The most demanding and challenging position when it comes to defense is certainly one of the shortstops. And in this position the most defensive player in the team fills this position.
There are quite a few drills that coaches across the world implement to make sure that the shortstop is in perfect shape and can deliver his best. This article describes eight tried and tested shortstop drills to make a player a skilled shortstop.
The shortstop plays in the area between the second and the third bases. A majority of groundballs are hit near or at the shortstop since most batters are right-handed.
These factors help understand the drills that would be most helpful for the players who would be having that place in the game.
Players who fill the shortstop position must have a strong arm and a power to cover the maximum area possible. The shortstop is also expected to have an outstanding skill set when it comes to fielding. Shortstops are relied upon heavily and should be reminded of some important aspects of playing this position.
Here are some of the crucial aspects that the shortstop would have to ponder on when he is on the field. These are also expected from every good shortstop in the game.
- Being general on-field and communicating effectively with everyone, both outfield and infield players. He can inform the other teammates about the number of outs present.
- The shortstop has to make sure that he is all set to charge and pound on the ball whenever he can. Unlike the first base player, they cannot just stand in his place and wait for the ball. A shortstop must be fast and have powerful bursts of energy to field the balls and be omnipresent across the nooks and corners of the ground.
- A shortstop must be capable of throwing the ball from almost any position, underhanded, laterally, and overhanded, with perfect accuracy. When it comes to the shortstop, accuracy is the main key factor that helps them stand out.
The following drills will make sure that the shortstops can sharpen fielding skills. Shortstops are critical to every game, and it would not be wrong to say that they help the team play as a single unit.
To get the most out of these drills, all that you need to do is to be regular and repeat the exercises as many times as you possibly can. Like most other things in life, a shortcut to being an elite short-stop is just not an option.
1. Drill to catch the ball backhand
Backhand catches can be regarded as the most promising skill that every single elite shortstop must possess. Balls that are mostly hit to the right of the infield.
They travel at high velocities to the shortstop.
The third baseman is at an advantage as he can stop the baseball with any of his body parts and then throw it back to the bases.
However, many coaches do not promote the idea of stopping the ball with the shortstop’s body. They prefer to have their hands in the right place at the right time. This helps in reducing the chances of the ball spilling over or a misfield.
Shortstops, in contrast, are required to move sideways to make a backhand catch.
Then to beat the runner, the ball is then thrown either laterally or underhanded to the second or first baseman directly. The most crucial aspect here is accuracy. The shortstop needs to make sure that the throw is sharp and accurate.
The coach will require the shortstop, obviously, along with the first and the second basemen, a baseball and a fungo bat for this drill.
This drill focuses on the fielding skills of the shortstop, also his accuracy in throwing the ball in all the three arm positions, underhand, overhand, and lateral.
The ball, generally, is fielded easily in the beginning; however, understanding the needs and the expertise of the players, the coach can increase the difficulty; this is a graduated drill.
- The coach, first, hits the ball hard at the direction of the shortstop.
- The shortstop pounces on the ball and returns the ball at the first base with an overhead throw.
- The shortstop then shoots the ball at the second base.
- The shortstop must prepare himself at second base to be prepared and ready for the throw by the first baseman.
- Using a fungo bat, the coach would hit the ball hard to the right of the shortstop.
- The second baseman moves to the bag as the shortstop fields the ball.
- This time, the shortstop scoops the ball barehanded and throws it sideways to the second base.
- On receiving the ball, the second baseman would return the ball to the coach.
The shortstop is expected to perform two very easy plays in this drill. The first play to the first base, which is followed closely by a relay towards the shortstop who should be waiting near the bag at the second base.
The shortstop would then return the ball to the first baseman with an overhand throw.
The shortstop, next, fields the ball barehanded and throws it laterally towards the second base. The ball is then relayed back to the coach by the first baseman, who is relayed back by the second baseman. This process involves quite a few members of the team and can be regarded as a much-needed team exercise.
To make this drill a second nature to the shortstop, coaches must remember that repetition is crucial. The drill should be repeated at least ten times, taking five minutes or so.
Gradually increase the ball’s speed when it is thrown to the right of the shortstop. This would make him react faster while balancing himself and throwing the ball to the baseman.
