Well, it’s November 6th in Southern California and we’ve got a high of 73 degrees with loads of sunshine at Cypress College. It’s the last week of fall ball and next week the schedule shifts to more individual-type workouts. We’ll wrap up the fall with a final game Wednesday night at Angel Stadium against the Angels Scout Team. This is always a treat as we get to take batting practice, prepare in the bullpen, and play on the diamond of a Major League stadium. Yesterday was a Monday, which typically means two things for me at practice:
- Individual Defense –> Mechanical Mondays
- Team Defense –> Multi-Purpose Drill
A Typical Practice
Every day, my pitchers start practice with our preventative health and throwing routine. That encompasses nearly an hour of work and involves the following:
- Foam rolling
- Dynamic warm up
- Bandwork (Jaeger Bands),
- Throwing program
- Progression Drills – 2-Knees, 1-Knee, Feet-in-Concrete, Heels & Hips
- Long Toss
- Flat Ground Work – 1-2-1-3 Mechanics Drill followed by touches with all off-speed pitches
- Dry Work (pitching motion repetitions without a baseball)
After pitchers work through that warm up, we move into “Individual Time.” Pitchers are with me while infielders, outfielders, and catchers, are with their respective position coaches. Because we take so much time for the preventative/maintenance portion of practice, I typically have 15-20 minutes to cover pickoffs, pitcher defense, command drills, or mechanical clinic work. On Monday’s, I like to grind through a clinic-style discussion of the pitching motion. Week by week, we have worked through the back-leg-load, front-leg-fire, chest-to-glove movement of the glove arm, and drawn attention to the head/eyes/front side in an effort to keep the eyes still during release. Last week we highlighted the slide-step movement, which we teach as a 6-inch “hitch” leg lift.
Following Individual Time, the squad moves into Team Defense. On most Mondays, this starts with the Multi-Purpose Drill, which is a fast-moving, controlled chaos type of activity. At first glance, it is difficult to follow and seemingly there are baseballs flying everywhere. Last Monday, I pulled out my phone and captured live action with the idea of sharing an advanced infield drill to the DC community. Following below are the three steps to the drill…
- Pitcher throws pitchout
- Catcher throws through to 2B
- Coach hits right side ground ball, pitcher covers first (1B / 2B / P communication)
- Middle infield applies tag and returns throw to catcher, who then applies tag at home
- Off-side catcher rolls slow roller for 5-3 put out
- 1B returns ball to catcher
Part #2 of the Multi-Purpose Drill involves 5 steps:
- Pitcher throws a ball-in-dirt to catcher
- Catcher blocks and throws to 3rd base
- Coach hits ground ball to right side for double play – man on first, pitcher “getting over” to cover (3-6-1 or similar)
- 3rd baseman applies tag on throw from catcher, and immediately returns throw to catcher for tag at home.
- Coach hits second ground ball to middle infielders for another double play (6-4-3, 4-6-3, etc)
Part #3 involves a do-or-die situation: bases-loaded, one out, tie ball game. Play is to the plate unless a double play is probable. In this clip, the ground ball was hit firmly to the shortstop allowing middle infielders to turn the double play. Players are diving to save the ball game and it’s a fun way to wrap up team defense.
Coach’s Tip – The Power of Communication
This has absolutely nothing to do with the Multi-Purpose Drill, but happened last week and I simply wanted to share. Getting back into uniform after several years away, there were a couple areas I wanted to be sure to focus my energy more: dynamic warm up and catch play. I think it’s very important to be present during both activities and for multiple reasons. First, to ensure the athletes get good, focused work. High school, college kids are no different than youth players – they are kids! 13th graders as my buddy Coach Lambright sometimes calls them.
The second reason is communication. I like to “touch” each pitcher, let them know their plan for the day, ask them how they are feeling, and make myself available for anything they need to discuss. Yesterday, one of my dudes communicated how little he liked the fast that I was trying to drop his arm slot down. We are working together to gain sink, depth, movement… ANYTHING to help him find mound time. As a staff, we like this kid – we think he can compete – but he’s 83-85mph from the right side with a fairly flat fastball / slider combination. This is a long-term project, and one that requires an open mind from both coach and player. I LOVE the fact that he went home and “slept on it” and then had the stones enough to come talk to me. And this is EXACTLY why it’s important to make yourself available as coach. We’ll see what happens with him, I still think he’s better from a lower arm slot 🙂
Prior to yesterday’s discussion, I ran into a conversation with a two-way player of ours. He’s a shortstop that started pitching last season and has thrived thus far this season on the mound. Long story short, his grade check was brutal. And this isn’t anything that we tolerate at Cypress. So, he was kicked out of practice and missed a game to get his act together, make up some missing work, and serve a bit of a detention. As he came back to practice and rejoin his baseball family, he approached me with a question about time-management and handling college-level responsibility. What followed was a deep, emotional conversation about his life situation.
When I’m struggling, I’ve been taught to get back to my fundamentals. For me, that’s eat / move / sleep. How’s my diet? Am I exercising well/enough/intensely? And am I getting good sleep? So, I started there with my pitcher. I quickly learned that this dude has no father figure in his life, ran with a sketchy crew in high school, and was in danger of flunking out of school. The amazing thing is that I would have NEVER guessed this! He’s a happy kid, respectful… seems to have his act together. But man oh man, there’s some challenges going on behind the scenes. I intend to support him with love and check in with him frequently now that I know what’s up. And for the purposes of this special baseball community, THAT is why I coach.
The bottom line is that COMMUNICATION made this possible. Actually, listening made this possible. Specifically, making myself available during the stretching and throwing portion of our practice is what did it. The other time that is great is pre-game batting practice. During regular BP (at a normal practice), pitchers are throwing bullpens or working through stations like medicine balls, plyometric leaps, mobility, and rotator cuff / scap stability… but when we are away from home and hitting on the field, there’s not much for our pitchers to do. So, they shag and collect baseballs. And as we are good soldiers that want our outfielders sharp come game time – we stay behind them and generally out of their way so they can track fly balls. This means there’s time for conversation, and myself and Coach Lambright take the opportunity to tour the outfield and connect with our pitchers.