The Knights Baseball Handbook


Hitting
Pitching
Throwing
Fielding
Base Running
Sliding
Defensive Game Situations

Hitting

Hitting the baseball is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports. Taking a round bat and hitting a round ball squarely is a difficult thing to do. The best hitters in the game today, like Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres, only are successful 3 out of 10 times they come to bat. That means that they don't get a hit 7 out of 10 times.

The Knights Philosophy on Hitting

Be Aggressive in the batter's box the player should think, "If it's a strike, I'm going to hit it hard." We teach the "Yes, Yes, Yes, the next pitch is mine" philosophy. This means we're thinking yes, yes, yes, we're going to swing. If we miss, the next pitch is mine to hit.

Hit hard ground balls and line drives. Ground balls and line drives give you the best chance for getting on base. A ground ball or a line drive has to be caught by one player, thrown by that player, and caught by another player. So there are at least three chances for a mistake by the defense. Once players learn to catch well, a fly ball can usually be easily caught by one of several players, so you will probably make an out.

Use the entire field. By that we mean, if a pitch is outside, hit it to the opposite field. Don't try to pull everything.

Maintain good balance before, during, and after the swing. It's very difficult to hit the baseball hard consistently if you don't have good balance.

Know your strengths and weaknesses, play within yourself. If you're not a homerun hitter, than don't be at home plate trying to hit homeruns.

Stay positive. Always remember, each time you make an out, you're that much closer to getting your next hit.

Bat Selection

Grasp the bat handle in your stronger hand. Hold the bat straight out to the side. If the bat starts to waver or the bat head drops after only 10 or 15 seconds, the bat is to heavy or to long or both. If you can hold the bat steady for 25 - 35 seconds than the bat is the proper size. Most players in our league should be using a bat that weighs 18 to 28 ounces.

Depth in the Batters Box and Distance from Home Plate

Put your belly button on the break of the plate, where it angles back. This gives you a starting point for how deep to stand in the batter's box. This is not absolute. It's a starting point. If you are facing a hard thrower, than you may want to move back in the box to get a little longer look at the pitch. If you are facing a junk ball pitcher, you may move up in the box to hit the pitch before it breaks.

With a little bend in the knees, you should be able to easily reach 3/4 of the way across the plate with your bat. This gives you a starting point for how far away you should be standing from home plate. The thing you need to remember is that you don't go up there and automatically stand in the same hole that your teammate in front of you stood in. Getting the correct depth in the batter's box and distance from home plate is very important in becoming a good hitter.

Stance and Balance

We want you to use a parallel stance, with your feet about shoulder width apart, slightly pigeon-toed with most of the weight on the balls of the feet. This leads to good balance. You know you're well balanced if we cannot move you either backward or forward with a push to the chest or the back. Make sure your head is level and you're looking at the pitcher with both eyes.

Bat Grip

You should use the standard grip where the eight middle or "door knocking" knuckles line up on the handle of the bat. We want to avoid the "choke" grip in which the base knuckles, the ones closest to your wristline up. Don't choke the bat! It needs to "breath." Hold the bat in the finger pads.

Box and Bat Angle

We want to make a "box" with your arms and your body. The four sides are:

Keep the back elbow down comfortably at your side. Your back elbow should not be stuck way up in the air. The top hand should be about level with the back shoulder.

Hold the bat at a 45-degree angle. The bat should be about even with the back shoulder. Your hands should be close enough to your chest that you can almost touch your chest with your thumb.

Inward Turn / Load to Explode

When a pitcher throws you his "hip Pocket" you show him yours. The inward turn is a movement of only about three inches backward with your front knee, hip and shoulder. You can think of the inward turn as coiling the spring of your swing. Another way of thinking of this is "LOAD TO EXPLODE"

Swing

Situational Hitting

  1. Move back in the batter's box to give yourself a linger look at the ball.
  2. Choke up on the bat an inch or two or change to a lighter bat so you can be a little quicker with your swing.
  3. Take "pull" field out of play. By that we mean, if you're a right-handed batter don't try to pull the ball. Try to hit the ball back up the middle or towards right field. This will give you your best chance to get a hit off a really fast pitcher.

