When a high school baseball coach is teaching a new drill, the majority of his players normally pay attention. When that coach has won three state championships, the focus is taken to a new level. Simply put, Kevin Manero has earned that respect.
With a résumé that includes Pennsylvania District I-AAAA state titles as a North Penn High School assistant coach in 2009 and as the team’s head coach in 2013 and 2015, Manero has proven himself to be among the top baseball minds in the state. His coaching style features practices that are brisk and keeps the players active while focusing on a consistent repetition of the fundamentals.
Several years ago, Manero was watching a video on baseball drills and saw one that he particularly liked.
“Like any coach, I steal things as much as I can when they look good,” he said.
That season, the “Three-Tee Fungo Drill” was born.
The Three-Tee Fungo Drill
Manero’s favorite drill features batters at three tees, hitting balls in relatively rapid succession. The tees are located near the left-handed batter’s box, near the right-handed batter’s box, and another down the left-field line. Manero has the batters near home plate hit to specific spots in the infield — usually around the horn — while stressing the necessary bat control to hit the ball with specific direction and purpose. At the tee down the left-field line, the hitters pepper the outfielders with fly balls and one-hoppers.
“We preach that if you can control the bat head and if you can control the ball simultaneously, then it’s pretty tough to get you out,” Manero explained.
Each round lasts between five and 10 minutes, giving the North Penn players a significant amount of repetitions in a short time.
“One guy will get a ground ball, and then it’s no more than another 10 or 15 seconds until he gets the next one,” Manero said. “We’re basically taking batting practice and defensive practice at the same time.”
One of the keys to the drill is its speed.
“I’m a big believer in pace and not doing anything for too long,” Manero said. “It’s very important to be up at the tee when it’s time to hit. Also, this helps guys get in a little workout, break a sweat, get a little tired. And when you’re tired, it’s a little tougher to hit and a little tougher to field balls — and that’s a huge part of it. If it’s too slow or too lackadaisical, then it ruins the whole effect of the drill.”
The objective of this drill, according to Manero, is that “it teaches good bat control and a short, compact swing, while at the same time it’s just repetition and fielding ground balls over and over.”
Manero runs practices that are part repetition and part situational. He aims to get his infielders at least 50 grounders a day, so the Three-Tee Fungo Drill goes a long way toward reaching that goal.
“Our infielders get a ton of ground balls and our guys get a ton of swings off the tee,” he said.
“There are lots of ways to switch it up defensively,” said Manero, who will occasionally incorporate double plays or pitcher fielding into the mix. Offensively, Manero sometimes has players hit to certain positions — or not hit to certain positions — when it’s their turn. Still, despite the slight modifications to the drill, Manero notes “we try to keep this one pretty simple. We don’t get too fancy.”