Baseball players have to be skilled in several areas, but most of these areas require the same basic skill -- hand-eye coordination. Fortunately, there is a seemingly endless supply of drills designed to improve this ability and make you a better player, regardless of your position on the baseball field. These drills mostly develop your coordination in the batter's box, but should also improve your ability to catch the ball.
Hit off of a batting tee. This is the most basic and easiest way to practice your swing. The goal is to see the ball and hit it. Use a baseball on the tee to begin with, but switch to tennis balls after you develop some skill. The smaller target of a tennis ball further develops your ability to see the ball and hit it. Set your body in a position to simulate an inside or outside pitch, moving the tee up or down for higher or lower pitches.
Play soft toss with a partner. Have a partner kneel and toss the ball underhand out in front of you. Do this drill within 6 feet of the net on a batting cage or a fence. As the ball hangs in the air, hit it into the fence. If you're a beginner, hit baseballs tossed directly across from you. This is the easiest path to follow with your eyes, and the larger ball is easier to hit. As you progress, switch to tennis balls and have your partner move to a diagonal behind you, tossing the ball slightly forward to get it in front of you. Focus your eyes on the spot in front of you where the ball will appear. Swing when the ball enters your field of vision.
Practice short toss with your partner. Short toss more closely simulates an actual pitch. From behind a safety screen, have your partner pitch to you from no farther away than 10 to 15 feet. The close range helps simulate a full-speed pitch. Use tennis balls once you master this drill with baseballs while keeping in mind that even talented players take years to develop their hand-eye coordination enough to be able to use tennis balls for short toss.
Use a pitching machine set to various speeds and pitches from a realistic release point. Position the pitching machine on top of a mound, if possible, or use one at a batting cage that's positioned flat on the ground. Some machines can be set to simulate curve balls and change-ups. Customize the speed and depth of break on both of these, as well as the speed of the fastball. When used from a real distance, this is the best simulation of real pitching.
Stand a few feet away from a wall and have a partner throw the tennis ball off of the wall. Catch the ball first using two hands, then one as you improve. This is a good way to improve your fielding. Whether you play in the infield or outfield, developing the fast hands required in this drill with the coordination to catch a smaller ball improves your fielding on game day. This drill is easily controlled because of the short throw made by your partner. Simply throwing more softly decreases the difficulty for novice players.
- "Youth Baseball Drills"; Marty Shupak; 2005
- "Offensive Baseball Drills"; Rod Delmonico; 1996