Saw this drill this past Sunday and thought I'd start a new blog post series called "The Drill Doctor", where I examine a drill to see if it is well or not well. If the drill is not well, I will give a short prescription to make it into a healthy drill. The Doctor is in. (Note: in case it isn't obvious enough, I'm not a real doctor. And I'm not administering literal, medicinal prescriptions.) The drill: Catch Back Picks drill (At least that's what I think it is; the coach never said what we were actually working on, which is a big red flag. Always tell your assistants and the players what you are trying to accomplish in a drill.) The setup: catchers in one group near home plate. Another group of players with gloves at 3B. Another group of players with gloves at 2B. And a third group of players with gloves at 1B. The procedure: coach stands 20 feet away from the first catcher in line, who is set up behind the plate. The coach throws a strike to the catcher, and tells the catcher what base to throw to. The catcher then yells out "first", "second" or "third", and then proceeds to throw to that base he just called out. Diagnosis: this drill is in really bad shape. The players at each base have no idea what they're doing, since the coach didn't explain anything they had to do. The players originally thought they were simply playing catch with the catcher. Since the coach didn't tell us, I deduced the drill is a back picks drill b/c the coach is throwing strikes to the catcher, not wild pitches. So the catcher throwing to the bases is not to throw out runners. And while one could argue that runners try to steal bases on strikes—not just on wild pitches—that argument doesn't explain why the catchers in this drill are also throwing to 1B. It only makes sense for catchers to throw to 1B on strikes from the pitcher if it's a back pick. Prescription: to make this drill a healthier drill, we need to do three things. 1) Teach the catchers how to shorten their time to release. You can call this "pop time" even though pop time is more commonly associated with throwing out runners trying to steal. Without teaching kids how to make their pop time lower, the catchers don't improve. 2) Teach the fielders how to position themselves near their respective bases to make the play. The fielders need to be reminded to tag on the proper side of the base since a runner retreating back to the base will come back to only one side of the base. 3) Make it game-like. Have another catcher stand in the batter's box so catchers can practice throwing around the batter if necessary. If throwing to 3B or 1B, have someone stand in the batter's box, switching off b/w left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. You could also have the other fielders in that group who are waiting their turn act as runners with big leads; that way, the fielder can practice making a game-like tag. Bonus tip (3b?): if you're going to have the catchers yell out which base they're throwing to, have them instead yell "1", "2" or "3" b/c "first" and "third" from 70-90 feet away sound fairly similar. Also, I would prescribe this drill maybe once every other week if you have catchers who have strong arms to make these back pick throws. If not, don't even bother using this drill b/c your catchers won't be able to pick anyone off and you can use your precious team practice time to work on things that will produce 80% of the results.
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