One of the most basic drills players learn in baseball and softball is the soft toss drill, also known as the side toss drill. Soft toss is an excellent drill for players because they get to focus on the mechanics of their swing without having to worry about making contact with a baseball traveling 70 miles per hour or more. But how do you throw soft toss in baseball?
To throw soft toss, position yourself on one knee about 6 feet to the side of the batter and 2 feet in front of the batter. Aim for the batter’s front knee and underhand the ball over the plate. Count to five seconds and deliver another underhanded pitch over the plate.
Sounds easy enough, but there are some tricks you’ll want to know if you want to throw the perfect soft toss pitch every time. Keep reading to learn the step-by-step guide to throwing soft toss in baseball or softball.
Step-By-Step Guide To Throwing Soft Toss / Side Toss
Step 1: Position Yourself 6 Feet to the Side and 2 Feet in Front of the Hitter
When setting up to throw soft toss, you want to make sure you’re in a position where you have very little chance of getting hit by a batted ball, but also in a place that benefits the hitter. To make it easier to visualize where to stand, I took out a tape measure and measured the distance I normally position myself when throwing soft toss.
The optimal place to set up for soft toss is about 5 to 6 feet to the side of the hitter and about 1 to 2 feet in front of the hitter.
From this position, the thrower can toss the ball into the strike zone without worrying about getting hit by the bat or the ball. The only way the thrower can get hit from this position is if the hitter catches the ball off the end of the bat. And I can’t recall a time when that has actually happened to me.
Step 2: Go Down on One Knee or Sit on a Bucket
You want to make sure the ball is being thrown into the strike zone at a good angle. So the best position for the thrower is to be lower to the ground than the hitter.
The best position for the thrower is to take one knee or to sit on a bucket.
This position allows the thrower to toss the ball into the strike zone and more accurately simulate a pitch. If the thrower was to do this standing, the ball would be dropping into the strike zone instead of looking like a real pitch.
Step 3: Show the Ball to the Hitter
I can tell you from first-hand experience that there is nothing more frustrating than a thrower who delivers soft toss pitches too quickly.
To help yourself slow down and to help the hitter mentally prepare for the next pitch, the thrower should show the ball to the hitter before delivering the next soft toss pitch.
As you start getting into a rhythm with the hitter, you’ll find it less important to show the ball before every pitch. But the best practice is always to show the ball to the hitter before winding up.
Step 4: “Wind Up” By Swinging Your Throwing Arm Backwards
After you’ve shown the ball to the hitter, you begin to deliver the pitch by slowly swinging your throwing arm backward.
I’ve timed myself on this wind-up and it takes me about a second and a half to wind up and let go of the ball.
After the ball leaves your hand the hitter has very little time to swing. This wind-up simply lets hitters know the ball is coming and when they need to lift their front leg to begin their swing.
Step 5: Aim for the Hitter’s Front Knee
The one thing you don’t hear too many people talk about is where to aim when you’re throwing soft toss pitches to a hitter.
I was always taught to aim for the hitter’s front knee. Although I’ve also heard some people say to aim for the hitter’s front pocket.
So as a general rule, it’s best to aim somewhere between the hitter’s front pocket and the hitter’s front knee. This puts the ball in the location where the hitter should always be making contact with the pitch during live at-bats.
Step 6: Throw the Ball Underhand and Over the Plate
After winding up and finding your target, the next step is to underhand the ball to the hitter. The hitter should be making contact with the ball while it is over the plate.
If you notice the hitter’s hands moving close to their body while swinging, then you’re throwing the ball too close to the hitter. If you notice the hitter’s hands reaching for the ball, then you’re not throwing the ball far enough over the plate.
Pay attention to how the hitter is reacting and you’ll get a better feel for how far you need to throw the ball.
Step 7: Count to Four Seconds in Your Head
As the thrower, you’ll find it is very easy to move quickly. As a hitter, you’ll find it very easy to get frustrated at how quickly the thrower is pitching.
The best way to make sure you’re not moving too quickly is to count to four seconds in your head after you’ve delivered the pitch.
This gives the hitter time to finish their swing, take a breath, and get back in their batting stance before the next pitch.
For some reason, waiting 5 seconds seems like a really long time and 3 seconds seems too quick. So the sweet spot is waiting 4 seconds in between pitches.
Step 8: Repeat Steps 2-7
Keep repeating steps two through seven until you’ve reached the number of swings you agreed upon with the hitter. 10 to 20 swings at a time is usually a good amount before giving the hitter a break.
Soft toss can move pretty fast and hitters can easily get in 10-20 swings in a few quick minutes. And because hitters can swing at so many pitches, they can also get worn out quickly.
How To Soft Toss by Yourself With a Soft Toss Machine
The best way I’ve been able to practice soft toss by myself is with the use of a soft toss machine.
This Jugs Toss Machine I purchased is the best soft toss machine I’ve used. It holds up to 14 baseballs or 10 softballs and it delivers a pitch about every 6 seconds.
You set the Jugs Toss Machine about 8 feet away from you and it delivers the perfect soft toss every time. I combine this Jugs Toss Machine with this 7×7 baseball net by Zelus and I’m able to practice soft toss by myself whenever and wherever I want.
Pro tip: as much as I’d love for you to use my Amazon affiliate link to purchase a Jugs Toss Machine, I recommend first trying to purchase it directly from the Jugs website. The price on Amazon and on Jugs were the same, but I got a $29.90 discount when purchasing it directly on the Jugs website. There was no reason given for the discount – it was just automatically applied to my cart.
What is the Purpose of Soft Toss?
Soft toss is a popular drill in both baseball and softball, but is soft toss a good drill?
Soft toss helps players become better hitters by allowing hitters to focus on the mechanics of their swing. Hitters can fine-tune their swing without having to worry about hitting a live fastball off a pitcher. Soft toss also allows hitters to get in a lot of swings in a short amount of time.
And as an added bonus, soft toss makes it easier for pitchers to throw a strike, which means almost anyone can throw soft toss. Also, whoever is throwing soft toss has the opportunity to closely watch your swing and give valuable feedback.
What Does Soft Toss Mean?
In baseball, “soft toss” usually refers to a drill where one person underhands a pitch to a batter from five to six feet away. Soft toss is also known as “side toss” and it is used to help players become better hitters.
What Does “No Soft Toss” Mean at a Baseball Field?
Some ballparks have a sign that says “no soft toss”, but what does that mean?
“No soft toss” generally refers to ballparks prohibiting players from performing a drill known as “soft toss” or “side toss”. Many fields restrict soft toss because players hit soft toss into the ballpark’s fence, resulting in damage to the fence.
If you’ve ever been to a ballpark and seen a spot or two on the chain-link fence that looks like someone ran into it, then you’ve seen the damage to these fences from soft toss. Players repeatedly hit balls into one spot in the fence, which causes the fence to bend in a way that looks like a player ran full speed into the fence.