In a recent Think The Game, we talked about changing your mindset to value ball security and ball handling all the time, rather than simply when you are engaged in a drill. In the proposed challenge, we task you with seeing how many days you can go without dropping a baseball. Every dropped ball starts the clock over, whether it’s playing catch, pulling a ball out of a bucket, fumbling a ball you picked off the floor of the cage, or when someone flips you a ball unexpectedly, every ball you handle matters. This challenge serves 3 purposes: 1) It makes every time you have a ball in your possession a repetition with meaning; 2) It makes you aware of when and why you drop a ball; and 3) it’s a fun way to challenge yourself or compete with teammates. You can even attach a penalty for a drop to make it more serious (think of this scene from Remember the Titans). This seemingly silly challenge can have a real and lasting impact that carries over to games. If nothing else, it’s an admission that ball security and ball handling are valued skills and should be taken seriously. As such, we thought we would add to the challenge by giving you some ball handling drills to work on your glove skill, focus, ball security, and more!
Variations: All the following drills can be made more difficult and less predictable by incorporating balls of different weights, sizes, and materials. The different balls force the body to react and adjust on the fly, in addition to remain focused and alert.
These drills are about being comfortable going into your glove and making the exchange. These are some common variations, but get creative and think of your own as well. The positions make it more challenging and force you to adjust to not having the ball in the perfect spot in your glove at all times.
Around the Waist: In an athletic position, circle the mid-section with the ball and the glove, making the exchange between glove and throwing hand in front of and behind the body. Go both clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Around the Knees: In an athletic fielding position, circle the knees with the ball and the glove, making the exchange between glove and throwing hand in front of and behind the knee. Go clockwise and counter-clockwise for each leg.
Figure 8s: In an athletic fielding position, alternate circling left knee and right knee in a figure 8 motion, exchanging the ball from glove to throwing hand in-between the legs. Go both directions.
Partner Drills or Wall ball Drills
Like the static drills, but incorporating a responsive element with the feed from your partner (or bounce back from a wall). Again, get creative and challenge yourself.
One Ball Bare hand: Facing your partner several feet away, catch the ball with your glove hand, transfer to your throwing hand and flip the ball to your partner, who does the same, feeding the ball back to you. Work to develop a quick rhythm, incorporating foot movement to catch, exchange, and flip the ball back as quickly as possible.
Two Ball Bare Hand: Facing your partner several feet away, follow the same pattern as One Ball Bare Hand, flipping a ball to your partner as he simultaneously does the same to you. Develop a quick rhythm, incorporating foot movement to keep the balls going as quickly as possible.
One Ball with Glove: Repeat the One Ball Bare Hand drill with your glove.
Two Ball with Glove: Repeat the Two Ball Bare Hand drill with your glove.
One Ball Skip: Repeat the One Ball with Glove variation skipping a short, long, or in-between hop to your partner rather than a quality feed in the air.
Two Ball Skip: Repeat the One Ball Skip, incorporating simultaneous short, long, or in-between hops.
Outside the Box
Here are some of our outside the box ball handling drills, many of which borrow in part or completely from other sports.
The 3 Man Weave: Learning to handle and throw the ball on the run is a valuable skill. Run a 3 man weave drill like the ones used in basketball, but with a baseball and more room between players. Need a refresher on the weave? It looks like this.
Baseball Ping Pong/4-Square: See the image below for instructions.
Partner Drills with Movement: Do any of the partner drills with the partners rotating in a circular motion while maintaining the same distance. Switch directions periodically with a “switch” call.
These drills, in addition to the no drop challenge should be a great start to improving your ball handling skills. The best and most fun drills often come from getting creative. Use your imagination, keep your glove guessing and have fun!