- The purpose of this guide is to equip parents and players with knowledge to better understand and prepare for the tryout process, enhancing the player’s performance
- This is post is part of an eight-article series covering every aspect of a baseball tryout. If you arrived at this page via search, I highly recommend that you first read my post, Baseball Tryout – Complete Reference Guide
I still remember stepping onto the dusty diamond for the first time at my first baseball tryout many moons ago. I remember being a scrawny kid and freezing on that day, wearing just a t-shirt and shorts in a sub-40 degree weather.
My parents were not interested in me playing sports so I was completely unprepared. Nevertheless, with a borrowed mitt and big dreams of becoming the next Babe Ruth, my heart pounded as I waited my turn shortstop, knees shaking and hands sweaty. The first throw was short because I arm was cold and I was nervous. But as I scooped up and made my throw to first base on a second try, I felt a sense of exhilaration that hooked me forever to baseball.
My baseball “career” didn’t go too far since that little league field, but being a parent, youth coach, and a local league commissioner for the last 12+ years has been one of joy, learning, and constant fascination.
The purpose of this article is to help you train your child to do their best and go for it all and face it not with fear, but with excitement and determination, regardless of the outcome.
What’s Inside this Post
- What’s Inside this Post
- Process and Expectations
- Tryout Format
- #1a – Warm Up Routines
- #1b – Warm Up Drills to Master
- #2a – Sprints
- #2b – Drills to Run Faster
- #3a – Infielder Evaluation
- #3b – Infielder Skills to Master
- #4a – How Outfielders are Evaluated
- #4b – Mastering Outfielder Skills
- #5a – Evaluating Hitters
- #5b – Hitting Skills to Master
- #6a – Pitcher Evaluation
- #6b – Tips on Pitching
- #7a – Evaluating Catchers
- #7b – Mastering Catcher Drills
Process and Expectations
It can be an intimidating experience for parents and young players who are either new to baseball or have never attended a tryout before.
By understanding the purpose and structure of baseball tryouts and practicing tryout drills beforehand can significantly alleviate anxiety and help your child approach the event with confidence.
Some tryouts for younger kids will ask parents to leave or observe from a distance, and others will not care. Either way, you need to be a SILENT cheerleader, not a coach, to provide assurance from the sidelines.
Tryouts typically last anywhere from a couple of hours (for a small number of players) to a full day (20 or more players). For a volunteer-led tryout where only two or three hours are available each day, your league may decide to hold the tryout during two days or more.
For older players, pitchers and catchers will often have an entirely separate tryout date.
During the tryout, evaluators are looking for players who exhibit sound, fundamental skills as well as position-specific abilities, and display high degree of situational awareness, independence, and sportsmanship.
The format for baseball tryouts can vary greatly depending on the level of play, the coaches, and the specific needs of the team. However, many tryouts follow a similar general structure.
Depending on the number of tryout attendees and the available coaches, the organizer may split the them into two or more groups. One group will focus on hitting while the other group will focus on fielding.
- Warm up (10 min) – Warm-up time is crucial for players to get their bodies ready for the physical demands of the tryout, and it typically includes a mix of light jogging, dynamic and static stretching, and light throwing
- Timed Running Drills (20 minutes) – Sprint times, particularly for the 60-yard dash, are a common component of baseball tryouts due to their utility in assessing a player’s raw speed and acceleration, both vital attributes in baseball
At this point, the tournament director will form three groups: infielders, outfielder, BP hitting. All players will be rotated among these three groups to be assessed by evaluators.
- Throwing and Fielding Drills (30 minutes) – Players are generally grouped into 3-4 players for each position and are rotated from outfield to infield so everyone gets a chance. Infielders are expected to demonstrate their ability to field the ball cleanly and make accurate throws to first base; outfielders are often assessed on their ability to catch fly balls and make a strong, accurate throw to the cutoff, first base, third base, or home
- Hitting Drills (30 minutes) – Hitting evaluation often starts with soft toss or hitting off a tee inside a batting cage to allow players to get comfortable and let coaches assess basic swing mechanics. Players then take batting practice where live pitches are thrown, either by a coach or a pitching machine. Each player takes about 10-15 pitches and usually gets to hit twice
- Pitching / Catching Drills (30 minutes) – For younger players, pitchers and catchers are evaluated after throwing and fielding drills are completed, but before the hitting drills. In younger pitchers, coaches are looking for accuracy with fastball and changeup. For older pitchers, they might be asked to throw a bullpen session, allowing coaches to evaluate their pitching mechanics, control, velocity, and variety of pitches like fastball, curveball, and changeup. Catchers are assessed for their commanding presence, ability to block balls, and fast pop up times (for older kids)
- Scrimmages (60 minutes) – Players are grouped into two opposing teams for a scrimmage with a coach or pitching machine as a pitcher. Evaluators are looking to evaluate player’s total package, including fielding, hitting, running, baseball IQ and how they perform in a game-like environment
- Cool down (10 minutes) – Athletes should participate in cool-down static stretches help player’s bodies recover. This might involve light jogging and static stretching.
