Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning



Games are Won at Practice

USA Baseball

With a new baseball season just starting in some places and in full swing in others, PBSCCS contacted USA Baseball to see if they had information posted that would help improve practice sessions. The following explains the importance of practice in player development. For more information, visit

By preparing your players properly at practice, you will win your share of games. A baseball coach has very little magic at his disposal during a game; no special plays and no trick plays. No special pre-game pep talks will influence the outcome of the game. Baseball is not a rah-rah sport.

Players have to play against the game. A ball will be hit to them or they will have to hit a ball. There is no way to kill the clock or avoid the inevitable. The game must be played out. And that is the beauty and difficulty of baseball. All 9 players must play both offense and defense. They must have skills in all areas of the game.

The way to win baseball games is to make the routine plays. And, that is what a coach should practice over and over. It is how he utilizes his time at practice and teaches that makes the difference in the outcome of many games.

The routine plays and how you teach them at practice.

  • Catch and throw. Every player must be able to field the ball and throw it accurately with sufficient arm strength. Without a doubt, this is the most under coached area of the game and most important. They don’t draft designated hitters.

  • Infielders must field 4 types of ground balls: 1) ball hit at him; 2) ball hit to the glove hand; 3) ball hit to the backhand; and 4) the slow roller that must be charged. These plays should be practiced every day until they become automatic and can be made without thought.

  • Outfielders must catch every routine fly ball – no exceptions. This is not a difficult skill. Too often a kid will misplay a routine fly ball because of lack of hustle or taking the wrong first step. Outfielders must learn to wait or step back to see where the ball is going, not charge all fly balls. They must also learn how to drop step on balls over the shoulder and turn more than 180-degress on ball straight over the head.

  • Outfielders must field routine ground balls and cutoff balls hit to their right and left. Ground balls directly at an outfielder are caught with the glove side back foot

  • Outfielders must come in and go back on fly balls. They must develop the skill of “tracking” fly balls. They can’t learn this by standing in one place and having the coach hit them fly balls. They must have to move on every fly ball.

  • The coach must be able to trust the game to his catcher. Coaches must devote a lot of time to catching skills; set-up, calling pitches, receiving, blocking and throwing to the bases.

  • The pitcher must be able to throw the ball over the plate in the area he wants. He doesn’t have to have blazing speed or trick pitches. He must throw the ball so the hitter will want to swing at it.

 Sounds simple and it is. Coaches sometimes make it way to complicated. If you are a coach who tries to trick hitters or is afraid to have your pitcher throw the ball over the plate because your team is not able to make the routine plays, you haven’t coached them properly or you haven’t used practice time wisely.

  • On defense, the focus of pre-season practices should be having players make routine defensive plays.

  • On offense, the hitters must be able to bunt, move runners over and hit in situations. This doesn’t magically occur in games; it has to be practiced.

  • Running the bases correctly is essential. You can’t score if you can’t run the bases. All players must learn to run the bases correctly; from leading off to secondary leads to good running mechanics. Players don’t have to be fast to be good base runners, but they must learn and practice technique.

Most of these skills can be practiced during batting practice. BP is not just for hitting. If all you’re doing during BP is hitting, you are wasting a lot of time. When done right, a side benefits of BP are improved skills and increased player interest and attention.

What are the defensive skills that you can work on during BP?

  • Let the catchers and pitchers hit in the first round so they can throw and catch bullpens.

  • Hit ground balls to the infielders during BP. Each infielder can get 20-30 ground balls a day, if you do it this way. The beauty of this is that other things are going on and so much can be accomplished in a short period of time. Have one coach stand to the right of home plate and hit ground balls to the infielders standing at short-stop. Have a second coach stand to the left side of home plate and ground balls to infielders standing at second base. Coaches hit between pitches being thrown in BP to keep the infielders from having to dodge two balls hit at them.

  • The BP hitter hits his pitch and at the instant the ball is batted, each fungo coach tosses his ball in the air and hits a ground ball to his infielder. As he tosses it, he can see where the batted ball went. The BP pitcher allows 3-4 seconds between pitches to give the infielder time to field his ball and allow the hitter to get set.

  • All batted balls must be allowed to go into the outfield so the outfielders can make plays. The infielders concentrate on fielding balls from the fungo only.

  • The infielders throw the ball back to the fungo coach on one hop. This is a learned skill. You don’t always need an extra coach to catch balls from the infielders. They are too important and are needed elsewhere. The infielders put enough air under the ball so that it takes a nice, easy bounce to the fungo coach. The reason for this is three-fold: 1) tossing the balls frees up other coaches; 2) it prevents throwing overuse; and 3) it keeps the infielders facing home plate area for safety. If they threw over to 1B, they would be vulnerable to a batter ball.

  • Outfielders break on every ball hit during BP to develop the skill of tracking the ball. They should learn to concentrate on the hitter. Watching how the hitter swings the bat will help the outfielder know where the ball is hit.

 Conditioning should use game-related activities. At the end of practice, spend 5-10 minutes on a skill that includes conditioning such as the quarterback drill or running the bases. These drills are more time-efficient than simply running sprints because they allow coaches to use an offensive or defensive skill for conditioning.

The quarterback drill.

Each player stands on the warning track with a ball in his hand. The coach stands about 20 yards away. The player jogs the curve on the warning track and tosses a ball to the coach just before approaching him. When the coach catches the ball, the player sprints straight ahead and the coach tosses the ball over his head and to the right or left and the player reaches out and catches the ball. After catching the ball, the player jogs 10 yards to slow down, stops and forms a line for the run back. After the last player performs the drill, the drill is repeated in the opposite direction.

Use the following sequence when running the bases:

  • Single – Start at home plate (HP) and run straight through 1B, stay at 1B

  • 1B to 3B – Start at 1B, take a secondary lead and run to 3B, walk to HP

  • Double – Start at HP and run to 2B, stay at 2B

  • 2B to HP – Start at 2B. take a secondary lead and run to HP, stay at HP

  • Triple – Start at HP and run to 3B, stay at 3B

  • Tag up – Start at 3B, take a secondary lead, tag up and run to HP, stay at HP

  • Inside the park HR – Run around the bases.

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