For some of you, your budget may be limited. Been there. So where do you start?
Don’t fret. Remember that you have time on your side.
“Collect” one piece of practice equipment at a time for your program. You will be surprised how much you will have after 3 years.
Also, look at places such as Play it Again Sports to find cheaper items. I have been on both ends (healthy budgets and no budget). With some creativity, patience, and frugality you can make it work!
Essential Equipment #1: Baseball & Softball Practice Balls
Right now you might be thinking “duh.” Yes, while you can do “dry” drills for a while, you will eventually need to incorporate the use of practice baseballs & practice softballs (like ASAP) or your players will hate playing. So practice balls are your first essential item.
Amazon or Dicks Sporting Goods may be a good place to start.
Essential Practice Equipment #2: Baseball & Softball Ball Buckets
While the first thing I would get is balls, the second thing I would purchase are buckets.
If you have a healthy budget to work with, you can purchase buckets that are designed specifically for softball or baseball practice. However, if you want to save money, use old paint buckets, grain buckets, etc.
The awesome thing about buckets is that you can use them for multiple purposes in your program (just make sure you have some lids):
- Easy transporting of balls from one area of the field to the next
- Sitting on for certain drills (or in the dugout during games) while coaching
- Practice efficiency: When you want to isolate a skill without players making a throw, simply put the bucket at the end of the line and have them drop the ball in the bucket after they execute the skill
- Hitting stations: Put 1 bucket of balls at every station
- Dividing and conquering with coaching Staff: Want one coach to work with infield while the other does outfield? Having buckets makes this MUCH easier!
I would recommend at least 4 buckets full of balls for practice starting off. If you can afford to get more, then do it. But if you cannot afford that much at the outset don’t worry.
Begin with what you can and go from there. The beauty about buckets and balls is that you can accumulate them over the years and you will eventually have plenty. We started with “0” and have built them up over time.
Essential Practice Equipment #3: Pop-up nets/Sock Nets
If you have a good batting cage, you can use it for multiple groups doing hitting drills at the same time. However, if you have a good sock net or pop-up net, it makes setting up stations so much easier.
We typically use 4+ sock nets and one batting cage. This allows us, at a minimum, to have 5 hitting stations going simultaneously. Sock nets are essential for accomplishing more swings in a shorter amount of time (and to avoid having players standing around and getting bored).
If you are looking for a sock-net you may want to check out our bownet softball product review.
Essential Practice Equipment #4: Baseball & Softball Hitting Tees
Teams at every level (youth, high school, college, pro) need batting tees to work on hitting mechanics. Can’t afford a bunch of tees? Then try to find some used cones! Every school has them!
Here are a couple of quick recommendations for tees. These are 'higher-end" tees, so if you have a limited budget these might not be the best fit.
- We currently use the Jugs Pro-Style Tees and they have held up well.
- We have also heard great things about Tanner Tees as well as G-Tees.
However, we haven't used the Tanner or G-Tee options (yet), so we can't speak from personal experience. We just know they received great reviews and recommendations. If/when we use them we will update this post.
Essential Equipment #5: Foldable Ball Bin ("Ball Caddy")
I LOVE this piece of baseball & fastpitch softball practice equipment. Here is why:
- Durability: This will last for years. You may never need to replace it.
- Functionality: You can fit about 3-4 buckets of balls into this ball bin. Which means you do not need to stop practice nearly as often to pick up balls. AND save your back from bending over repeatedly!
- Ease of transport: The ball bin is foldable, which makes it easy to move from one spot to the next.
You can purchase this on Amazon or from numerous other retailers, including BSN.
I will say that the foldable ball bin is not as convenient when practicing as a ball bin with wheels. BUT they are MUCH easier to store and assemble.
I spent 4 hours assembling the BSN wheeled ball bin. While it was a great end result the assembly was a terrible experience, although admittedly I'm not much of a "handy man" to put it nicely.
If you are looking for a more affordable "ball caddy," you can find numerous other options on Amazon as well.
Essential Practice Equipment Item #6: Soft-Hands Paddles
At a more basic level, you can use these to help your players work on covering up the ball with their throwing hand on grounders. And to avoid using their glove to squeeze grounders that are right at them. Which can also help them with a quicker transition.
While we typically purchase the Rawlings paddles, you can find a variety of brands and "pancake glove" types online from other brands as well. A more advanced use for these paddles is having players use them to play catch. This can help your infielder develop softer hands and a quick catch-to-throw transition into their throw.
Just be careful with this and start SLOW (to avoid injury) as it is a more advanced way to use these.
Having 5-10 paddles will help you keep practice moving quickly, but you can make it work with just a couple of paddles if necessary.
You will simply need to make sure you are using concepts for making effective practice plans to get “more from less.”
Essential Equipment #7: Pitching Machines
The fourth piece of equipment is the Jugs Pitching Machine. They have options specifically for baseball, softball, or both. This will definitely chew up some budget money. But if you are looking for a pitching machine, these are a great option for the following reasons:
- They will last a long time if you take good care of it.
- You can use it for batting practice, but also for fly-balls to your outfielders.
- If you purchase the option with the cart, it makes for a much easier transporting process.
- Compared to some more advanced options, the cost is very reasonable.
If you want more advanced options that throws curves, screw-balls, etc. then you will pay a bit more. The Hack Attack is one such option. However, I have never used the Hack Attack so I cannot write about it from personal experience.
Essential Practice Equipment #8: Baseball & Softball Sliding Mats
If you do have some extra money, I highly recommend getting a sliding mat. It is probably not essential, but it is extremely helpful.
If you cannot afford it, I have used large cardboard boxes in the past (just make sure you check for staples, etc.).
When practicing sliding, safety needs to be the first concern. If you can afford a sliding mat, I highly recommend it as the easiest and safest way to practice sliding (especially for beginners).
Schutt makes a great sliding mat that we use for our program in grades K-12.
Eventually, you might use a lot of other pieces of equipment in your program, but you may need to accumulate these items over the course of a few years.
As a starting point, I highly recommend using your budget money on these eight types of practice equipment to get started. So make a list of priorities and start planning your purchases for your program!