#1a – Warm Up Routines
Some people may laugh at the thought of preparing for warm-up routines but you would be surprised to know that most experienced coaches are silently observing everything that happens during a tryout.
The warm-up period of a tryout is a crucial time for players to demonstrate important “soft skills” that coaches value. These can include:
- Punctuality: Arriving on time or early for the tryout shows a commitment to the team and respect for the coaches’ time
- Preparedness: Coming to the tryout with the appropriate gear, dressed correctly, and ready to start on time demonstrates a player’s seriousness and organizational skills
- Attitude: Coaches watch for players who approach the warm-up with enthusiasm and positivity. A player’s attitude during this period can set the tone for the rest of the tryout
- Work Ethic: Coaches value players who put effort into their warm-up routine, as it indicates a strong work ethic and dedication to improvement
- Respect and Sportsmanship: Interactions with other players during the warm-up can reveal a lot about a player’s sportsmanship and respect for others, both of which are crucial for team chemistry
- Leadership: Coaches may note players who naturally take on leadership roles during the warm-up, whether it’s organizing a group stretch or encouraging fellow players
Remember, every interaction during a tryout is a chance to make a positive impression, and the warm-up is the first opportunity players get to show coaches their character and potential fit within the team.
#1b – Warm Up Drills to Master
Although not all warm up routines will be used during a tryout, but I highly suggest that you learn all of them. At minimum, these routines will help you minimize the risk of injury.
- Quick Skip
- Skip and Jump
- Up and Over with a Skip
- Side shuffle
- Butt kickers
- Shuffle and Skip
- Long Stride
- Knee Hug
- Inside Lift
- Walking Quad
- Side to Side
- Flex and Reach
- Drinking Bird
- Kick Box
#2a – Sprints
Timed sprints, often in the form of the 60-yard dash for older players and 30 to 40 yards for younger players. List below are the distances between bases for different field sizes:
- 7-9U: baseline sprints on a 46/60 field (~15 yards) or 30 yard dash
- 10-12U: baseline sprints on a 50/70 field or 40 yard dash
- 13-14U: baseline sprints on a 60/90 or 60 yard (180 feet) dash
- 15U+: baseline sprints on a 60/90 or 60 yard (180 feet) dash
Sprints are a staple of baseball tryouts, providing an objective measure of a player’s speed and acceleration.
Why a 60 yard test for baseball? We know that on an MLB baseball "big field" (60x90), it’s 90 feet between bases or 30 yards. If you are trying to beat out a ground ball with a play at First base, that run would easily be 35 yards because a runner must run through the bag, not to the bag, in a straight line. On the other hand, running on a double or triple ground ball or sprinting to score from second base to home plate also a wide turn pattern arc (called a "banana turn") and requires stamina. It is one of biggest issues facing youth ball players is transitioning from 50/70 field to a 60/90 field because most kids run out of gas after sprinting 80 feet or so.
Excelling in these tests is important as speed is a fundamental skill that impacts many aspects of the game – from beating out an infield hit, stealing bases, to tracking down balls in the outfield.
Most Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs look for a 60 yard dash time between 6.7 – 6.9 usually equate to an average runner on the playing field.
For younger players, the 40-yard dash is a common test of speed. While a “good” time can vary greatly depending on a player’s age and development level, it can generally be said that for a young baseball player around the age of 10 to 12, a 40-yard dash time under 6 seconds is considered quite good.
#2b – Drills to Run Faster
To get faster, I recommend these drills:
#3a – Infielder Evaluation
Infielders require incredibly fast footwork, fast ball transfer, high IQ, and the ability to make accurate throws to be successful. Players will be evaluated using these drills:
- Ground Balls: Players field ground balls hit directly at them, to their left (forehand), and to their right (backhand). This allows coaches to evaluate their fielding technique, agility, and throwing accuracy
- Double Plays: Middle infielders (second basemen and shortstops) are often tested on their ability to turn double plays. This involves fielding a ground ball, quickly throwing to second base, then transferring and throwing to first base
- Slow Rollers: Infielders are tested on their ability to field slow-rolling ground balls, which involves quick footwork and a fast, accurate throw.
How coaches evaluate infielders:
- To test throwing abilities, some coaches may ask players to participate in “long toss” drills, which can help assess arm strength as players throw the ball over increasing distances.
- In most cases that I have experienced, evaluators will place players in the right field position and fungo line drives and flyballs and ask them to make throws to the cutoff, First base (9-3 putout situation), third base, or to the home plate.
