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Braves Care: PLAY at Home Resources

Braves Backyard Baseball

Whether you are stuck in your home because of social distancing or you are just wanting to get outside, be active, and have some fun, these tips, drills, and games should provide you plenty of activity.

These daily routines, if done with intention and purpose, will continue to sharpen your skills, increase your muscle memory, and enhance your hand eye coordination. Things you should be doing every day:

  • Play Catch – Grab a partner (mom, dad, brother, sister, neighbor). Make sure to focus on being accurate, stepping towards your target, and releasing the ball in front of you. As you gain confidence, you can increase distance and velocity but make sure to maintain proper form.
  • Field Ground Balls – Again, grab a partner, have them roll, bounce or hit you balls on the ground to field with your glove (or barehand) out in front of your body. For the beginners, it’s important to just field the ball cleanly. As you advance, work on your footwork to set your self up for a good fielding position with your momentum leading towards your target (usually 1st base).
  • Catch Pop Flies – This is something you can do with or without a partner as all it requires is for the ball to be in the air but it’s easier with a partner. Throw the ball up high and try to work on getting underneath it, catching it over your head but in front of your face, and using two hands. As you advance, try to get “behind the ball” and gain momentum towards your target as you catch it (similar to fielding a ground ball with momentum towards first base).
  • Hit – Using a bat (medal, wood or plastic) or stick (like a broomstick) and a baseball/softball (tennis ball or softball), try to make solid contact with the ball whether you a) toss it up to yourself to hit (make sure you aren’t hitting near any homes if using real bats and balls), b) hit off a tee or c) have a partner that either tosses it or throws it to you. If possible, hit into a chain linked fence or a net, safely swinging & hitting away from anyone or anything.
Drill 1: Last Hop Drill (i.e. The “Wash” Special) (focus for infielders)
  • What you need: A partner (or “coach”) (mom, dad, brother, sister or friend), a glove, 3-4 balls
  • Directions: The fielder starts on their knees (use a towel or something soft to place their knees on). Place three balls in front of the fielder, one directly in front, one to the glove side just outside of the knee, and one to the throwing side just outside of the opposite knee. These three ball placements are the ideal locations for this drill. The fielder should be fielding the ball directly in front of them with two hands and their glove moving forward (or through the ball/towards the ball). The fielder should be field the front hand ball (ball to their glove side) with only the glove (you are working on glove control and comfortability in fielding outside of the players body), also working through the ball. The fielder should field the back-hand ball (the ball to their non glove side and/or throwing side) with their glove turned “backwards” (i.e. hand turned over/thumb down/palm out), also working through the ball. Once the fielder understands what to do with each ball, you can begin the drill.
  • The drill: With the fielder still on their knees and no balls in front of them, the coach (or partner) can one hop (i.e. “Last Hop”) the ball to either the middle, the left, or the right of the fielder. The fielder must follow the proper form to work towards or through the ball to catch it on it’s last hop. To reiterate, if it’s in front of them, this should be done with two hands (the non-glove hand as more of a cover/secure but you want to field it in the palm/pocket of the glove). The one hops to both the glove side and non-glove side should be done with just the glove (no second hand/cover hand), with the only difference being forehand/backhand. A progression of this drill is done by using a bat (or fungo) to hit the ball instead of throwing it but make sure to deliver “one-hops” still (again to simulate the “Last Hop”). After that, allow the field to stand to their feet and repeat the reps, backing up for harder hit balls as necessary.
  • What this helps: The “Last Hop” is typically where mistakes are made, so this drill is designed to be comfortable fielding that last hop by coming “through it” from every angle. If you decrease the bounce on the last hop by moving towards it with your glove, you increase your chance to field it cleanly.
Drill 2: Over-the-shoulder Drill (focus for outfielders)
  • What you need: A partner (mom, dad, brother, sister or friend), a glove, a ball
  • Directions: With your back to your partner, have them throw the ball on an arc where you can catch it over your shoulder. Try to make the catches difficult with looking up at the sky as the ball comes into view, picking it up quickly, and still making the catch.
  • The drill: use the directions above to repetitively throw over the shoulder balls to catch. Try to throw them over each shoulder or directly over the head to increase difficulty.
  • What it helps: For infielders – the short pop-up to the outfield or in foul territory that requires the fielder to turn and run. For outfielders – the ball that is hit deep and requires the fielder to run back, whether straight back, left or right, and catch the ball over their shoulder. This drill is meant to create comfortability with a ball behind a fielder with their back to the plate and will increase hand eye coordination on those plays.
Drill 3: Receiving Drill (focus for catchers)
  • What you need: A partner (mom, dad, brother, sister or friend) – 5-10 baseballs/softballs (or any kind of ball)
  • Directions: Have the catcher get into their stance (squat position, balanced, feet flat on ground, not on toes). Using the baseballs (or balls) that you have, while the catcher is using only their barehand, toss the balls to them for them to catch. Change up the location of the ball from left to right, up and down.
  • The drill: Start with the directions above as a baseline, with a focus on not just “catching” the ball but “framing” it in towards the strike zone/plate. At times this might not require much but just sticking the ball where it’s caught. Other times, it might require the catcher to turn their hands in, down, or up to create the illusion of a better pitch. The catcher should be moving towards the ball with their body a little bit as well, to help create that illusion. As you progress, this drill can be done with a catcher’s mitt and a harder thrown ball. Another part of this drill can be done by using only a single finger/thumb combination to catch the ball. Start with the index and thumb (3 times), the middle and thumb, the ring and thumb, then pinky and thumb.
