The key to defense is to throw to a target. If you can get to the ball, you usually have to throw to a target and the accuracy of that throw drives success or failure. Getting it close to the target is often not good enough. A throw that pulls the first baseman off the bag can lose a game. Kids love to throw. I think we were born to pick things up and throw them and see what happens. Ever go to the woods and pick up a rock and just throw it for the heck of it? I do and its fun and the kind of fun part is that you just don’t really know where its going to go. Baseball tantalizes kids as it gives them the fun of throwing, but alas it torments them that the throw can’t just be good, it needs be within a few inches of the target –maybe you get a foot of leeway, but for a 50-100 foot throw that isn’t much.
Set up targets for kids and have them throw. They can do this outside. One mistake I see is parents with just one ball. You need LOTS of ball. Another one is that kids insist on throwing with a perfectly fine baseball. Well that’s not so great in a backyard with maybe other siblings. How about a tennis ball so no one gets hurt – a nerf ball is fine. Any kind of ball is fine, the mechanics are the same. Sure if I have my choice I want kids to have a firing range of a bucket of brand new official baseballs, but its fine to give them a bucket of 10 tennis balls. Its hard to hit the target with bad mechanics. Set up a target and have them throw and see how many hit it. Give them a prize if they hit it half the time. I don’t care, give them a prize if they hit it at all.
Work wtiht hem on balance, stepping toward the target, getting good extension, keeping eyes on the target, but you can skip a lot of it and say throw and first and then gradually fine tune mechanics. Video the kid and show them their mechanics and point out what is right and what is wrong. I love the app “Coaches Eye” it does easy frame by frame analysis. Just show them if they are stepping off line fo the target and then let them fix it. If you can set up mirrors so they can see themselves throw it’ll make a difference.
When they hit the target with a real baseball from 60 feet (bases are 60 feet apart in Little League) about 80% of the time, declare victory and just keep them throwing just to improve strength. Make sure throws are flat – not things high up in the air and make sure your targets are chest high for the height of a typical player in your league.
Throwing every day is great, you can do it in a pandemic, kids can do it on their own and you can make games out of it. Have them compete with a sibling – who can hit the target the most. Whatever, try to make it fun and not like “go brush your teeth”.