’ll do 10-15 right at them and they’ll do 10-15 on the back hand and they’ll do 10-15 on the glove side.”
Step 3: From here Brock usually splits the players up. Corner infielders usually go to first base. Middle infielders go to shortstop. Then Brock does a series of rolling three balls straight at them, focusing on fielding the ball cleanly and watching it into their glove. “They’ll take turns going back and forth from middle infielders to corners,” Brock said. “We probably do this in five minute increments.”
Step 4: Finally, Brock rolls 3-5 balls right at the players and has them focus on footwork. The players work on getting through the ball with their feet and into a ready position to throw. After receiving the balls head on, they’ll work on their right side on the backhand breakthroughs, again continuing for 3-5 balls. Then he'll roll 3-5 balls to their left side, working on front hands and moving around the ball to get into the proper position to field it. “I’ll rotate it out and go over to third base with the first and third guys,” Brock said. “I’ll do some slow rollers to work on their footwork.”
Why it works: “I think it really helps our infielders with their hands and their eyes, getting focused on what they’re supposed to be doing,” Brock said. “It helps cut down on the errors once they start to see the ball off the bat at that point.”
After hitting his players a couple rounds of fungo, Brock puts a timer on the players. Each fielder gets four seconds from the time the ball leaves the bat to field it and throw to first base. The clock starts as soon as the ball makes contact. If they don’t make it in four seconds, they get off to the side while the next person is going and has to do 10 pushups.
Why it works: “It gets them out of the mindset of taking a leisurely approach to fielding ground balls,” Brock said. “It gets them into more of an in-game mindset.”
Soft Toss Drill
In this drill, Brock has his assistant coach or one of his catchers get over to the side with a bucket of balls, while Brock gets the batter’s box with the fungo. The assistant then soft tosses a ball for Brock to hit. “They have to react to where the ball goes,” Brock said. “We’ll call out scenarios for that so instead of predicting where I’m going to hit it at with the fungo, we’re just taking ground balls. They have to be prepared because they don’t know where we’re going to be hitting from. Being tossed to you is almost like they’re pitching.”
Why it works: “It helps a lot with the game speed stuff because now we don’t have to have a live pitcher up there throwing to a batter,” Brock said.
From GameChanger and Rolando Rose
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