How To Coach Little League Baseball

By: Jimmy Cox

There are several aids which can be helpful in the training of your baseball team.

Sliding Area.

The time to teach sliding is when a boy begins to play baseball. He is closer to the ground and eager to learn. Let the grass grow 6 or 8 inches high in foul territory at the end of a bullpen or outside the outfield fence. This is all the cushion the player needs.

Place a loose (detached) base in the center of the sliding area. Every boy who is physically fit should practice sliding every time he goes to the field, sliding three or four times to the right and three or four times to the left so that he forms the correct habit pattern and has no fear of sliding. He should wear sliding pads, basketball trunks, or heavy swimming shorts to avoid skin burns.

Pitching Target

The pitching strings, introduced to professional baseball by Branch Rickey, provide a target for a pitcher. Two strike zones are recommended. They are erected over home plates in the bullpen. (The bullpens, incidentally, should face in the same direction as the pitcher's mound and home plate.) They can be built of scrap lumber, painted white, and anchored to the ground with wooden pegs for this purpose.

Poles 2 by 4 inches can be stuck into the ground approximately 10 feet apart with the 4-inch sides parallel to the pitcher's mounds. The poles should be lined up so that cords strung between them will be directly above the front of each home plate. One string should be at the average knee-high height of Little League batters and the other string at the average armpit height of a majority of batters in each league.

The strings, which can be obtained in hardware stores, should be of strong white cord similar to a carpenter's marking line. Once the cross-strings have been stretched, vertical strings at the width of each home plate should be strung between the cross-strings directly above the sides of a home plate to complete the strike zone.

Practice pitching mounds should be erected the proper pitching distance from the strike zones, and again practice pitching slabs can be built from scrap lumber, painted white, and anchored to the ground with wooden pegs.

When pitchers warm up, using the strike zone for a target, this practice can be made more realistic by having a batter stand in the batter's box. In this way the batter has a chance to judge strikes and balls and become familiar with the pitched ball, and the pitcher gets used to pitching to a batter.

After a few sessions, the batter can start his swing and then pull back to get the practice of checking his swing when the pitch is bad. This is a good drill for the batter, but he should never go through with the swing because it would break the strings and might injure someone working out elsewhere.

Batting Range

If there is space near your playing field, develop a batting tee range. A net or canvas can be strung between poles or buildings. The size of the area is not too important, but an area from 8 to 10 feet high and 30 feet wide is recommended. This would take care of three batting tees and batters at one time.

By using a woolen practice ball, the batting tee area could be set up beside a building or any other barrier which would eliminate the necessity of going a long distance to retrieve the batted ball. A woolen practice ball will carry far enough in flight to determine whether the batter is hitting line drives, grounders, or high flies, and will eliminate the breaking of windows and other hazards of that nature. Again if no area is available, tees can be set up behind the regular field backstop and balls can be hit against the backstop. Use a rubber-covered baseball, plastic ball, or tennis ball if woolen balls are not available.

With these few aids, training your team can become much more effective.

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