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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fun and Competitive Baseball Games That Help Young Players Develop Proper Fundamentals

By Brian Schofield

Young baseball players should be encouraged to get outside whenever possible to practice their baseball skills. Playing outside is great exercise and it builds hand-eye coordination which is crucial to playing baseball. Playing video games will not build the fundamentals young players need! Kids need to know that there are many baseball games they can compete in aside from an official game that requires 18 players and an umpire. This article explains some of the most classic baseball games kids can participate in with very few participants and in just about any environment.

Over the Line

In over the line, an imaginary line is determined on the field. One player is the pitcher and one player is the hitter. Each hitter gets three outs and nine innings are played. On most fields the infield dirt is decided to be the imaginary line. If a hit ball does not make it past the line, the batter is out. If the ball makes it past the line but doesn't roll to the fence, it is a single. If it rolls to the fence, it is a double and if it hits the fence on the fly, it is a triple. "Ghost runners" are used after each hit. The purpose of this game is to allow the hitter to hit, not strike him out. To make the game more interesting, add fielders to the mix and make the field smaller.

For example, if the hitter hits the ball to the right of center field it is an out. This forces the hitter to pull the ball and hit it over the line to be safe. By adding the fielder, any ball that is caught is an out. In one last twist, the fielder can field the ball cleanly and throw to the pitcher on the fly. If he throws the ball directly to the pitcher, the batter is out; however, if the ball bounces to the pitcher or the pitcher drops the ball, the batter is safe. No hitter can be called out on an error by the fielder. In the case of the sacrifice fly, the hitter must yell if the runner is going to tag up while the ball is in flight to the outfielder. If the fielder catches the ball and makes a clean throw to the pitcher on the fly, a double play occurs. If the throw doesn't make it to the pitcher, or isn't caught by the pitcher, the runner scores. Some of my favorite memories of playing this game are as an adult. It is often difficult to pull together enough people for a game so this is a great way to get your baseball fix with only a few people. Try it and you'll love it.

Wiffle Ball

As kids we would take our mom's mini trampoline and stand it on end to use as a target. The trampoline became our strike zone. If the pitch missed the tramp, we actually had a sheet set up to stop the balls. It worked wonders. Wiffle balls are light and using them teaches a player to learn to read different pitches as well as helping them to focus on different pitch speeds. I encourage younger players to play with the real wiffle ball bat that is skinny and yellow and not the giant, orange-barrel bats. If a player can master hitting with the yellow bat, a real bat will seem easy! You can play this game in teams and include base running if desired.

Home Run Derby

Believe it or not, this game has a purpose. Young players are often trained to make contact with the ball when they should be trained to drive the ball. Too many times as a youth I was content hitting the ball instead of hitting the ball hard. My father was an excellent coach and was constantly encouraging me to drive the ball consistently. It takes a lot of time and encouragement to instill hitting tenacity in young players. Playing home run derby can teach a player to recognize a good pitch, as well as the proper mechanics behind hitting the ball hard. Typical home run derby should be played on a field where everyone involved can hit homers. You don't want it to be easy but you also don't want it to be impossible. The purpose after all is to hit the long ball. We typically play nine innings with three outs an inning to keep the game moving.


Before you play hotbox, make sure that you have clearance from your parents. This game will wear out the grass quickly. We had to constantly play our hotbox game in different areas of our yard to avoid turning our parents' yard into a series of trails. If you live near a hill, find a flat place to play so you don't have to chase the ball relentlessly. To play hotbox, you need at least three players and two bases. Don't place the bases too far apart for this game. One player is on each base with the 3rd player being the base runner. The runner keeps track of each base he safely gets to before he is thrown out. The game is simple. The runner must attempt to run the bases before being tagged out by another player. If the players on base throw the ball away, the runner keeps running until the ball is back in play and the runner is out. This will encourage hustle from all players. When the runner gets out, another player takes a turn running the bases. You can create your own winning score. Make sure there are no sprinklers or other objects in the area when playing hotbox. I slid into a sprinkler while playing the game once and it cost me about 15 stitches.

These games encourage healthy competition and love of baseball. I hope your young players build fond memories playing these games.

Brian Schofield is senior writer for the baseball training website

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick