When our athletes’ baseball careers begin in the tee ball years, it is vital that we build a foundation of basic skills that will lead to future success and an increased love of the game. 

Just like the assistance a batting tee provides to young hitters, we can also provide them help as they learn to field and catch the ball. It is important to understand that at the ages of 6-8 years old, the tee ball years, the human development element is vastly in play and makes even the most basic skills difficult to learn for some. As you prepare to teach youth to catch a baseball, there is something that must be taken into consideration.

According to BaseballPositive.com, science has shown that youth between the ages below 7 or 8 do not have the “capability to coordinate both eyes.” How this effects baseball play is in a child’s ability to perceive distance and speed due to the lack of depth perception. This “binocular vision” will limit the player’s ability to track and catch a flying baseball. So, we, as coaches, need to begin the training of our players to develop these skills before expecting proficiency in catching.

To accomplish this, consider simplifying drills that will increase our athlete’s ability to track the ball and improve their hand-eye coordination to where catching the ball becomes more natural. Build up their natural deficiencies before advancing them onto more difficult tasks. Here are some considerations you can put into play as you begin a new season with first-time players and those needing improvement on the basic skills.

Start Soft… Then Progress

It is important to put yourself in your player’s shoes as they take the practice field for the first time. They are handed a brand-new baseball glove and told to catch a ball propelled at them.



It is natural response to feel fear of such a situation, and without the prior knowledge and skills, it is likely that the fear of being hit with the ball will override anything you can tell them or show them. Work with this fear, not against it. In the beginning of your training, replace the harder balls with tennis balls and use them to build up the fundamentals and player confidence.

Drop the Gear

While the baseball glove is a vital piece of equipment during game play, skill development can be more beneficial with the bare hand. At the start of the season, emphasize the basics by conducting catching drills using no equipment. Using the same soft tennis balls discussed above, replace the hard balls and have your players throw and catch from close distances, emphasizing their hand moving to the ball location skills. When they can place their hands directly where the ball is traveling to, catching the ball with a glove will seem simple.

Catching without a glove also forces the following consideration, “Two Hands,” to be practiced and the importance to be emphasized. When catching a tennis ball, a child’s hand will likely be too small to successfully catch the ball each time. In order to corral the ball, our athletes will be forced to bring both hands into play, just as we want them to. On that note..  

Two Hands from the Start

Since the basic fundamentals we teach now will be those that our players revert to in the stress of game play, we owe them the opportunity to learn correctly from the start. Always emphasize catching the ball with two hands, to the point it is practiced so many times that it become instinctual and natural.

BuildingaBetterAthlete.com offers a couple drills that can be utilized to ingrain the second hand working in unison with the gloved hand to make a catch. The first drill is simply focused on building muscle memory, in which a ball is thrown to an athlete and they are required to pause and confirm their second hand is securing the ball in the glove before proceeding to throw the ball back. Simple, but effective. The drill is simply enforcing good habits repeatedly to make it happen in the future minus any conscious thought.

The second drill provided offers some creativity. Exchanging the baseball gear for a football, play catch with your athlete with a football and dare them to use one hand. They will be unsuccessful every time. In order to catch the football, they will have to incorporate both hands in the motion, subsequently making it a natural reaction when the football is exchanged back for their baseball equipment.

“Pinkies and Thumbs”

On the website Outdoor FunKids.com, they introduce a “rule” for teaching athletes the proper form of catching a baseball. This “rule” is called “Pinkies and Thumbs.” It provides an easy-to-remember “rule” for teaching beginners to successfully catch the baseball when it is coming straight at them.

The rule explains that any ball that is thrown below the waist should be caught in an underhanded manner, with the glove pointed down and the non-gloved hand next to it, in preparation to cover the ball in the glove on its arrival. This is the “pinkies” aspect of the rule, as the two hands anticipating the flight of the ball results in the pinkies lining up next to each other.

Consequently, a ball thrown above the waist will be met with a “thumbs” approach. Putting both thumbs together in an overhanded manner will set one up to catch and trap the ball on its arrival


Understanding the game from your youth athlete’s perspective, knowing their biological limitations, and incorporating creative drills into their training will increase our success in being able to teach youth to catch a baseball. The more successful they are at catching, the more they are going to have a positive experience and enjoy America’s Pastime.