This is an excerpt from Play Ball by Thomas O'Connell.
Age: 12 and older
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Pitchers should always be more focused and careful when a runner is on third base. A mistake pitch in this situation can result in an easy run for the opposition. Catchers also have to be more intent on guarding their castle when a runner is only one base away. Mistakes do occur, however, leading to scrambling situations and plays at the plate. This game serves many purposes. It gives catchers practice in retrieving wild pitches or passed balls, it provides pitchers with chances to cover home plate, and it presents base runners with opportunities to be aggressive and try to score. It also creates a challenging atmosphere between the base runners and the defense.
Baseballs, catcher's gear
- Put a line of runners at third base.
- A batter is in the batter's box and occasionally switches from hitting right-handed to hitting left-handed.
- A coach stands 15 feet (5 m) behind the catcher with several balls in hand.
- A pitcher is on the mound and a catcher in full gear takes a position behind the plate.
- Optional: Place a runner at first base, a shortstop in normal position, and a third baseman in normal position.
Start by having the pitcher simulate a pitch and have the catcher drop to his blocking position. When the catcher drops to block, the coach, who is standing in the area behind home plate, tosses a ball somewhere behind the plate to the left or right. The catcher must quickly pop up, turn, retrieve the ball, and throw to the pitcher who covers the plate.
The runner at third base should have a three-step lead. When the coach tosses the ball, the runner breaks for home plate to try to score. After each out or run scored, the runner takes the place of the batter. The batter goes to the end of the line of runners at third, and play continues.
Award the defense 2 points for every out offense 1 point for each score. The first group to score 10 points wins. The coach can make the game more or less difficult depending on where and how hard he tosses the ball.
Catchers, pitchers, runners, and batters should be rotated often to give everyone work. If necessary, coaches could prohibit sliding to lessen the chance for injury.
Variation: Place a runner at first base and fielders at third and short. On each simulated wild pitch, the shortstop breaks quickly for the mound area to back up the pitcher and the runner at first tries to get to third base. Catchers have the option of throwing to third if they have no play on the runner coming home, or in the event of a wild throw by the catcher, the shortstop retrieves the ball and tries to stop the runner from reaching third base.
- Teach catchers the proper way to retrieve balls, including having them slide while fielding the ball.
- Teach pitchers the proper way to cover the plate. They must break hard to the plate and slow down before they get there to avoid crossing the plate or being in line with the runner.
- Instruct pitchers to yell while running and point in the direction of the ball to help the catcher.