2. Shortstop Test: Hit Baseball to the right with a Runner on First
This drill is otherwise similar to the first one, except this one requires a runner at the first base. To beat the runner running towards the second base as the ball is hit, this drill will require the shortstop player to react quickly.
A few players stand at the first base as runners. As soon as the coach hits the ball at the shortstop, a player will run from the first to the second base.
- The coach hits the ball to the shortstop, and the runner starts pacing towards the second.
- The shortstop receives the ball coming directly at him and hurls it towards the second base player.
- The coach hits the baseball again but on the right side of the shortstop this time.
- The shortstop fields it and throws it towards the second baseman.
- After completing his turn, the runner waits for his next turn by joining the end of the runners’ line.
- The coach will now hit to the right side of the shortstop. Meanwhile, the shortstop, to get the runner out, would scoop the ball and throw it laterally towards the second.
- With progress, the coach would make sure that this ball is played at a faster speed, at the shortstop, and then to its right. This is the way the drill should progress.
Slow ground ball
- Direct once
- Once to the right side
- Direct once again
- Then to the right, once
This would go on for at least 10 times each.
Fast ground ball
- Once direct
- Once towards right
- Once direct, again
- To the right side once
Repeat this sequence for at least five times.
Hardest ground ball
For the hardest ground ball, the coach will hit with the maximum possible power, first directed towards the shortstop, then to its right, for five times.
Having a bucket full of balls would help the coach play continuously for at least 10 minutes.
3. The 3rd Iteration of the Shortstop Fielding and Throwing Drill
Both the drills mentioned above would require a maximum of fifteen minutes together. In this drill, the shortstop will receive hard-hit balls. This drill involves the first and the second baseman as well for completing double plays.
A fungo bat and a bucket full of baseballs should be with the coach, who stands at the home plate. The first and the home plates have runners. A few players would line up at the first base, and some at the home plate.
This drill is exciting for the entire team. This drill tests the skills of the shortstop in the best way possible. To add to that, it also provides a good practice session for the runners and the other players who mostly play on the right of the infield.
- The coach hits the ball hard towards the shortstop directly, to its left, and it’s right.
- The moment the ball touches the bat, the runner paces from home and the first base.
- The ball then hurls to the second baseman.
- The double play is completed when the second baseman throws the ball back to the first base player.
This drill continues until there are no more runners at the home base.
Speed is the most critical criterion of the drill. A quick and lively pace is created when the relay takes place from the shortstop to the second and then from the second to the first base player.
The same drill requires quick movement for a runner because the coach plays another ball to the shortstop right at the moment the first ball reaches the first baseman.
This drill challenges the performance of the infield at its best. In this drill, the shortstop emerges as the pivotal player. He not only needs to save the ball successfully but also gets it to the second base in the least amount of time.
The shortstop must react fast as the defense of the team depends on him to a large extent. A real game situation is simulated here. The shortstop has to make sure that he performs well under continuous pressure.
4. Drill using a popup behind the Shortstop
This drill will help the coach test the ability of the shortstop to catch the pop flies to the left, right, and behind him. In typical game situations, shortstops are accustomed to fielding ground balls more often instead of popups.
When taking more time to take the baseball from the pocket and throwing it accurately to the first baseman, shortstops usually make errors due to less practice with popups.
On the field, along with the coach, there must be a shortstop and the first base player and surely a bucket of baseballs. A runner waits, in fair territory, within a distance of three feet from the base bag at the first base.
The coach makes a routine hit at the shortstop for five times continuously. The runner runs towards the first bag. As the shortstop fields the ball coming towards him, he immediately throws it towards the first baseman intending to get the runner out.
The ball is hit further away behind the short-stop in the next five hits. The shortstop needs to move his own hands, signaling “clear the area” and shout out, “I got it,” before running out for the ball.
A maximum of 10 minutes is what this drill will take to complete. After this drill, the shortstop must continue practicing by asking the players on the sideline to throw him the pop flies. The repeated and congruent practice of this drill would help the shortstop improve his fielding skills when it comes to popups and ground balls.
5. Drill for the coordination of the Baseball and Glove
When fielding the baseball, the shortstop has to perform more than half a dozen movements. To be a top player in the field, a shortstop needs to have the best skill set among all in the team.
This drill can be performed alone, and thus you can practice it anywhere you want to. With constant repetition and movement of this drill, a shortstop would greatly improve the ball-handling skills.
