By: Austin Alexander - February 4, 2006
Everybody has their own style and thoughts on how to best take a round of pre-game infield/outfield, myself included.
After making a living watching high school baseball, I’ve seen my share of pre-games, good and bad. Not to say that I have it all figured out, but I can safely say that too many coaches are living in the Dark Ages.
The pre-game should not be an after-thought, it should be planned.
Often times coaches don’t decide to get their team on the field until 15 minutes prior to the first pitch. After two long rounds, the meeting at the plate with umpires and then the announcing of each and every player, the game now begins 12 minutes late and your starting pitcher has not thrown a pitch in 20 minutes…and we wonder why young pitchers struggle out of the gate?
It is not a practice, it’s a pre-game!
It is a form of preparation that should have some pace to it. When college pre-game schedules are set, generally each team is allotted ten minutes for in and out, or I/O. Seldom does any team even approach the 10-minute mark, and they are usually taking it with at least two players at each position. Most high school pre-games eclipse ten minutes and are operating with half as many players on the field.
Outfielders don’t need to make six throws, four is plenty. The ole groundball straight to the centerfielder followed by a throw to second base remains a play that is yet to occur in the history of the game.
No coach should ever see the shortstop field his groundball, throw it to first base, then back home as you await the same ball to return. Take five or six baseballs with you, hit it and then move on to the next ball and the next infielder.
I once saw an 18-minute round, and then the other team took the field and thought they should have just as much time, ridiculous.
Have your best fungo guy on staff hit the lightning round and get out of there. Oh, and please use a fungo bat, not a 33-inch, 30-ounce TPX!
If a college coach or pro scout is in attendance to evaluate a player, it sure helps to know who he is watching. When your team has eight different kinds of t-shirts on, none of which with a number, kids do get overlooked. Put your uniforms on or at least have everyone in the same t-shirt with numbers on the back (Of course this idea only works if the numbers coincide with the roster, which is often not present, but that’s a topic for another day).
Don’t talk your team through the pre-game.
For instance, directing your players, “Second Base”, “Four”, “Turn two”, “Slow roller”, etc. If your kids don’t know the routine like the 'back of their hand', you have not prepared them. If you want to avoid appearing very un-organized, drill your kids in practice on your pre-game routine, then gameday won’t be as sloppy.
We all know that the guy feeding us baseballs becomes the most important component to taking a good round. Nothing looks worse than to have some left-handed pitcher standing on the plate taking throws from the outfield. Have a catcher (or two) in full gear working with you to keep the pace going. If you find yourself short-handed, use a JV catcher to assist you on the field or in the bullpen. Additionally, teach them how to tag an incoming runner, you don’t see a lot of “pat” or “sweeps tags” on plays at the dish! If you have a couple of pitchers at your disposal, it never hurts to have one on each side in foul ground taking throws from the corners or to relay arrant throws back to you.
The Conclusion I
Most high school coaches end their marathon round of infield/outfield by hitting a deep backhand followed by a slow roller. Consequently, each infielder makes a play on the slow roller near the mound or ten feet from homeplate. You will never see this play in the game of baseball. Separate the two. Do your round of deep backhands, then come back to the slow roller, now your infielders are making plays that may actually happen an inning away.
The Conclusion II
If you are one of those guys who likes to involve the catcher as your grand finale, learn to hit him a pop up, DO NOT throw him a pop up. I’d rather see the catcher not included at the end than to see him tossed a 20-foot dud!
My first coaching position was as a 19-year-old legion coach after my freshman year in college. At this time, I didn’t know better either, I threw them up just as high as I could. Joe Miller, who is presently the head coach at Anderson College, once told me after a game, “Son if you are going be a coach, you’ve got to learn to do it right, you’ve got to hit ‘em.” I’ll never forget it. The next day I took a bucket of balls into the outfield and taught myself to be good at it.
If you think about the advice he gave me, you could also apply it to everything else you do. If you are going call yourself “Coach”, educate yourself on how to be the best coach you can. And if you are going to take a round of infield/outfield, do it right. While no game is ever won during the pre-game, it does often set the tone for how your team will play. Prepare your boys to be ready from the get-go!