The first thing you have to do to be able to hit the curve ball is to recognize that it is a curve ball. Look for a difference in the pitchers delivery that tips off when he's going to throw his curve. Maybe he "cocks" his wrist, Maybe he slows down his delivery maybe he changes his release point. Learn to see the ball spinning and realize that it's a curve ball.

Hitting Drills That Can Be Done At Home

Mirror Drill -- The goal of this drill is shadow hitting. Using a full-length mirror, position the hitter either sideways facing the mirror or looking at the mirror as though it were the pitcher. The hitter then takes a look at his stance, stride, and inward turn and evaluates how he sets up and gets ready to hit. If there is room (and you are sure that you aren't going to break anything!) the hitter swings at an imaginary ball. In this drill, the hitter should make sure that his weight is evenly distributed and that is balance point is straight down the center of the body. He should not lean either forward or too far backward, At the same time, he can check many aspects of a proper swing, such as the box, the head, eye angle (both eyes looking at the pitcher), front shoulder, hip, inward turn, and stride. Although it takes no more than a minute or two per day, the mirror drill is important in stressing key points to work on in improving the stroke. This drill can be enhanced with the use of a video camera.

Iso-bat Drill -- The goal of this drill is to maximize the strength of the hitter's swing without the use of weight machines or barbells, so it is especially good for young hitters who are not yet old enough to lift weights. It is based on an isometric exercise, which requires a partner. The same hitting fundamentals used in the systematic approach to hitting should be followed. The hitter is to roll up on the back foot ("squish the bug"), thrust the hips, keep the head down with his chin on the chest ("Ike to Mike"), extend the arms completely in a straight line from the front arm right on down through the bat, and slowly swing the bat. The aim here is to get the hitter to the point where he extends the arms with the bat out over the plate with his head down as though he were going to hit a ball up the middle. The partner should now place his hand in front of the bat and provide a light, steady resistance on the bat all the way around to the follow-through position as the player finishes his swing. This develops strength in the hitter's swing. The resistance should not be so heavy that it forces the hitter to change any portion of his stroke in order to be able to follow through. The young hitter should do 5-10 repetitions per day, while the older hitter who enjoys doing this drill and sees some merit in it would benefit from 10-20 repetitions per day. This drill can be easily done at home with a parent.

Bat Behind the Back Drill -- The goal of this drill is to improve the hitter's hip quickness, to develop the habit of squishing the bug with every swing, and to quicken the swing, particularly on inside pitches. The bat-behind-the-back drill is particularly important for young players, who are just beginning to develop their fundamental skills. After warming up, the hitter gets into his regular stance and places the bat behind his back either right on the belt or on the belt line of his baseball pants. He then puts his hands on the backside of the bat so that he can pull hard while executing the drill. With the head of the bat pointed toward the pitcher, the hitter strides and pulls the bat around his back with his right hand (for a right-handed hitter; or with his left hand for a left-handed hitter). At the same time, he rolls up on the back foot and squishes the bug. Fifteen to twenty repetitions of this drill should be part of every hitter's daily routine. Although the drill takes only two to three minutes to complete, the benefits are immeasurable.

