The brutal winter dumping snow across New England ensures that the region’s softball teams will have to wait a bit before they can start fielding ground balls under the sun. As New Englanders wait for those warmer days ahead, Easton (Mass.) Girls Softball League President Ed Woods shared a series of conditioning drills used by the league’s travel teams, which encompass players ages 10 through 18.
The first drill is designed specifically for catchers.
“Place six to eight balls in front of home plate,” described Woods. “Then, with the catcher in the squat position, she (grabs a ball and) throws to her first baseman, hustles back to her position and continues to do this until she’s used up all of the balls.
“Next, the catcher repeats this drill and throws to a different base.”
Whether it’s softball or baseball, a premium is placed on pitchers being able to field their position. The Easton girls utilize a drill that enables pitchers to field a variety of balls after they’ve thrown a pitch.
Ideally, this drill includes three pitchers, plus a catcher and a hitter. Two pitchers stand one behind the other at the mound while another is stationed at first base.
The hitter begins by hitting a ground ball toward the pitching circle. The first pitcher fields the ball, throws it to first base and then rotates to first base while the next pitcher fields a ball. One key to this drill is making sure the softballs are hit to different locations. Some should be hit to the left and right of a pitcher, while some should be bunts.
To add another element to this drill, have the pitcher visualize a runner at first base. When the pitcher fields the ball, she should look at that runner before making a throw to second.
Infielders must be able to handle all types of hits. To get conditioned for infield defense, Easton coaches begin by having the infielders form two lines at opposite corners of the infield.
“Then we have two hitters positioned in the pitcher’s circle,” Woods said. “Each one hits a ball to each line. After a girl fields a ball, she runs to the end of the other line.
“We want the hitters to hit grounders, line drives, pop-ups and balls where a fielder has to range far to her left and her right.”
One key to this drill is to have a sufficient number of softballs. That way, the drill can be maintained at a rapid pace.
Outfielders must be in condition to run down fly balls — especially ones hit in gaps. Easton has a drill for that, too.
It begins with four outfielders lined up in left field and another player stationed around second base.
“(The player at second) throws the ball to the first girl in line,” Woods said. “After catching the ball and throwing it back to the thrower, (the outfielder) hustles to center field and catches another ball thrown by the same girl.
“After doing that, she throws the ball back to the thrower at second base. We have them repeat the sequence with the fielder eventually running to right field.”
This drill can be varied by moving the thrower to different areas and having the outfielders rotate instead from right to left field.