Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

A safety tip for batting practice

March 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Coaching, Hitting, Practice

I heard this batting practice idea from the current head coach at Villanova University (Joe Godri) and I think it is a great one for a number of reasons.  It involves moving the shag bucket(s) to a safer location during batting practice.  In the following picture, the red line and star indicate where most teams place the protective screen (red line) and bucket (star) during batting practice sessions on the field.  Balls are hit and then returned to the outfield bucket so they can be rounded up and returned to the mound by the player manning the bucket.  Usually it is a pitcher manning the bucket and usually the guy is not too happy about having that job.

Standard positioning behind 2nd base.

Standard positioning behind 2nd base.

Coach Godri told a story that forced him to change all this.  He had a starting pitcher get struck by a ball during batting practice even though he was “safely” behind the screen.  The batter popped the ball up and unfortunately, it came down on the pitcher’s head causing a concussion and a lengthy trip to the DL.  He vowed to never allow that to happen again.  He started using two screens and two buckets and placed them off the field as shown in this photo.

A more safe position off to the sides.

A more safe position off to the sides.

Anyone who has ever manned the bucket during batting practice knows the dangers involved.  You have to worry about getting hit by batted balls.  You have to worry about the teammate who tries to launch a throw from the warning track to see if he can make it in the bucket in the air.  In short, you have balls zipping by in all directions.  When you venture away from behind the screen to get them, the threat increases.  In fact, if you watch a college or pro team everyday, you can count on a near death experience at least once a week for the guy on the bucket.  And that’s not much of an exaggeration.

Positioning the screens and buckets to the side of the field does the following:

  • It virtually eliminates the threat of getting hit by batted balls during batting practice.  Especially if there is a batting cage surrounding the home plate area.  This drastically cuts the fear of venturing away from the screen to retrieve balls.
  • If the field has fences along the baselines, it creates a natural barrier with the screen to corral thrown balls more easily which saves time picking them up.
  • Instead of having two threats – one on batted balls and one on thrown balls – now there is only one threat from thrown balls.  However, since those balls are all coming from the same direction, they are more easily managed. Coaches can also manage these throws more effectively by establishing strict rules against launching balls towards the buckets.

For those reasons, I love the idea.

Does anyone use this method?  Have you seen others?  Please share!

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