Short Hop Gauntlet is an advanced infield drill working short hops and quick hands. This drill involves a number of steps leading up to a fun competition at the end – The Gauntlet! Specifically, this drill helps young athletes to read, anticipate, and predict hops (long hops, short hops, spin, trajectory, etc). The art of “getting a good hop” is something that takes experience and maturity. Fun drills such as this accelerate the process and give athletes many repetitions in a short amount of time. The Gauntlet is run during station instruction, after Ground Ball fundamentals have been thoroughly discussed.
EXECUTION – Start with athletes in the fielding triangle and discuss catching the ball immediately after a hop – a “short hop.” We’ve found it worthwhile to highlight an important DC Key here: Two Hands vs. One Hand. This is similar to some of the outfield discussion, where the action of a play dictates using two hands vs one hand. In the outfield, a ball caught on the run is typically caught with one hand… while an athlete camped underneath a fly ball can use two hands. For short hops, one hand is very accepatable. Especially if the ball is caught on the side of the body (forehand/backhand), or if the athlete reach out to catch the ball well in front of the body, one hand is recommended. If you are catching or receiving the ball directly at you, then two hands are best. The body CAN get involved in knocking down a short hop, but this drill is one for the hands!
Part 1 – Partner Reps: Pairing off into partners, athletes spread out roughly 15-20 feet apart from each other and take turns tossing baseballs at each other. It works well to start with ground ball repetitions (at / forehand / backhand) and then move into short hop repetitions. Follow a similar rhythm of practicing short hops thrown “at their partner”, followed by forehand, and finishing with backhand short hops.
Part 2 – # of Hops: The second part of this drill involves a fun competition where athletes attempt to catch the ball after a specific number of hops. Verbally challenge the athletes to catch the ball after two hops, and then three hops. This challenges visual reads, anticipation, and footwork… in addition to glove work!
Part 3 – Gauntlet – Last man standing! Coach leads competition that is simply this: catch the ball, you stay in. A bobble is okay, but the ball can’t the touch ground after the initial hop. Get as aggressive as you can!
- 2 Hands vs. 1 Hand – One hand is okay for short hop work. The glove must be free to make a play. Search for coaching opportunities around this subject.
- Out in Front – Go get a hop and “throw the palm!” Fingers down, palm to baseball. Catch the ball out in front by throwing the palm at the baseball. “Do your work out in front.”
- Get Low / Ground Up – Bend the knees and work from the ground up. This helps to drop the eye level closer to the level of the baseball.
CLOSING – During this drill, work into the Gauntlet competition with a series of activities: Partner GB reps, Partner Short Hops, Partner Hop Competition… and finally the Gauntlet. Anticipation keeps the athletes excited and focused working through the drill. Finally, recognize the benefit of The Gauntlet in developing the ability to recognize and anticipate hops. There simply is no substitution for repetitions judging the ball, recognizing spin, height of a hop, and an athlete’s own abilities to close the gap and get to a hop.
- GROUND BALL REPS
- SHORT HOP REPS
- # OF HOPS
- GAUNTLET COMPETITION
- TWO HANDS VS. ONE HAND
- THROW THE PALM
- OUT IN FRONT
- GET LOW, GROUND UP
- Baseball Buckets1