Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soft Toss

Soft toss drills are more than just a way to warm up. When done correctly, soft toss is one of the most effective way to work on swing mechanics. Today, we are just going to cover the basics. There are lots of variations of soft toss drills that make it a little more interesting, but we are just going to cover proper technique.

The coach positions themselves on the swing side of the player, in front of the batter and either on a knee or sitting on a bucket. Being in front of the batter is important. It's the batter's job to hit the ball, but if you are throwing directly from the side, the point of contact will be too far back and your hitter might develop a late or slow swing. Some people don't like soft toss drills because the ball is thrown from the side rather than straight on like in live pitching, but if done correctly, the point of contact should be the same.

The Toss
First, show the batter the ball before its tossed. This helps with hand eye coordination. Make sure they are watching the ball from the time you show it to them to the time they make contact. When you are getting ready to toss, allow your hand to drop to your side to emulate a real pitch. Keep it light and easy. The purpose of soft toss isn't to defeat the batter. It's all about working on the batter's swing, stance, and timing.  If you go too fast, the batter will develop bad habits. Keep the tosses in the hitting zone. Don't let your batter swing at anything too far in front, or too far behind.

While one player bats, the rest of the team could take the opportunity to field, but if they are working on other drills, there are several products available to make soft toss more efficient. A soft toss catch net keeps all the balls in one place so you don't have to go hunt them down. There are also soft toss machines that work great for players who want to practice at home but don't have friends or family chomping at the bit to toss for them. You can load them up with 10-14 balls which are then tossed at about 5 second intervals. The lighter the ball, the higher they will be tossed, so you can experiment with baseballs, softballs, tennis balls, or wiffle balls.

What to Watch for
Soft toss drills give coaches the opportunity to get up close and personal with a batters swing. Take advantage and be on the look out for good mechanics. Are they opening their hips up? Are they pivoting their back foot? How is their grip on the bat? Also be on the look out for dipping shoulders or "wood chopping" swings.

Got any other soft toss drills you'd like to share? Leave a comment below!

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