This is an excerpt from Practice Perfect Baseball.
Now that we have covered some basics of individual defense, I want to focus on team defense. Coaches must recognize the importance of individual defensive skills, but they also need to develop the concept of team defense. During practice, the work on team defense needs to be as gamelike as possible. A number of situations may develop during a game, and fielding may also be affected by the score or the inning.
We have six series of team drills that focus on total team defense and communication for all players. A total of 17 drills make up the six series. When we practice team defense, we use one series each practice (we do the six series in sequence).
The team series are done at the beginning of practice after stretching and warm-up. The quick-paced team drills set the tone for practice and involve everyone, including coaches, players, and managers. Someone is in charge of keeping time because each drill is run for 4 1/2 minutes with 30 seconds between drills for explaining the next drill in the series. Any players who play multiple positions will move at the 2-minute, 15-second mark so they can benefit from each segment of the drill. Communication is emphasized. Players must talk, be loud, and take charge.
As mentioned, we do one series per day. Therefore, each week we go through all six series of team defense drills. Once we start playing games, the amount of practice time is reduced. As the coach, I determine which series to do during practices based on the results seen during actual games. We perform these drills throughout the entire season.
Series 1 Team Drills
5-minute stations; catchers at home plate, infielders at the four positions in the infield, pitchers in left field, outfielders and a coach in right field (figure 8.1).
Infielders and Catchers
Infielders and catchers work on force plays at home plate. With the infield in, the infielders field ground balls (coach fungos) and throw home to the catchers for a force play. Catchers then throw the ball to first base for a double play. For the last 2 minutes, the infielders move to halfway, and the catcher performs a tag at the plate.
Pitchers field ground balls in left field. Pitchers throw balls to partners from 60 feet (18.3 m). For the first 2 minutes, the pitcher fielding the ground ball steps and fakes a throw to an imaginary first baseman. For the last 2 minutes, the pitcher fields, steps, and fakes a throw to an imaginary second or third baseman.
Outfielders work on fence communication in right field. One outfielder stands in right center field, yelling distance and fence at the proper time. Other outfielders line up as right fielders and break for the fence to field fly balls.
5-minute stations; catchers at home plate, infielders at positions in the infield, pitchers with a coach in left field, outfielders with a coach in right field (figure 8.2).
Catchers and First Basemen
Catchers field bunted balls and throw to the first basemen. A catcher throws out the bunted ball and yells inside. First basemen come from different depths to cover the base, yelling inside. For the last 2 minutes, the first basemen make a return throw to the catcher for a tag play.
Shortstops and Second Basemen
Shortstops and second basemen work on communicating on ground balls over the base. A coach hits from in front of the pitcher’s mound. The shortstops and second basemen cheat slightly. No throwing to first base is done.
Third basemen field fly balls at the dugout and the fence. The third basemen throw to each other.
Pitchers form a straight line in left field. The pitcher reacts to a quick steal by stepping back, looking the runner back to third base, and then turning and throwing to middle infielders who call the ball right away. The coach calls out what the runner at third base is doing. The pitcher reacts to the situation and backs up home on the first-base side.
Outfielders work on going back on fly balls in right center field. They can throw to each other, or a coach can throw. The outfielder must get in proper position to catch the ball with his throwing-arm side to the base.
5-minute stations; catchers at home plate, infielders at positions in the infield, outfielders in positions in the outfield, pitchers with a coach at the pitcher’s mound (figure 8.3).
Pitchers and First Basemen
Pitchers and first basemen work on 3-to-1 ground balls. A coach fungo hits from in front of home plate. The pitcher delivers to home plate and then takes a straight line to first base to cover. For the last 2 minutes, the players work on drag bunts with the first basemen holding a runner on.
Catchers and Third Basemen
Catchers field bunted balls on the third-base side and throw to third base. Third basemen charge and then go back to third base. A catcher or coach throws the bunted ball. For 2 minutes, players work on bunt defense with a runner on second base; then they work on tags. Players should focus on being more aggressive.
Shortstops, Second Basemen, and Outfielders
Shortstops, second basemen, and outfielders practice communication on fly balls. A coach throws fly balls from behind the pitcher’s mound.
This is an excerpt from Practice Perfect Baseball, by American Baseball Coaches Association. Bob Bennett, Editor.