1-2-3-4 Drill -- The goal of the 1-2-3-4 drill is to help develop a proper inward turn. It is especially helpful for dead-stop hitters. These are players who are not going back before going forward. They are not coiling like a jack-in-the-box, gathering strength, and then uncoiling. In general, the dead-stop hitter's problem begins with the first movement, which is straightforward. To correct this problem, it is important to break down the stance and inward turn into a four-step process. This way you can isolate and concentrate on the hitter's specific problems and simplify the steps needed to correct them. Position the hitter in his stance and have him begin moving back and forth. All he needs to do is lift his heels off the ground one at a time, shifting his weight from one side to the other in a bit of a rhythm. He's actually moving back and forth from the pitcher to the catcher. In other words, he: 1. Rocks toward the pitcher, then 2. Toward the catcher, then 3. Toward the pitcher, and then 4. Toward the catcher (to coil and explode into the swing). The motion is not an exaggerated one. In fact, it's very slight. This drill helps the hitter develop some rhythm and movement, making an inward turn easier. It is better to have some rhythm and movement than none at all. As the hitter rocks back and forth, call the 1-2-3-4 count. That is, as he rocks forward, call "1." As he rocks back, call "2." As he rocks forward again, it's "3," and as he rocks back, it's "4." In this manner, the hitter makes the inward turn. You want the hitter to move his hands back just a little bit, but not in a manner distinct from the rest of the body. On the "4" count, the hitter rocks the hands and swings, forcing him to make his inward turn. The front half of the body -- that is, the front knee, the front hip, and the front shoulder -- should do the rocking of the hands for the hitter. Young hitters tend to have a problem with this drill when they get away from the rocking motion and lose their rhythm. The rhythm actually gives them an opportunity to time pitches. Timing becomes extremely important, as the hitters get older and faces off-speed pitches with regularity.

BUNTING

Bunting is an excellent baseball strategy to move a runner along or to hit the ball toward a poor defensive player.

How to Bunt

Slash Plays

The slash play is when we square around to bunt, then pull the bat back and swing away. It's an exciting offensive play that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. If it's executed properly, the defense is moving all around. The first and third basemen are charging, the second baseman is going to cover first; the shortstop may be going to cover second or third depending on the game situation. This creates holes in the infield that we can hit through!

The philosophy of the slash is to first sell the sacrifice to the defense. Square around a little earlier than normal, but not so early that you give it away. The grip is the same as for the sacrifice bunt. As the pitcher gets ready to release the ball, you pull the bat back to your back shoulder; the top hand slides down to meet the bottom hand that was choked up 3-4 inches for the sacrifice. We are looking for hard ground ball contact through one of the holes in the infield.

PITCHING

At this level of baseball and at every level up from here, the teams that have the most success are the teams with the best pitching. Yeah, you still have to hit the ball to score runs and you still have to catch the ball to get the other team out, but if you don't have good pitching, it's difficult to have success. So, one of the first things we're try to do is find out who can pitch and start working with them.

The Knights Philosophy on Pitching

  1. We want to make the batter swing the bat - The best hitters in the world only get a hit 3 out of 10 times at bat. That means they make an out 7 out of every 10 times they bat! So as a pitcher, the odds are with you if you throw it over the plate and make the batter swing the bat. The one thing I want to stress to our pitchers is that they don't have to win the game all by themselves. We have eight very talented guys out there playing defense whose job it is to help the pitcher.
  2. Pitch to our strengths - If you're a fastball pitcher, when the count is 3-2, I want you throwing your best fastball. If you're a breaking ball pitcher, I want you throwing your best breaking ball when the game is on the line. If you get beat, I want you to get beat with your best pitch.
  3. Work early in the count (we'd like to average 4 pitches a batter) I don't want a lot of 3-2 counts. The fewer pitches you throw to each batter, it stands to reason, the more batters you can pitch to in a game.
  4. Work to advantage counts (first pitch strikes) - The batter is on the defensive when the count is 0-2 or 1-2. He will often expand his strike zone and swing at pitches that are not strikes. He will, in effect, get himself out for you!
  5. If we lose the advantage (fall behind 2-0 or 3-1), we call that CHALLENGE TIME - throw the ball right down the middle and let your defense bail you out. WE DON'T WANT TO WALK PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

Proper Care of Young Arms

Make sure that you are adequately warmed up (10 - 15 minutes) before you throw hard. Make sure that you throw with the proper mechanics to decrease the chance of injury to your arm. Make sure you have on a sweatshirt on cold and/or rainy days to keep your arm warm.

