Dudley

Coach Dudley Softball Player Tips and Suggestions

Coach Dudley

PLAYER TIPS

Ready Position

As the pitcher goes into his windup, each infielder should get into what is called the ready position. The ready position involves the following:

  • Spread your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, so that you can take off in any direction.
  • Weight should be on the balls of your feet.
  • Bend at the back with your seat down, your hands in front of you, and with the glove facing out.

Fielding Ground Balls

When fielding groundballs in the infield, go to the ball - don’t wait for it to come to you (unless it is a hard line drive). Just prior to arriving to the ball, you’ll want to “breakdown” which means get into the ideal fielding position:

  • Bend the back, with your seat down.
  • Have your glove and throwing hand extended out and down in front you so that you can see both the ball and the glove.
  • You’ll want to field the ball in the center of your body.

Once you gather the ball up, you will bring both your glove and throwing hand to your chest area and begin to align your throw by turning your front shoulder and hip to the direction to which you will be throwing. Swing your throwing arm straight back and point ball away from target with fingers on top of ball. The throw should come over the top and almost complete a full circle. Try to grip the ball with a four seam grip, as it will go straighter. Follow up your throw with your body towards the target, to ensure accuracy and to preserve the health of your arm and shoulder.

Fielding Pop-ups

When fielding pop-ups, it is important to remember which positions have priority over other positions. When two or more positions could potentially field the popup and both positions call it, the priorities are as follows:

  • You will want to determine based on the arc of the ball where you think it will come down, and then get there as soon as possible.
  • Run on the balls of your feet, otherwise the ball will have a bobbing effect.
  • Always use two hands when catching a popup.
  • Catch the ball at about eye-level.
  • Most importantly, communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t say, I got it, I got it, You got it. Use the phrase Ball, Ball, Ball, to call it. Don’t wait to see if someone else is going for the ball first before attempting to field the ball - go for it. If someone else has priority they should call you off.

Outfield

The ready position for the outfield is similar to the infield but only about half the crouch and bend. Weight should also be on the balls of your feet. You should be ready to “take off” at the crack of the bat. Always remember the following:

  • You should try to catch fly balls with two hands at about eye-level, with a slight bend at the elbows.
  • You should cushion the ball as it lands in your glove - don’t stab at it.
  • When running after a fly ball, avoid running with your glove extended up into the air until you arrive near the ball, as this will only slow you down which may prevent you from getting to the ball.

On high pop-fly’s, you’ll want to circle the ball so that you are facing towards the infield, so that you can make the quick throw into the infield. Proper outfield play involves a lot of running. On almost any ball hit, every outfielder should be moving somewhere, either to the ball, backing up another outfielder, backing up an infielder who is fielding the ball, or backing up an infielder who may have the ball thrown to him on that particular play. Again, you must always be aware of the situation, outs, runners, score, what to do with the ball if it is hit to you. Know before the ball is hit, so that you don’t have to think about it as the ball is approaching you.

Running to First

If the batter is using a good balanced swing and follow-through, he should be able to get out of the box in a smooth, quick manner.

  • For right handed hitters the first step should be with the back foot (right foot), the opposite for the left handed batter.
  • The first three steps should be short and quick.
  • On the third or fourth step you may take a very quick peek to see if the ball is in the infield or not. If so, then run in a straight line to first base inside the running lane.
  • You want to run through first base, not to first base. Do not slow down until you have crossed the bag.
  • You will slow down by chopping your steps and decelerating.
  • You will want to look to the right side immediately after touching the bag to see if the ball has gotten by the first basemen, so that you can advance to second.

Rounding First Base

If on your quick peek you see the ball is through the infield, or if you hit a fly ball, you’ll want to take what is called a banana curve approach to first.

  • What that means is approximately halfway there you will begin to veer slightly outward and then comeback inward as you approach the bag (like a banana shape).
  • You will want to try to hit the inside corner with your foot as you turn towards second.
  • As soon as you realize that the ball is out of the infield, you should be thinking double. Make the ball determine if you have to stay at first.
  • You want to run through first base, not to first base. Do not slow down until you have crossed the bag.
  • Most of the time, a double is determined by how the runner goes from home to first instead of first to second.
  • And very importantly, listen to your first base coach.

