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Live BP, drilling, and developing young hitters

Jan 24, 2009
What is the consensus on having the team's pitchers throw live BP to the hitters?

My group of protègès are only 10, but I like it...a lot. However, it is really only good for the hitters to see our #1 P. #2 P is a distant second and if she throws at our hitters it is more for her benefit than the hitters. Outside of #1, I'd prefer to import another town's ace if I want to benefit the hitters. I want the girls to see and get comfortable with the best pitching we will face in TB.

To me, a tee or machine or soft toss has it's place, but there is is no substitute for facing live pitching. Working mechanics is essential, but if girls do not face live pitching then I have failed to prepare them. Afterall, it is one thing to practice rock climbing on a plywood wall in a climate controlled facility...trying to summit everest is a whole different ball of wax. Swing training is needed-yes. Taking that swing and training your eye and learning to actually hit real pitching is also needed IMHO.

Now, I have found that it is worthless to have each batter hit a 10 balls or a bucket or whatever. Nay, they get at most one 'at-bat' with a 0-0 count before rotating out. My favorite live BP at this age is a 'first strike' drill. For this, each batter steps in and must hit the first thrown strike. Hit the strike or go down looking--either way that's all you get unless you fouled it or took a called ball. This reinforces what I want the girls to do in a game, moves quickly with each kid rotating in many times, and does not dog the pitcher.

I should add that at this age I encourage kids not to work the count. See a strike and smash it is our rule. If the girls swing the bat at three good pitches, the likelihood of hitting the ball approaches 100% no matter how dominant the pitching. Watch 2 strikes and then swing only once and the likelihood of hitting it is WAY under 1/3. In a game, only my best hitters might be asked to take one pitch in order to let a baserunner steal. One pitch only. Otherwise the green light is on even at 3-0.

I realize this mentality could be cause for controversy. Certainly this is not the approach I would take with older girls. The best 10 yo's do not play like 18u gold. Period. There is a developmental progression (physical, mental, confidence, life experience, etc)that should never be overlooked. It is ok to play the game differently at younger ages. It is best to get 10yo's crushing the ball and hungry to do so. As they age and the game changes, it will be easy enough to tone down an aggressive hitter who now only needs one strike to do something with.

What prompted this? Something that struck me as odd from another board:
"Something unique to the environment that adds to the challenge is the fact that live pitching for BP is rare. No one wants to use their own itchers to throw BP. Absolutely verboten. "

Comments welcome ;)
May 7, 2008
Morris County, NJ
BP and Young Hitters

You have a group of young players, so the more cuts they take the more refined their swings become. Tee work, soft toss, front toss and live pitching (coach pitch) are what we use. Why coach pitch? Because atb this age your pitcher isn't comfortable pitching to her team mates, they don't want to hurt them with a pitch that slips. If your pitcher hits an opponaent, that's part of the game and put ice on it, bit no her mate....

I throw 1,000's of pitches every Fall and Spring to our kids so they can see live pitching....additionally, while my pitches nmay not always be as quick as our #1, I throw lots of strikes and move the ball around so they get high, low, inside and outside pitchers....that's a bit much to ask a 1-12 year old to do consistantly.

Just my $0.02
Jan 13, 2009
Because it's HS season, I will describe two different philosophies. On her school ball team, her coaches want no fancy stuff, this is batting practice afterall. She reminds her coaches that if she throws meatballs in practice, she throws meatballs in games.

Her travel team lets her go. It is also practice for the catcher to call pitches, judge what is working and adjust to the batting situation. Batters work on pitch identification (watch the first few go by and yell out pitch before it crosses plate) and then swing at pitches they will see in a game.

Because the scouting is easy, my daughter delights in frustrating the batters with pitches she knows they have problems hitting. The batters take equal delight in sitting on the change-up or the hanging curve and punishing the missed location. Everyone wins.

The travel team also includes baserunners for live pitching. This helps teh batter to recognize the specific situation when approaching the plate. I don't see many downsides to letting the pitcher throw as if it were a game situation.
Jul 21, 2008
If I have my pitchers throw live during practice, there are trying to strike the batter out. She should pitch as if she is in a game trying to get every batter out.

I do not like it when a pitcher is ask to just throw the ball down the middle and let the hitting kill it! If they are working to get the batter out then throwing BP is great.

Jan 14, 2009
Atlanta, Georgia
I'm not big on having the team's pitchers throw batting practice at the younger ages. I prefer to throw BP myself or hire an older rec pitcher or former pitcher, who can hit her spots and zip it in at a comfortable speed.

Sometimes if we have an extra indoor cage with a rubber we'll let our pitchers throw bunting practice as a way to get the hitters used to seeing a girl their age.

I'm probably in the minority, but I do not like pitching machines. They can really mess up the mechanics of hitters who depend on timing to load.

My favorite when space is limited or cages aren't available are wiffle balls thrown from 15 to 20 feet.

Amy in AZ.

Super Moderator
May 7, 2008
The only time I have pitchers pitch batting practice is when I have a net to protect them.

I think the reason why a lot of people don't have their pitchers throw batting practice is they don't want them to get hurt in practice.

I, too, generally don't have the pitchers throw batting practice, just to protect their pitching arm. If you are using yours for batting practice, I hope they are throughly warmed up and then ice their arm when they are done. Do not let them pitch to very many batters without a break.

Maybe pitcher A could pitch to 4 batters and pitcher B could pitch to 4 batters and then go through that rotation again and you should be finished.

I need to add that no coach ever had my DD throw batting practice.
Feb 8, 2009
I believe your philosophy on 10 & unders being aggressive is dead on. I don't want kids with "good eyes" early on. I want aggressive hitters. They can develop that keen batting eye later on, when an heroic 3rd base coach can pat himself on the back for giving the take sign.
Aug 4, 2008
Talked to Bustos this weekend about this. She is not a fan of live pitching. She hits 155 hits a day off a T. Untill you can hit a ball where you want to when you want to then live pitching is not the answer. We teach kids to hit a ball where they want, not where a pitching wants them to hit it. She stands in the batting cage and points to her players on her team where they are to hit the ball. Unless you get to this point live pitching is not the answer.
Feb 8, 2009
With all due respect to Crystal Bustos, there is no substitute for live pitching. The more girls see live pitching, the more comfortable at the plate they become. I wish I had a good BP pitcher. We do drills and front toss. BTW Crystal Bustos is the best female hitter I have ever seen.

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