Qualities of a Good Pitcher

Pitching Goals

As a pitcher you should work on at least one of these every time you throw a baseball.

Our "pitching goals":

  1. Sound delivery/mechanics - you cannot throw strikes consistently if you do not have sound mechanics. You also risk arm injury if you throw with bad mechanics
  2. Location - To be a successful pitcher you have to be able to locate the ball. Inside/outside, up and down
  3. Change speeds - You don't throw every pitch the same speed. You put a little more on, you take a little off. It keeps the batter off stride. There is an old adage about hitting that says: Hitting is all about timing. Pitching is all about disrupting the hitters timing. You disrupt a hitters timing by changing speeds
  4. Field your position - You can win yourself a lot of ball games if you can field your position.

Three Components to Any Pitch

There are three components to any pitch. They are:

  1. Location (most important) Your fastball may not be 100 MPH, but if it's on the corner at the knee, it's hard for any batter to hit it.

  2. Movement (second most important) It doesn't matter how hard you throw it, if your pitch is as straight as a string, good hitter will hit it. It's the late movement on pitches that make hitters miss

  3. Velocity (least important, but nice to have!) OK, I'll admit it's nice to be able to throw hard enough to throw the ball by hitters, but velocity is the least important of the three components to any pitch.

Key Points of Pitching Mechanics

by: Rick Hatcher, Former Pitching Coach, University of South Carolina

  1. Foot Position on the Pitching Rubber

  2. Signal Receiving Position

  3. First Movement of the Windup

  4. Shoulder Turn - Pivot Foot Placement

  5. Balance Point - THE MOST CRITICAL PART OF MECHANICS!

  6. Front Shoulder

  7. Hand Separation - Ball out of the Glove

  8. Arm Extension

  9. Front Side Actions

  10. Hips

  11. Landing Foot

  12. Throwing Arm Extension

The Three Basic Pitches

  1. Fastball

  2. Change Up

  3. Curve

THROWING

Grip the ball across the seams of the baseball with your index finger and long finger. This is called the four-seam fastball grip. The thumb should give support underneath the ball. You should try to throw the ball with grip every time.

The Throwing Motion

FIELDING

The Set Position For Fielding

In the set position, your feet are a little more than shoulder width apart, your weight is leaning slightly forward and your hands are on your knees. You are looking at the situation on the field.

In the set position you should be thinking about:

You use this information to decide the answer to these questions:

The Ready Position For Fielding

There isn't much difference between the set position and the ready position, but it is important. As the pitch is getting ready to be made, you look only at the batter who is getting ready to swing. Take you hand off your knees and position them in front of you, so you are ready to catch the ball when it is hit to you.

How to Field Ground Balls in the Infield

How to Field Ground Balls in the Outfield

Three Techniques

  1. Drop to one knee - It's the safest way to catch, but it takes the longest. It keeps the ball in front of you. This is the method we will use with no one on base.

  2. The infield technique - This is the way that you will use most often.

  3. The "do-or-die" - Only use this technique in game-saving situations like the last inning with the tying or winning run at second base. You scoop the ball up on the run and come up throwing.

How to Field Line Drives

Catching Fly Balls in the Infield and Outfield

CATCHING

Our catcher is our "field general." The catcher is the only player who has everything in front of him. He has to have courage to take the foul tips off his body and to stand his ground for the collisions at home plate. He has to be able to communicate with the other players, so he can tell them where to throw the ball. The catcher is the most important defensive position on the field. If you have a good catcher, you can have a good team defense. I want the players who we designate as our catchers to study the handbook daily until they know it like they know their names.

The Catchers Equipment

The catcher's equipment is sometimes called the "tools of ignorance," but nothing could be further from the truth. The catcher must be one of the smartest players on the field, but since his job is also the one with the most danger, he gets some special protection.