#3b – Infielder Skills to Master
Listed below are core competencies that should be mastered by an infielder:
To improve on footwork, practice this multi-faceted hop drill
For Middle Infielders on double plays, You need to work on Turns
To improve on ball transfer/glove work
Dive and Recover (primarily for third baseman)
To make strong throws
#4a – How Outfielders are Evaluated
Outfielders play a critical role in a baseball team’s defense, and coaches use specific drills during tryouts to evaluate their skills and abilities.
Coaches might fungo a linedrive or high pop fly “gap shots” between outfielders to see how they communicate and cover ground.
Here are some commonly used drills:
- Fly Ball Drills: This drill assesses an outfielder’s ability to judge and catch fly balls. Coaches may hit or throw balls directly to the player, over their head, or to either side. The goal is to observe the player’s initial read and reaction, their speed and route to the ball, and their catching technique.
- Ground Ball Drills: While outfielders deal with many fly balls, they must also field ground balls hit their way. Coaches may hit hard ground balls or line drives to see how an outfielder fields the ball on a bounce or a roll. This drill can also be used to evaluate the player’s throwing accuracy and strength.
- Gap Drills: Also known as “angle” or “alley” drills, these involve hitting or throwing balls between outfielders to assess their ability to cut off balls hit into the gaps and their communication skills with other outfielders.
- Throwing Drills: Coaches assess an outfielder’s arm strength and accuracy by having them field a ball and then throw to different bases. They may be asked to throw to home plate, third base, or second base. In addition to arm strength and accuracy, coaches are looking at the player’s footwork and ability to quickly transfer the ball from their glove to their throwing hand.
- Baserunning Situation Drills: Since outfielders often need to back up bases on plays, coaches may run situational drills where they need to respond to various baserunning scenarios. This can also include situations where they need to make relay throws.
- Communication Drills: Coaches will be looking at how well outfielders communicate with each other and with the infielders. This can be evaluated during any of the above drills by observing how players call for balls, position themselves based on the batter, or respond to situations where it may be unclear who should field the ball.
#4b – Mastering Outfielder Skills
Many of the skills required to be a successful outfielder are the same as the infielder.
Setting up under the fly ball
Running to the spot
#5a – Evaluating Hitters
Evaluators are looking at the player’s stance, swing mechanics, how consistently they make solid contact, their power, and their ability to hit pitches in different locations and of different types.
Please be aware that hitting inside the batting cage is a lot different than live hitting drills so make sure to practice in both environment.
#5b – Hitting Skills to Master
Here is a solid hitting tips from Antonelli Baseball:
#6a – Pitcher Evaluation
During a baseball tryout, prospective pitchers are evaluated not only on their raw power and control but also on their technique, versatility, and composure on the mound.
- For younger pitchers, coaches are looking for throwing accuracy with fastball and changeup
- For older pitchers, they might be asked to throw a bullpen session, allowing coaches to evaluate their pitching mechanics, control, velocity, and variety of pitches like fastball, curveball, and changeup
In high school, it is typical to recruit 3 or 4 pitcher-only players who can throw many innings.
College Recruiting Most DI programs identify prospects their freshman and sophomore years, many of these recruits verbally commit junior year, and these programs mainly wrap up recruiting by the early signing period senior year. These players have been awarded accolades such as All-Area, All-County, or All-State early in their high school career.
Here are some common assessments given to pitchers:
Pitchers are often asked to throw a bullpen session, which involves throwing from the pitcher’s mound to a catcher, just as they would in a game. This allows the coaches to evaluate their pitching mechanics, as well as their variety of pitches.
For 13+ players, coaches may use a radar gun to measure how fast a pitcher can throw. This is a test of raw power, but it’s not the only factor considered. A high-velocity fastball is a valuable asset, but without control and the ability to throw other pitches, it’s not as effective.
Control and Accuracy
Pitchers are also evaluated on their ability to consistently throw strikes. They may be asked to hit specific targets or throw to certain locations in the strike zone to test their accuracy.
Variety of Pitches
Coaches will want to see the different types of pitches a player can throw effectively. This can include a changeup, curveball, slider, or other off-speed pitches. The ability to throw multiple pitches well makes a pitcher much more difficult for batters to face.
Pitching from the Stretch
Pitchers will be assessed on their ability to pitch from the stretch position, which is used when there are runners on base (to shorten the delivery time). This tests their ability to hold runners on base and their versatility as a pitcher.
Since pitchers are also fielders, they may be evaluated on their ability to field bunts, cover first base on ground balls hit to the right side of the infield, and turn a 1-6-3 double play.
#6b – Tips on Pitching
Pitching is one of the most crucial roles in baseball and requires a blend of physical skills, mental toughness, and strategic thinking.
