Throwing Accuracy Drills
Throwing and catching are the two most basic skills in baseball. We firmly believe that at most levels up through high school you can watch two teams warm up before a game and determine which one will win. The team that plays catch better, in most cases, will be victorious.
To get most outs in the game of baseball we must learn to catch a batted ball and throw it to one of our teammates accurately. Learning to throw correctly and accurately certainly makes the catching part a lot easier. There are many drills that we have presented in previous editions of Coaches Clipboard that cover proper throwing mechanics - when pitching, playing catch or after fielding a batted ball. Now we would like to introduce some ways to incorporate the concept of improving a player's throwing accuracy into those drills. The great thing about these drills is that they can be done as competitions among several players or a whole team or alone in the backyard.
Proper throwing mechanics will help improve throwing accuracy. Some key things to remember when performing any throwing drill follow:
Use a four-seam grip - This is the best way to make sure the ball carries and travels in a straight line. Remember, we are not trying to trick our teammates; we are trying to make it as easy as possible on them.
Keep the elbow above the shoulder - Many young players start out with their elbow above the shoulder, but many times the elbow drops or gets way out in front of their body as they approach their release point. Even big league pitchers who throw sidearm or use a three-quarters delivery, for the most part, keep the elbow above the shoulder. This allows for better accuracy and eliminates strain on the elbow.
Point the front shoulder - The front shoulder always should point toward the intended target.
Step toward the target - When throwing or pitching the front leg should always move toward the intended target.
Follow through or follow the throw - When pitching, the follow through should be automatic, with the back leg coming forward to a position flat on the ground and the arm finishing low to the opposite side of the body. When playing catch or throwing after fielding a batted ball, the player should always follow the throw by taking several steps toward the target after releasing the ball.
Any stationary throwing drill can be completed from the power position. This is one of the best ways to make sure that players get the ball out of the glove, keep the elbow above the shoulder, achieve proper arm action and point the front shoulder toward the intended target. The power position can be used to teach players of all ages how to throw properly.
When executing any of the following drills from the power position, please remember the following points of emphasis:
1)Use a four-seam grip.
2)Create a wide base with the feet.
3)Get the ball "out and up." Take it out of the glove, back and up so that the hand is above the ball and the arm is extended toward center field (if you are standing on the pitcher's mound).
4)Front shoulder should point directly toward the target.
5)Not a velocity drill. Focus on mechanics and accuracy.
6)Create a weight shift to the back side before going forward.
7)Elbow above the shoulder through rotation.
8)Follow through only with the arm. Both feet remain on the ground.
9)Create a nice hip turn and finish.
10)No striding promotes a shorter stride.
11)Take the weight all the way back from the finish position to stretch out the throwing motion and avoid short-arming (for those who have that problem).
For each of the three drills that follow all that is needed are a few baseballs and a screen or net to throw at. We prefer to use the Jugs Instant Screen ( www.ripkenbaseball.com or www.amazon.com/ripken), which has a built-in target, but in reality a pitch back, a goal of some sort (hockey, soccer, lacrosse, etc.) or even a wall can be used. If you use a goal or wall you will need to draw, tape or paint a target similar to the size of an average-height person's strike zone on it.
Basic Accuracy Drill:
For this drill the player simply stands 15 to 20 feet in front of the intended target. The player assumes the power position and throws the ball toward the painted, taped or drawn target (or the red rectangle on the Instant Screen). The player can make five to 10 throws (more, of course, if he is alone). Each time the ball lands inside the target a point is awarded. To receive the point, however, the player must execute the power position portion of the drill correctly. If you are doing this drill with a small group of players or a team, players can continue to take turns until they have gone through an entire bucket of balls.
As the players improve their accuracy, the distance can be increased. Remember that the distance should never be so great that the players cannot throw correctly from the power position. After performing the drill from the power position, let the players attempt it by using their regular throwing or pitching motion. You should notice improved mechanics. They can move back as far as they like when using their normal throwing motion, but make sure they take a couple of steps toward the target after releasing the ball.
Advanced Accuracy Drill:
This drill is performed exactly as the basic accuracy drill described above except that a ball is placed on a batting tee in front of the screen, net or wall. The players can throw from the power position or by utilizing their normal pitching or throwing motion. Award them one point for throwing the ball into the painted, drawn or taped strike zone (or the red rectangle on an Instant Screen), two points for hitting the top part of the tee and knocking the ball off and three (or more) points for hitting the ball directly and knocking it off. Again, when the players are using the power position for this drill they only get their points if the execute the power position correctly.
Throwing After the Catch for Accuracy:
Our standard camp throwing drill is one in which three cones are set up in front of the intended target ( http://ripkenbaseball.com/cc/?zone=notebook&id=5955). The cones are lined up so that they point toward the target with each one four to six feet closer toward the target than the last. The distance the cones are set up away from the target can be increased substantially as the players get older. To execute the drill, one player steps up and faces the first cone, gets a ball and assumes the proper fielding position (wide base, butt down, hands out in front). The player shuffles to the first cone, at which point he releases the ball, and then follows the throw toward the intended target until he is past the third cone. At camp, this is done on a field with the players throwing to a coach. To improve accuracy, however, it can be done so that the players are throwing toward a net, wall or screen as described in the drills above. Players can make one throw at a time and then go to the end of the line. Each time the ball lands inside the painted, drawn or taped strike zone (or the red rectangle on an Instant Screen), a point is awarded. The point only is awarded if the player correctly follows the throw past the third cone.