Throwing tips – Using a long hop

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Knowing when to throw with a long hop is a big part of being baseball savvy.  Using the long hop is another separator – a small thing that can have big results – and here are some throwing tips for how and when to use it, plus a drill ideas for practicing this skill.

It is frustrating to watch a game and see an outfielder come up throwing to a base and watch him short hop his target. The short hop is not easy to catch.  Many times it bounces away from the person receiving the throw.  This allows runners to move up and usually score.

Outfielders & infielders need to understand how to use a long hop to their advantage.[box]

Why using the long hop helps:

Using a long hop correctly is a separator that allows

  1. For the ball to get to the target quicker
  2. For a much easier ball to handle
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How it usually happens

When there is a play at 3rd or home, outfieldersoften think they can throw it all the way in the air to the target.  The throw comes out of the hand too high for the cut off man to handle and lands just short of the target.  This makes for a difficult short hop.

throwing tips - why, how, and when to throw with the long hop

Tips for throwing and using the long hop. Image by Frank Lauri

Unless the receiving infielder makes a great play, the baseball will usually bounce away allowing for the base runner(s) to move up to advance and in many cases score an unnecessary run. Using a long hop is not an attack to your manhood. It doesn’t make your arm look any weaker.  What it does do is make you look savvy.   It shows you understands how important it is to keep the ball down to either (1) let the cut off man redirect the baseball or (2) give your fielder an easier catch and best chance to make a tag. It’s even more difficult catching balls with a catchers mitt, so creating a long hop is especially important on throws to home plate.  A catchers mitt is not designed to pick short hops.

What is the perfect long hop

  • The perfect long hop is thrown 12-15 feet in front of the person receiving the throw.
  • The ball will bounce once and hop up to somewhere between the belt and chest.
  • It is easiest if the ball is at its peak or in its downward flight. If the ball is still coming up off the ground it is thrown a little too close to the receiver.
  • It’s better for the ball to bounce twice to its target than to create a tricky short hop.

How to practice – Long toss throwing drills

When playing catch separate some time for long toss. Now take your hat off and place it about 15 feet in front of you, have your partner do the same. Throw the baseball and try to hit the hat. This should be your target for a nice long hop. This is a good way to visualize and get a feel for using it.  Now take it out to the field when you are working on your other throwing drills (outfielders throwing to bases, infielders throwing to bases on relays).

When to use a long hop in baseball

  1. Outfielders – Anytime you might not make it all the way in the air on a line.
  2. Infielders –  making a long relay throw from the outfield grass.
  3. Infielders – On a tough play and long throw to first base when you might not make it all the way in the air on a line.
  4. If you are throwing to home plate, it’s almost always a good idea to plan a long hop.
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About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, he is now a professional scout with the Colorado Rockies. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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3 Comments

  1. Doug, thanks for an informative piece. I know that at the MLB level many outfielders can throw a rope to the plate in the air. Some say that at that level the bounce throw is wrong. I don’t agree that there is as simple of an answer that it is either/or as far as being right or wrong at the ML level, but that it depends on the situation. How do you feel about bounce throws to the plate at the ML level?

    • Joe, Long hops are encouraged on throws to the plate. If an outfielder can throw it in the air all the way home where the cutoff man can catch the ball if needed, that is a good throw. Most outfielders don’t have that arm strength. If an outfielder throws it all the way in the air to home plate and it’s too high for the cutoff man to catch it, the base runner can easily move up to the next base by reading the throw. The runner has to stay at first if there is a chance the cutoff man can catch the throw coming home. As a defense obviously you want to try to prevent runs but equally important is keeping runners out of scoring position. Long hops are great and it’s something we work on quite often.

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