BE CAREFUL. In this picture it may look like I’m using a real ball, but I’m really using pickle balls (whiffle balls with no seam so they can be hit with metal bats). I get them from tipsfromthecoach.com, but you can get them elsewhere.
Other forms of coach pitch should use an L-screen so that the coach does not get killed (yes it happens). I know too many coaches who have been hurt, so please use an L-screen. I really like pickle balls, I like tiny plastic golf balls so I can get close to the player and make corrections.
I like coach pitch in the infield with an L-screen with just a coach pitching and two fielders, one at shortstop and one at second base. The object of the drill is to have the batter face live pitching. The fielders really get some live balls so you are killing multiple birds with a stone. What you don’t want to do is have NINE fielders and have most of them picking at the dirt or grass while a batter misses a hundred pitches in a row. Limit the number of pitches per batter and set up stations somewhere outside of the fence so you can work on other things rather than having the whole team get bored.
In this picture I’m on one knee as I think thats really important for smaller players. Pitching from my heght at 6’2″ produces a completely different arc then what they will see in a game.
Start fairly close to the batter if you use an L-Screen. Pitch at the batters level – sit on a bucket or throw from your knees. Remember they will not be facing any six foot pitchers.
Otherwise, start at pitchers mound as its easy to get hit in the face even with small AA hitters. If batter starts hitting, gradually increase the speed of the pitch. Make sure the batter does not bail out of the batters box as the ball is coming. Watch the back foot. Fake a couple of throws. Use tennis balls if batters are afraid and work with them to get over the fear. If batters are struggling to hit the ball, have them bunt a few. Bunting in AA is not at all a recommended thing to do since it puts far too much pressure on the defense and takes away a precious at bat from the hitter. They only get 50-75 at bats a season, lets not waste one on a bunt. However for teaching purposes, bunting is a good way to get hitters the feel of contact. Have batters watch a couple of pitches by and make sure their eyes are following the pitch. Encourage batters to initially have a soft focus (not a stare) on your hat and then move their focus to the release point. This sometimes helps them pick up the ball a little better as it leaves their hands. Best overheard quote from one kid in a dugout to his friends on the team “that trick of looking at the hat first, really works.”
The drill gets two fielders to see ball off a real bat. They should work on being ready before the pitch and moving to the ball. They should always pretend there is a force at second and work covering second and showing a target to the other fielder.