The Sign-Giving Position

How to Get the Proper Distance Prom The Batter

You need to be far enough behind the batter so you don't get hit with the bat and called for catcher's interference. If the batter hits the catcher with the bat while swinging, it is called catcher's interference, and the batter is awarded first base. You need to be as close to the batter as you can get without getting hit with the bat. When the catcher is close to the batter it allows the umpire to get a good look at the pitch. A good catcher who is set up close to the batter can steal some of those borderline pitches for his pitcher (get them called strikes when they may have been balls) by framing them for strikes. A good rule of thumb on how to set up is: You should almost be able to reach up and touch the batters back elbow with your catcher's mitt.

The Receiving Position Stance With No Runners On Base

After giving the sign, the catcher assumes the receiving position. With no one on base and if the batter isn't a threat to bunt, you can catch in whatever position you feel most comfortable in. We call this our primary stance. Feet are shoulder width apart. With no one on base, I want your "meat hand" (the one without the glove on it) to be held behind your back with your thumb folded inside the other fingers, so you don't catch a foul tip off of it. Catching arm should be outside of the knee. Catching arm should be out in front with the elbow slightly flexed (not fully extended and not in right next to your chest protector).

The Receiving Stance With Runners On Base

With runners on base or a bunting threat at home plate, we have to be in position to field the bunt or make a throw to get the runner trying to steal. We call this our secondary stance. Feet wider than shoulder width. Weight up on the balls of the feet. Right toes about even with left instep. Legs parallel to the ground. Butt up and stay low to give the umpire a good view of the pitch. The meat hand now comes up (with thumb still folded inside the other fingers) to a position just beside the right edge of the mitt. Make sure you catch the ball before you try to throw it. Remember the position you're playing is CATCHER.

Framing a Pitch

With runners on base or a bunting threat at home plate, we have to be in position to field the bunt or make a throw to get the runner trying to steal. We call this our secondary stance. Feet wider than shoulder width. Weight up on the balls of the feet. Right toes about even with left instep. Legs parallel to the ground. Butt up and stay low to give the umpire a good view of the pitch. The meat hand now comes up (with thumb still folded inside the other fingers) to a position just beside the right edge of the mitt. Make sure you catch the ball before you try to throw it. Remember the position you're playing is CATCHER.

Blocking The Pitch in The Dirt

We do not expect our catcher to catch every low ball in the dirt, but we do expect him to block them so they don't get through to the backstop letting runners advance.

How to Field Pop Fouls

The important thing to remember is the idea of "infield drift". What this means is that any foul ball will tend to drift back toward the infield.

Technique for fielding foul balls

How to Field Bunts

BASE RUNNING

Some baseball players are fast runners and some baseball players are slow, but you can be a good base runner even if you aren't very fast. Knowing when to run and knowing when not to run are more important than being really fast. Of course, it's best if you're really fast and a good base runner! In this section, we'll talk about what makes a good base runner and how to slide.

Three Rules of Good Base Running

  1. Check the coach for a signal - perhaps a steal or maybe a bunt's on. You have to know the signal before you leave the base.
  2. Before you EVER leave a base, find the baseball. Do not get caught in the old "hidden ball trick."
  3. Check the defense.

Fundamentals of Running The Bases

Run "loose" with no tension. This does not mean not to run hard, it just means don't run tense. Shoulders are level. Hands and arms work in a "piston-like" manner-- the hands go no higher than the shoulders in front and no further back than the hips behind. Hips are level, like the shoulders. Knees come up to the level of the hips. The toes land before the heels. Run in a straight line.

Running to (through) First Base - ground ball on the infield

Rounding First Base - ground ball through the infield

Runner on First Base and A Fly Ball is Hit in the Outfield

On fly ball to right, go 1/3 of the way between 1st and 2nd. You will have to turn yourself so you can see if the right fielder catches the ball. On fly ball to center, go about 1/2 way between 1st and 2nd. On fly ball to left, you can go almost 2/3 of the way between 1st and 2nd. Your weight is on the balls of your feet. Your arms are hanging loosely in front of you. If the ball falls in, you're on your way to second base. If the ball is caught, you're scampering back to first base.

