As a baseball player, you have to continually develop your fielding skills. Most players field countless grounders or fly balls to hone their skills, but other important components of fielding, like agility and footwork, cannot be ignored.
Improving your agility and footwork will help you explode out of your ready position and move to the ball as quickly as possible. This increases your range and reduces errors by ensuring you have time to execute proper fielding technique.
Try these drills—which are used at the major league level. They combine agility and fielding to make you a backstop on the diamond. Perform them during your speed or agility workout, once or twice a week.
The 5-10-5 Drill is used to test agility in football players, but it's also becoming a common test at baseball showcase events and combines. It measures your ability to move laterally and quickly change direction—both important fielding fundamentals. The faster you can perform the 5-10-5, the better fielder you will be.
To perform this drill, place three cones in a straight line, five yards apart. Start in a fielding stance facing the center cone. Explode out of your stance and sprint to the right cone. Touch the cone with your right hand, change direction and sprint 10 yards to the first cone. Touch it with your left hand, change direction and sprint through the middle cone. Repeat for five to 10 reps in each direction.
To adapt this drill for baseball, pretend you are trying to field the cones with a scoop or backhand. To add a competitive element, perform with a partner on the opposite side of the cone and race. One partner can even choose which direction he runs first, forcing the opposite partner to react to his movement.
Sprint, Backpedal and Sprint
This drill improves acceleration and deceleration, so you can explode to the ball and quickly slow down into your fielding stance. It also teaches you to drop your hips, lower your center of gravity and control your body. Doing so will greatly reduce the chance of a wild throw or error.
Use the same cone setup as the 5-10-5. Start in a fielding stance at cone 1 with other cones in front. Sprint to cone 2, stop and change direction. Backpedal to cone 1, stop and change direction. Sprint to cone 3. Repeat for five to 10 reps.
Make sure to drop your hips and maintain a balanced posture. This teaches proper body control and eliminates choppy steps, which can reduce your speed. To adapt this to baseball, mimic fielding a ball as you charge toward the cones.
This drill increases your speed moving forward and backward diagonally while also improving acceleration and deceleration, which is useful for fielders who may have to track a ball in flight as it travels past them at an angle, or who have to charge in to field a ball at an angle.
Set up five cones in an M pattern, seven to 10 yards apart and aligned at a 45-degree angle from the previous cone. Start at cone 1 in a fielding stance. Sprint to and around cone 2. Sprint to and around cone 3. Sprint to and around cone 4. Sprint to cone 5. Keep your hips pointed at the center of the M when rounding the cones. Repeat for five to 10 reps in each direction.
To increase the baseball benefits, mimic tracking and catching a fly ball when sprinting from cone 2 and cone 4. Also, charge like you're fielding a grounder when sprinting to cone 3 and cone 5.
Check back soon for Part 2 of this series.
Joseph Potts, CSCS, is director of sports performance training at TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning (Kansas City), where he oversees athletes training for multiple sports. He has served as a contributing expert for ESPN and as a private consultant in speed development and injury prevention for several NFL and MLB teams. His coaching history includes several years as head speed coach for the Kansas City Royals; and he is certified as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach by the National Strength & Conditioning Association and as a Corrective Exercise Specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.