Baseball Drills to Correct Stepping in the Bucket
Hitting a baseball is one of the toughest acts in sports. Pitchers can throw fastballs that exceed 95 miles per hour. They can also throw curve balls, change-ups and sliders. Learning how to read pitches is difficult, and one factor that hitters must overcome is the fear of the baseball. When players are concerned about getting hit by the ball, they may step away from the plate to avoid injury. This is called stepping in the bucket.
Develop Consistent Swings Drill
Hitting the ball consistently is about developing a solid and repeatable swing. You must be balanced at the plate, and an aggressive attitude is key. You want to take your momentum toward the pitcher when you swing to hit the ball solidly. If you step toward third base as a right-handed hitter or toward first base as a left-handed hitter, your momentum is pulling off the ball. This will keep you from hitting the pitch squarely. You might have good reason to step away from the ball. You may fear getting hit. However, if you don't find a way to avoid stepping in the bucket, you won't hit the ball well.
Pitch Closer and Slower Drill
Stepping in the bucket can happen with any hitter, but it is common with youth baseball players, who are new to the game. If you are throwing practice pitches, move closer to the batter when you throw the pitches and slow them down. The slower the pitch, the more likely the hitter will stand in the batter's box and step straight ahead. Do this until the batter stops stepping in the bucket and steps straight ahead instead.
Use the Broom Trick Drill
Older hitters often need some kind of cue before they can rid themselves of the habit of stepping in the bucket. When pitching batting practice to a hitter who has this problem, place a broom to the left of the batter's foot. He will know instantly that he has stepped in the bucket if he steps on the bristle end of the broom. Keep the broom in that same spot to keep the hitter from stepping out when he tries to hit.
Widen The Stance Drill
To keep the hitter from stepping in the bucket, widen the hitter's stance. Instead of taking a stride to the ball, the hitter will start off with his weight on his back leg and then shift his weight forward as he swings the bat. He will either not take a stride or the stride will be so short that it will be impossible to step in the bucket.
Reasons to Drill
Hitters who step in the bucket lose much of their ability to make contact with the ball and lose almost all of their ability to hit the ball with power. As you step away from the ball, your bat will not be able to reach balls on the outer half of the plate. As pitchers learn how to control the ball, they can easily put the ball that location and reduce your chances of making a solid hit. Also, many hitters who step in the bucket hit the ball off the end of the bat, reducing their power.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.