A different form of soft hands, and a drill or two to go along with it.

We use black rubber conveyor belt or something with a similar density to take out the sting. The optimal width of the material is about 3/8" thick. Lay your glove hand flat on a piece of paper and draw a line around it. Give yourself about 1 1/2 to 2 inches cushion around the entire hand. Cut on the dotted line and now you have an outline for a paddle. You just need the material to cut it out of. Something that will not shock if we want to catch baseballs with it, but something that will make the player use his free hand to catch the ball. The best we have found is the conveyor belt.

Once we have cut the paddles, we add a strap (that covers the entire back of the hand) of innertube to the back to hold the paddle in place. We drill holes in the paddle and run a piece of leather through each side to hold the tube in place. We use a sort of plastic washer to hold the tube down. They are easy to make, very cheap if you can access the materials, and we have never had one break...Never!

The four basic paddle drills are designed to simulate the underhand and overhand flips most commonly used by 2nd basemen and shortstops. The players will partner up and start about 10 yards apart. The one with the ball will start in a fielding position, ball in hand, right shoulder facing his partner. He is about to perform the underhand flip that a 2nd baseman uses in starting a double play. We teach him to pivot on his right foot and his partner the ball the whole way....flip the ball chest high with no spin on the ball...and follow your flip. The receiving partner in ALL paddle drills performs the motions a 2nd baseman would to complete a double play....weight on right side, ball up quickly, etc. He will always start in a position facing his partner in a ready position....hands up and in front of body...weight on the balls of your feet...constant movement with feet in anticipation of any type throw.

Once the ball has gone from originator to receiver we have worked on two different things...and the bonus is the improving eye-hand coordination as a residual effect. Staying where they are, the players switch the original receiver is now tossing and the tosser is now the receiver. The drills go very quickly. The basic four can be completed in 8-10 minutes if you stay on task. You can do them inside or outside and they take very little room. You can use any kind of ball you wish. The benefit from the drills comes from repetition. They should be done daily.

We describe the different paddle drills based on where the tossing partner will start. We want to complete 10 from each starting position daily. It is probably easiest to teach the drills for the first time on the field where they will actually make the movements we are practicing. The kids will understand fairly quickly and will take it from there. The four drills are 1) up close - right shoulder 2) up close - left shoulder 3) back up - right shoulder 4) back up - left shoulder. Number 1 is the one we described above and it is the 2nd baseman's toss from close to the bag. Number two is the shortstop's toss from close to the bag. Number 3 is the 2nd baseman's toss from further back, when he must toss the ball overhanded. Number 4, of course, is the shortstop's overhand toss. We give our middle infielders the rule for when to use which toss in a game: if the ball is at you or takes you to the bag, you should flip underhanded. You must communicate your intentions verbally as soon as you know which actions you will take.

These are the basic paddle drills. I didn't describe the footwork that we teach because the drills are not limited to my preferences. Although many coaches would like information on that subject, it is not the subject of this piece of information (email me if interested).

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