Fly Balls/Tagging Up

  • Runners on First: On fly balls to right, you want to go about 1/4 of the way to 2B, on fly balls to center, about 1/3 of the way, and on fly balls to left, go about 1/2 of the way. You should be under control and watching the ball so that you can quickly turn and get back in the event the catch is made so that you are not doubled up.
  • Runners on Second: On fly balls that would appear to be catchable, go back to the bag so that you can tag-up. Watch the ball all the way and don’t leave too early, or the other team may appeal. On ground balls to the right side, go to third, and on ground balls to left side, advance to third on the throw, but make sure he makes the throw first.
  • Runners on Third: On fly balls, go back to the bag so that you can tag-up. Watch the ball all the way and don’t leave early. You generally do not want a large primary lead, but you do want a good secondary lead. Your primary and secondary lead should be taken in foul territory, so that if batted ball should hit you, you would not be out and it would merely be a foul ball. Your secondary lead should be a controlled but fast walking lead and should not stop until you see that the catcher has control of the ball. Do not start heading back to the bag until you see that the catcher has control. If the catcher does have control then quickly turn and head back to the bag in FAIR territory. This will prevent the catcher from getting a direct straight throw to the bag, and may result in the ball deflecting off of the runner, allowing him to advance home. If the ball gets by the catcher, your fast walking lead should allow the runner to advance home most of the time.

Stealing

Upon getting to first, you will quickly want to pick-up your third base coach to see if he is giving you any signs. You will want to listen to your first base coach, and watch your third base coach, while still on the bag. Do not take your lead and then look to the third base coach, or you’ll get picked off. Upon getting the steal sign, and the pitcher on the rubber, consider the following:

  • Generally you will take a 3 to 3 1/2 step lead.
  • Stay low with your hands slightly in out and in front of you.
  • If the pitcher quickly throws to first, you’ll want to go back to the back corner of the bag, with your face facing outward to protect your face from errant throws as well as to see if the ball were to get by the first basemen.
  • Getting a good jump is critical in the success of a steal attempt.
  • Once the pitcher has committed to delivering the pitch, by a movement towards home plate, take off by pivoting the right foot and crossing over with the left leg.
  • The runner should throw or “pump” their left arm as they cross over.
  • After a couple of steps quickly glance towards home to help determine if you have to stop and return home due to a linedrive, pop-up or flyball, or to not slide and round second instead.

Sliding

Improper sliding can result in injury to the young ball player. It is important to not slide too late (you may jam a leg/ankle) or too early (you may not reach the bag). Most slides, and probably the safest slides, are the bent leg or figure 4 slides.

  • The key elements to this slide are that one leg is straight and extended to the bag, the other leg is tucked under the straight one, hands are up and loosely clenched to avoid injury.
  • You will want to start your slide approximately 7-10 feet in front of the bag (depending on speed and height).
  • Takeoff from either leg. You will initially land on the bent legs’ calf and thigh and your rear end.
  • You want to run through first base, not to first base. Do not slow down until you have crossed the bag.
  • Stay low to the ground and throw your head back slightly to avoid hitting the knees too hard on the ground.
  • As your front leg comes into contact with the bag first with your heel up, both legs should bend or give to cushion the slide. It is very important to teach proper sliding as serious knee, ankle and hand injury can occur due to improper sliding.
  • You may want to practice on wet grass or use a large piece of cardboard with no shoes first before practicing on the field.

At the Plate

Stance

  • Closed stance generates more power since power is in the hips, but takes longer to open the hips allowing hands to come through.
  • Backing away and behind the plate gives the hitter more time but can make him susceptible to outside breaking pitches.
  • The swing cannot be made till hips open and are out of the way so each hitter must choose a stance and box position allowing himself to hit ball out front with full arm extension.
  • The feet should be shoulder width apart. (A stance too spread inhibits hips and too narrow encourages lunging and head movement.)
  • The back foot should be parallel with back line or turned in to encourage better hip rotation.
  • The front foot should be parallel with back line to help keep front side of body closed till the last split second.
  • There should be flexion in the knees for balance and to keep weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Hitter is bent over from the waist for shorter swing and to keep front side from pulling out to soon.
  • The weight should be on the balls of the feet (getting weight on the heels encourages the front shoulder to pull out too soon).
  • Weight should be evenly distributed (too much weight on backside leads to front foot hitting, lunging, head movement, and poor timing).

Hands

  • Hands are ideally over the back foot at chest level (hitting position 3-8 inches from body).
  • If hands start out of the hitting position, they must get to the hitting position prior to pitcher releasing the ball.
  • If hands are too far from the body, a sweeping swing is possible and if hands are too close, the hitter is tied up and has trouble getting the bat barrel out and extending arms, particularly on the inside pitch.
  • While waiting for the delivery, good hitters maintain looseness by practice swings, swaying the body or fingering the bat.

Grip

  • Firm with bottom hand and loose with top hand.
  • Top hand middle knuckles should line up somewhere between base and middle knuckles of lower hand.
  • Top hand turned too far counterclockwise can create an upper cut and inhibit wrist action.
  • Hold bat in fingers or as close to this position as possible.