  • What it helps: The most important thing as a catcher is to catch the ball. This drill focusing primarily on that starting with just their barehand. As a catcher becomes more and more comfortable catching the ball, the “framing” starts to become easier which helps increase the amount of strike calls per game, which in turn hopefully equates to less pitchers thrown by your pitcher.
Drill 4: Toe Tap Drill (focus for pitchers)
  • What you need: This drill can be done without any equipment
  • Directions: Get into the “stretch” (a pitching position where your back foot is on the “rubber” and your shoulders are making a line towards home plate). Lift your front leg/knee up to a 90 degree angle in front of your body, hold it there, then slowly take it down to the ground crossing over your back foot to “toe tap” the ground. Bring it back up to the 90-degree balance point and then take it back down to “toe tap” directly back on the ground below you, this time not crossing over your foot.
  • The Drill: Continue to follow the directions above in a repeated rhythm (leg up, toe tap behind your back foot by crossing over it in front of your body, leg back up, toe tap next to your front foot, this time not crossing over your back leg). Do this as many times as you can without losing your balance but shoot for a number, 10 or 20 toe touches. Rest and start again.
  • What it helps: Balance! A pitcher needs to be able to control their balance so they can control how their body is supposed to move towards the plate while pitching.
Drill 5: Walking Tee Drill (focus for hitters)
  • What you need: A batting tee, baseballs (or any kind of balls), a bat (or equivalent), a net or fence or none if using plastic bat and balls
  • Directions: Setup the tee with a ball. Start back behind the tee (back behind where you would normally stand in your respective batters’ box). You are going to want to be far enough back that when you do this drill you end up in a good position to hit the ball off the tee, meaning you want to land your feet as close as possible to where they would be positioned based on the batting tee’s position. All you do, is from your starting position, take your back foot and step behind your front foot (crossing it moving towards the pitcher), and then take your front foot and continue that motion forward, crossing it over your back foot moving towards the pitcher. As your foot is landing your swing should initiate to hit the ball off the tee.
  • Drill: Repeat this step process for about 10-20 times.
  • What it helps: This helps setup the “natural” landing spot for your feet and creates some fluidity with your swing and hands.
Game: Wall Ball
  • What you need: A tennis ball or bouncy ball, a flat wall, near either a concrete surface or a flat hard surface and at least two people but you can play with many more.
  • Directions: The game begins with a player throwing the ball against the wall and creating a bounce off the wall that the opposing players must field cleanly (could be on one hop or several hops). The player that fields the ball throws it back against the wall for another player to field, so on and so forth.
  • Game: If the ball is dropped or an error is made, the player gets a mark or tally. The player with the least number of mistakes wins the game.
  • What it helps: Hand eye coordination when fielding the ball, looking to minimize mistakes. Footwork when fielding and throwing the ball back against the wall (think of it as fielding and throwing towards a target in the infield). Throwing accuracy when returning the ball to the wall after fielding it, trying to throwing it at the wall at an angle to bounce off near your opponent (or straight on if they are near you).
Game: Pickle
  • What you need: Any type of ball (baseball, softball, tennis ball, rubber ball, etc.), if using a baseball or softball, use of a glove is recommended, two “bases” (this can be anything). Requires three people, two “fielders” and one “runner”.
  • Directions: The “runner” starts in the middle of the “bases” and tries to run back and forth to get to one base safely without being tagged by one of the “fielders” who currently has the ball. The “fielders” are trying to tag out the “runner” by possessing the ball and tagging the “runner” with the ball or glove that has the ball inside of it.
  • Game: If the runner makes it safe to a base, the runner wins that round. If the fielder tags the runner out, they win that round. Rotate the runner and fielders to change it up. The runner who gets out of the most pickles wins the game.
  • What it helps: As a fielder, the situation in games when runners are caught off base, but teammates work together to run them down and tag them out. As a runner, when caught in this situation, using your best instincts to try and get out of the “pickle”.
Game: Home Run Derby
  • What you need: A bat (real, wood or plastic), some balls (real, plastic or bouncy), a boundary, 2-3 people
  • Directions: Create a boundary to hit over (a home run line) that is attainable for all competitors. The more home runs the better to make the game more fun. Have a pitcher toss the balls to the hitter and allow for at least 10 swings or 10 outs, however you decide to do it. You can create multiple rounds and determine how you are going to break ties. Each participant should be given the same amount of chances to swing for the fences!
  • Game: Create a leaderboard or establish teams (if you have 4 or more). The player or team that hits the most home runs wins. If you institute rounds, make sure to establish if the home run totals add up from each round or if the rounds are separated. Swing for the fences!
  • What it helps: Competition! One thing that every athlete needs to establish is their competitiveness. The will and desire to perform at the highest level they possibly can.
  • Hit a home run – to be very successful
  • A ball park figure – an estimate
  • Strike out – to fail
  • Batting a thousand – maintaining a perfect record
  • Play hardball – use extreme measures to ensure success
  • Go to bat for someone – to aid or support someone
  • Throw a curve ball – to do something unexpected
  • Touch base – to communicate briefly with someone
  • To have two strikes – to have the odds against you
  • On the ball – very aware, responsible, and intelligent

