Coaching Baseball: Pre-Pitch Routine on Defense

Have you ever thought about what your fielders should be doing between pitches? What should they be thinking? In tee-ball, as long as they are not making mini sand castles on the infield dirt, they are ahead of the game. But as your players get older and more competitive, there are a few essential things they should be doing between pitches when on defense. This is called the Pre-Pitch Routine.

What is a Pre-Pitch Routine?

When you’re on defense in a baseball game, you have about 10-30 seconds between each pitch. This is an important time to:

  • Get your mind right
  • Groom the dirt
  • Do your thinking before the ball is hit
  • Get your body in a good “ready” position with a proper “Prep-Step”
  • Make it “Routine”

Getting your mind right

This is the moment when you need to clear your head and re-focus. Maybe the other team just scored a run, or you made an error…you have to move on and think about the next play. All too often (and I fell victim to this as well) a player will dwell on the play before and they are not ready for the next one. This compounds into making multiple errors or mental errors that can really negatively effect the game and your teammates.

Groom the dirt

This is a good time to get rid of any divots cause by base runners to help prevent bad hops. Use your cleats with a swiping or side to side motion in your field area. There are a 3 positives to adding this to your routine:

  1. Gets you to re-focus
  2. Keeps you physically moving to stay loose
  3. You can move your position in the infield without alerting the base runner or hitter.

Do your thinking…Pre-Pitch Check List

While you’re grooming the dirt you should be thinking about the next play. You are trying to understand the defensive situation. You need to be aware. To do this ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. How many outs are there?
  2. What do I do if I get the ball?
  3. What do I do if I do not get the ball?

There are many other questions you can ask yourself at this time but lets stick with the basics for now. The more you do it, the more you get a feel for the game. When the ball is hit, you should just be able to react and not have to think about what to do.

Ready Position and Prep Step

Now you’re set. You’re in position and the pitcher is about to deliver the next pitch.

Dustin Pedroia Ready Position

Dustin Pedroia Ready Position

Your ready position should be athletic and balanced. As a middle infielder, you should stand a bit taller because you will need to rage to the ball more. As a corner infielder you should be set up lower because many plays are one or two steps left or right. It is also very important to have your glove arm/hand extended out toward the batter.

Next, your Prep-Step should have 2 or 3 slow steps followed by a Tennis Hop. Dustin Pedroia is the most over the top example of this. He takes the prep step to a whole new level…literally.

Dustin Pedroia Tennis Hop

Dustin Pedroia Tennis Hop

You want to time the hop so that you are in the air and on your way to landing with your toes, as the pitch is crossing the hitting zone. The idea is that you are moving to the ball at the time of contact. With this method, you can increase your range quite a bit.

Make it Routine

If you can get your fielders to have this routine, it will go a long way to decrease the amount of mental and physical error on the field.

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Stay on plane…

About CoachK

Owner and head instructor at Colonial Baseball Instruction. CBI serves Southern VA with baseball camps and private lessons. CBI also developed My Coach: Baseball App and sells a variety of baseball training aids.

Kyle Nelson says:

Coach- Great article on an often overlooked aspect of the game. A pre-pitch routine is like your “blankie” when you were a kid… it gives you comfort. It can make the final pitch of the state championship game the same as a pitch in a con-conference game in April.

Coach Nelson

CoachK says:

This is so true Kyle. Similar to “clear the mechanism” from the movie “For Love of The Game”. Thanks for the comment, glad you like the article.

Coach K