Runner on Second Base and a Ball is Hit - no runner on first

"Apply the Rule": On ground ball to right side (second base, first base), advance to third. On ground ball back to pitcher, hold and make sure he throws the ball to first (you can be a couple of steps off the bag, just don't be so far off that the pitcher can pick you off), then if you've gotten a good jump, go over to third. On ground ball to left side, make the third baseman or shortstop throw the ball to first before attempting to go to third. (You can be a couple of steps off the bag; just don't be so far off that they can pick you off.) Make a line drive go through don't get doubled off! On fly balls, if it's obviously going to be caught - go back to second to tag up. If the fly ball is kind of iffy (may be caught and may not be caught), you need to be far enough off the bag so that you can score if the ball falls in for a hit, but not so far off the bag that they can double you off if the ball is caught. Obviously, the coach doesn't have time to go over all of possible scenarios in a game. So, I'll just say: Apply the Rule.

You're a Runner on Third Base

SLIDING

Sliding is "controlled falling." It is not a jump or a leap. We will teach only the Figure-4 slide. Headfirst sliding is illegal in our league. If you headfirst slide, you will be automatically out. Whenever we steal a base, advance on a passed ball or on an overthrow, we assume the slide. I don't want anyone thrown out because they didn't slide.

Figure 4 Slide

The player tucks one of his legs underneath him as he goes into his slide. This is called establishing the tuck leg. The top leg is slightly bent, so it can give a little when it hits the base. It's important for there to be some bend in the top leg, otherwise it can break when it jams into the base. The head is up looking for the base. The arms are off the ground.

The Cardboard Sliding Drill

It's fun and easy to learn with the cardboard sliding drill. The players will get a running start, come in and execute a Figure-4 slide on a big, slick piece of cardboard. Wear old socks the day we do the cardboard sliding drill, because we slide in our sock feet. I don't want your mom mad at me because we trashed a pair of your good socks learning to slide!

DEFENSIVE GAME SITUATIONS

Everyone likes to hit the ball, run the bases, and score runs, but not everyone appreciates just how important defense is in baseball. Defense is just as important as offense. If we play good defense and the other team doesn't score, then we can't lose!

The Four Magic Rules Of Defensive Success

  1. Catch the ball! You can't throw the ball before you catch it. Don't laugh! Even Major Leaguers make this mistake. Catch the ball by looking it into your glove. Don't be in such a hurry to throw it that you forgetting to catch it!
  2. Always take the easy out! As the old baseball saying goes, you don't want to give the other team "four outs." That means it is better to take a "sure out" instead of trying to make a really difficult play. The difficult play could lead to an error and the other team scoring a bunch of runs.
  3. Get the lead runner out when you can. Keeping their runners as far away from home plate as possible is always a good thing to do, but not if it means violating rule #2.
  4. Outfielders: We throw two bases in front of the lead runner on ground balls to the outfield. We throw one base in front of the lead base runner on fly balls that are caught in the outfield. If you catch the ball (either grounder for fly ball), we will throw directly to the base. If the ball gets by you and rolls to the fence (either grounder for fly ball), we will throw directly to the cut-off man. Always throw toward the correct base and hit the cut-off man. If you don't, the other team usually takes extra bases and scores extra runs.

Call For Pop Flies

When the fly ball is at it's apex (highest point) and you're going for it, I want you to scream as loud as you can - "I got it, I got it!" and wave your arms from side-to-side to show your team mates that you're going to catch it. This keeps you from running into a teammate and possibly injuring one another.

Run Downs

The idea in a run down is to get the runner out with as few throws as possible. Ideally, we will run the runner back toward the base he came from, make one throw and tag the runner out. Make sure that you don't stand in the baseline blocking the runner without the ball; the umpire can call the runner safe if you are blocking his path by standing in the baseline without the ball. Of course, if you have the ball, you can stand in the baseline and tag him out.

Special Situations


Last Updated: 05/07/2003