Braves Training Series

The Braves want to teach the game to players, coaches and parents in all major areas of the game (hitting, fielding, catching, base running and pitching). Hear from Braves professionals and others on these subjects and more!

Additional Resources

Braves Training Series: The Braves want to teach the game to players, coaches and parents in all major areas of the game (hitting, fielding, catching, base running and pitching). Hear from Braves professionals and others on these subjects and more!

PLAY BALL: Follow @MLB, @PLAYBALL, and @MLBDevelops on Instagram and Twitter, and visit playball.org for at-home baseball/softball practice, training, and family activities. Download the home guide today.

USA Baseball: USA Baseball has a full slate of videos and resources for coaches, players and parents. Right now, through Zoom, they are also doing weekly virtual clinics for coaches. The Zoom webinars are available here.

LeagueApps: Check out some useful resources from the LeagueApps team for League Directors and organizations to navigate these unprecedented times.

Positive Coaching Alliance: Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is committed more than ever to our mission of transforming the culture of youth sports, so that all kids have a positive, character-building experience. Check out these resources for athletes and coaches.

Little League Pep Talk: Every Little Leaguer needs a pep talk right now. Here are some words of encouragement as we wait to hit the ballfield again. Watch Pep Talks

Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA): Every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET, professional athletes across all sports are coming together for a virtual “huddle up".

Playworks: Keep kids active and engaged during this time with help from the play experts. Checkout the Play at Home Playbook for games and activities and join into #PlayAtHomeRecess on Facebook.

The Aspen Institute: Project Play: The Aspen Institute, under their Project Play initiative is working to have resources, guidance and content for all involved in youth sports. Learn more.

Baseball Coaches Insiders: Players and coaches have free access to over 115 baseball skills videos.

Diamond Kinetics: Check out the 'Play At Home' initiative for players to continue developing baseball skills at using pitch and swing tracking technology through mobile applications.

UP2US SPORTS: Coaches and parents check out #UP2USSPORTSATHOME for resources and trainings to improve your craft. Learn more.

Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center: The Yogi Berra Museum has lesson plans for middle school and high school students: Learn More.

Reach Out to Us! If you have any questions, comments or ideas, email our team at [email protected].