Improving as a pitcher involves developing and refining a variety of abilities, from mastering different pitch types to enhancing physical conditioning, honing precise control, and building mental resilience.
Here are some tips on how to improve as a pitcher:
- Master the Fundamentals: Practice and perfect your pitching mechanics. A consistent, efficient delivery will improve both your control and velocity.
- Develop Multiple Pitches: While a strong fastball is important, adding effective off-speed pitches like a curveball, slider, or changeup can keep hitters off balance and make you a more versatile pitcher.
- Work on Location: Practice hitting specific locations in the strike zone. Being able to pitch to both sides of the plate and change eye levels can make you more effective.
- Build Strength and Flexibility: Incorporate strength training and flexibility exercises into your routine. This can help improve your velocity and reduce the risk of injury.
- Improve Stamina: Conditioning is key for pitchers, particularly starters who need to maintain their performance over multiple innings. Incorporate cardio exercises into your routine.
- Mental Toughness: Develop strategies to maintain focus and composure during high-pressure situations. This could involve mindfulness exercises or working with a sports psychologist.
- Study Hitters: Understanding how to read a batter’s stance, swing, and habits can help you decide what pitch to throw and where to locate it.
- Consistent Practice: Regular, focused practice is crucial. Consider working with a pitching coach who can provide personalized guidance and feedback.
- Healthy Arm Routine: Develop a routine to keep your arm healthy. This should include proper warm-up and cool-down exercises, regular rest periods, and potentially working with a physical therapist or trainer.
- Work on Fielding: Pitchers are often overlooked as fielders, but being able to field your position effectively can greatly enhance your overall contribution to the team. Practice scenarios like fielding bunts or covering bases on infield hits.
When pitching from the mound, learn to communicate with catchers to tell him what pitch will be thrown. Catchers appreciate it and coaches will be impressed.
Watch this video to learn to give proper pre-pitch glove signs:
#7a – Evaluating Catchers
Catchers play a crucial role on a baseball team, and their evaluation during tryouts covers various physical skills, game knowledge, and leadership abilities.
Here are some elements that coaches typically assess:
- Receiving Skills: This involves how a catcher receives or “frames” a pitch. Coaches look for a smooth, quiet receiving technique that doesn’t disrupt the flight of the pitch, which can help in getting strike calls from the umpire.
- Blocking Skills: Catchers are assessed on their ability to block pitches in the dirt, preventing wild pitches and passed balls. This includes their reaction time, technique, and ability to quickly recover and locate the ball.
- Throwing Skills: Often referred to as “pop time,” coaches time how quickly a catcher can receive a pitch and throw to second base, simulating a stolen base attempt. This test evaluates a catcher’s arm strength, accuracy, and transfer speed.
- Fielding Bunts and Foul Balls: Catchers must be agile to quickly react to bunts or foul balls, so coaches may simulate these scenarios to evaluate a catcher’s speed, agility, and throwing accuracy.
- Game Calling: In some tryouts, especially at higher levels, catchers might be assessed on their ability to call a game, including pitch selection and positioning of the defense. This evaluates their Baseball IQ and understanding of game strategy.
- Leadership and Communication: Catchers are often considered the on-field leaders. Coaches observe their ability to lead and communicate with the pitching staff and the rest of the team.
#7b – Mastering Catcher Drills
As stated previously, a catcher is considered to be the general on the field because of his commanding views of the field. As a player with the best view, he must take charge and call out plays in a strong voice that can be heard by all defenders.
For example, with a runner on first, a grounder is hit to shortstop. If the shortstop cleanly fields the ball, the catcher should be yelling “turn two, turn two!” to instruct the shortstop to go for a double play.
On the contrary, if the shortstop bobbles the grounder, catcher should be yelling “one, one, one!” because defense will have a better chance of getting the batter out at first (this is due to the fact that the runner on first will already be more than half way to second base).
Another drill is to reduce the “pop time” which allows catchers to throw out base stealers.
There are tons of YouTube videos on this topic. You can search them by typing “best catcher drills” for additional improvement ideas.
Whether your child makes the team or not, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of constructive feedback and adopting a growth mindset. Encourage them to ask coaches for specific areas of improvement and to focus on these areas during their personal practice time.
If your child doesn’t make the team, remember that it’s not a reflection of their worth or an indicator that they should give up on their baseball dreams.
Many successful athletes faced setbacks along their journey. The key is to persevere, keep practicing, and apply the lessons learned during the tryout experience.
In contrast, if your child does make the team, it’s a time to celebrate but also to emphasize that making the team is just the first step. It’s the beginning of a new phase of commitment, learning, and continuous improvement.
The process of tryouts, with its high points and challenges, forms an invaluable learning experience for young players. Embrace this journey with your child, supporting them with positivity, encouragement, and guidance.