The Around the World drill can be run using two different methods. The first method is much more controlled and accurate by utilizing a pitching machine to shoot the fly balls. Utilizing the pitching machine to shoot fly balls ensures the accuracy of the fly ball as opposed to mis-hits by the coach. Using this approach guarantees that you can obtain maximum running distance for the player.
The field set up for this drill is to locate the pitching machine around home plate. Loosen the bottom bolt on a jugs pitching machine so that the machine will freely rotate from foul line to foul line.
Position a player at second base to act as the cut-off point for the return throws of the outfielders. Be sure to have an empty bucket at second base to collect all of the balls. As the bucket gets full, the player can run the bucket back to the coach at the pitching machine. This will prevent delays during the drill and keep a continuous flow to the practice.
Position the rest of your players in the outfield on the foul line. One player will complete this outfield drill before the next player begins. The object of this drill is to have a player catch four or five fly balls as they run from one foul line to the other. How many fly balls they can catch will depend on their age and speed.
Begin by shooting a fly ball to the outfielder on the left field foul line. After he catches the ball and throws it to second base, the coach should immediately shoot another fly ball towards the left center field. The player, as soon as they have thrown the ball back to second base, should immediately begin running towards center field to be in position to make the next catch. This process then continues until the fielder has reached the right field foul line. The player, having just completed the drill, will then proceed to second base to be the new cut-off person and the previous cut-off person will then get in line to run the drill.
An alternative to this method is to use two coaches to hit the fly balls. Have one coach hit to left field and left center. Have the other coach hit to right center and right field. Running the drill in this manner keeps two players participating rather than just one. It also teaches the player to read the ball coming off of the bat. It also requires that you have two players around second base to act as the cut-offs. It’s best to position one of the cut-offs at the shortstop position and the other at the second base position so that errant throws don’t become a safety issue.
I generally prefer using the pitching machine method to run this drill. If a team is only able to practice catching fly balls once or twice a week, then I believe the volume provided by the pitching machine is priceless. However, it a team is able to practice fly balls on a daily basis, then I would suggest hitting the balls instead. First, if the coach hits fly balls every day, he will become proficient at placing the ball. Second, the player learning to read the ball off of the bat is an important skill development.
Depending on the skill level of your ballplayers will determine how far apart you shoot the balls and how much time they have to get from one position to the next. This is an excellent drill for players 10 years old and older. If the player is just developing his fly ball skill, the machine can be set to throw lower fly balls and the drill can be run around the infield.
At the 12U and above level, this drill can be used to teach your players to really stretch their coverage area. The idea is to get them to see a fly ball that may be fifty feet away, but start running to it because they believe they can get there and make the out.