Coaches Clinic: Toss & Shuffle Drill

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As ballplayers grow older and advance through organized baseball, pitching restrictions slowly phase out. When young pitchers go deeper and deeper into ball games and pile up the innings, it’s not their throwing arms that typically fatigue as the season progresses.

It’s the legs and trunk that tend to give out first. Before long, pitches sail high in the strike zone. This is a result of the pitcher’s inability to forcefully stride and follow through completely, due to fatigue of the lower back, trunk, and legs.

Let’s face it, young ballplayers play catch nearly every day. Their arms get constant exercise. But how often do your pitchers work their legs and trunk when not pitching?

Striding toward home plate with each delivery time and time again is strenuous work. It’s work that requires sport-specific conditioning. Yet, mention conditioning to kids and their faces will immediately sour. And why not? Who wants to do sit-ups and jumping jacks when you could be playing baseball?

The answer, as usual, is to make the conditioning a game.

The “shuffle and toss” drill keeps your pitchers busy on off days and also strengthens important muscles of the trunk and legs.

Position two players about ten feet apart, each one facing the other. One player holds two baseballs. He tosses one of the baseballs on the ground just out of the pitcher’s reach about five feet away to his right side. The pitcher must shuffle his feet sideways, bend over, scoop up the ball, and toss it back to his teammate. As soon as he catches the toss, the teammate tosses his other ball to the pitcher’s left side, again about five feet away. The pitcher shuffles left to scoop and toss the ball back. Then, the process repeats. Your pitcher will go back and forth, bending and scooping, shuffling his feet sideways, until exhausted. The player tossing the balls can have considerable fun in seeing how far away he can toss the ball without his partner breaking the rhythm. Of course, when he’s finished, the roles are reversed and revenge is possible.

This exercise mimics the bending of the lower back in a pitcher’s follow through. It also works the large quadriceps muscles with its repeated shuffling and squatting. It doesn’t take long at all for your pitchers to get an excellent work out between starts. This is especially useful the day after an outing when your pitcher’s arm may not have recovered enough for any throwing. Don’t let him waste that day. It’s a perfect time to shuffle and toss.

With this drill your players will have fun pushing each other, and their legs and trunk will get stronger, enabling them to pitch more complete games.

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