Beginning Baseball Fever: Fun for Preschoolers and Older Children
To become proficient in baseball, practicing drills helps kids develop the skills. According to Kirby Puckett in his book, Kirby Puckett's Baseball Games, "I always wanted to excel in all parts of the game, so when I found something I couldn't do, it made me want to work harder. I still do drills every day, and you should, too. That's the only way you can get better." Try these fun drills to get started:
- Wiffle Ball is an old-time favorite that uses a lightweight plastic ball with holes in it. As few as two kids can play just fine in a small backyard or in the park—provided they know the following time-honored sandlot rules. There is no base running. Instead, hits are determined by how far the ball flies—past the pitcher is a single, over that bush a double, and so on. Use "invisible men" to stand in for base runners, advancing them after each hit. The batter calls out the situation ("Runners on first and second, one out") before each at bat. Use a target, such as a lawn chair or a square drawn on a wall, to call strikes. If the pitcher hits the target, it's a strike; if not, it's a ball. Have a home run fence, if only for the ecstasy of watching the Wiffle ball slowly sail over it.
- How about playing Pickle? To play this monkey-in-the-middle game, two fielders throw a ball back and forth from their bases while a runner attempts to steal a base. After three outs, rotate positions.
- The game of Pepper requires two or more fielders to spread out in a line facing a batter, about 15 feet away. One fielder should toss the ball to the batter, who in turn hits it to a different fielder. The object is to continue without interruption tossing, hitting, and fielding. Players rotate positions every ten swings or so.
- The old standard Catch and Throw has players form two lines and face each other about 20 feet apart. To limber up, they toss the ball lightly between partners. Every few minutes, players should back up a step to build throwing strength and sharpen accuracy.
Once the drills are finished and everyone is warmed up, it's time to "play ball."