The player starts in the crouching posture, for this drill. The player moves the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions for thirty seconds each. The player should move the glove around the left-leg, and after that around the right leg.
After repeating this for ten to fifteen times, the drill should be performed in an anti-clockwise motion.
If the players repeat the drill for an extended period of time, it will help the players have better coordination between the gloves and the movement of the ball. The player would also experience a better hand and eye coordination.
With time, as the player keeps repeating the process, the movement from the gloves to the hand would get faster. Both clockwise and counterclockwise movements should take about thirty seconds each.
After completing this, the player should repeat the same motion with his feet put together. The player should ideally perform this drill 3 to 4 days each week at his home, and also before the field practice.
6. Short Hop Drill
Just like the other drills on the list, this is also a progressive drill. The motive of this drill is to get the shortstop practice to stop the short hops. This also helps improve the performance of the shortstops while on the field for the real competition.
The coach, who stands at the home base, would now be expecting the ball from the baseman who is standing at the third base. As the ball reaches the coach who stands firm in his position, another player who stands near the home base helps the coach with a ball from the bucket. The coach would now hit the ball hard, aiming at the shortstop.
The shortstop chases and fields the baseball, which is struck hard by the coach. He then hops a bit and throws the ball towards the third base player.
The third baseman now relays the ball towards the catcher, who is at the home plate.
Initially, the coach would hit the ball at an average difficulty for five times.
Then onwards, the coach hits the ball harder, a short hop on either side of the short-stop. He must field the ball and retrieve it back to the first base.
7. Short Hop Drill with Runner at the Plate
A defensive drill tests the ability of the shortstop to aim the ball correctly and also to make sure that they can pounce on the ball in the shortest time possible, in order to get the opponent worked up.
A runner is placed next to the coach at the home plate. The coach hits the ball hard at the shortstop, making sure it’s a short hop.
The runner who was at the home plate runs up following the basepath. The shortstop needs to field the baseball and shoot it sharply to the first-base to make sure that the runner gets out.
Every player of the team queues up at the home base for this drill. As the drill progresses, the difficulty of fielding the ball also increases because the coach passes the ball harder.
The quickening of the drill requires the shortstop pouncing out of balance, returning the ball towards the player at the first base in time to get the runner out.
The difficulty of this drill is variable. In case the coach wants to increase it by a few notches, he can do so by playing the next baseball soon after the first base player catches the baseball that is thrown to him by the short-stop.
If the coach decides on this, then he would have to make sure that the players are accordingly prepared before the drill, as it’s entirely possible that the players might just end up too tired for the next drill.
To make things easier for the players and the coach, a bucket full of baseballs can be placed beside the first-base to set up the next hit.
Since this is a fast-moving drill, the shortstop becomes better and faster. He learns to react and thus field quickly and also aim it back accurately to the first baseman.
The coach has all the right to make corrections in the drill if he finds the shortstop struggling.
8. Slow Grounder to Shortstop Drill
The one difference between this drill and the one discussed above is that it is vital to perform it correctly. In almost every game, especially youth baseball, the third baseman, and the shortstop field over half a dozen slow grounders in the field.
This drill would help them get accustomed to the same and also help them understand the best way to deal with such balls.
As the shortstop assumes his position, the coach hits a slow ground ball in his direction. The shortstop leaps to field the ball and throws it to the first baseman, in time to get the runner out, while the runner moves towards the first base from the home base.
This drill prepares the shortstop to throw the ball to the first baseman at an angle.
Since it’s a difficult drill, the coach should vary the speed of the runner when he runs from home. Initially, the runner should start at a slower pace from the home to the first base. When the reflexes and throwing skills of the shortstop improve with time, the coach can gradually increase the speed of the runner from the home to the first base.
Since it is expected that the shortstop would complete every play, the entire team relies heavily on him.
The entire team functions better when someone steady and reliable fills the position of the shortstop. Each position plays with greater efficiency when they develop the best fielding skills, thus raising the skill of the entire team.
An elite shortstop makes the whole team perform better, which finally turns out in the form of more victories.
So, it is well recommended that the shortstops should have some special drills which would only be confined to them, as that would help make better shortstops. To help you in the same, we have provided you with the list of the eight most effective techniques to train the shortstop.
Looking for more?
If you would like to read more, then we have hand picked some of our most popular pieces.
Equipment & Apparel: