In Practice, Fresh=Fun!
If you want your players to bring all the enthusiasm possible to every practice, then you must exercise all possible enthusiasm in keeping practice fresh and fun. You should promise fun from the start, and deliver on that promise consistently. If that's not already the case, you can start now.
At the beginning of your next practice, promise the players something fun, such as a home-run derby, baserunning races or contests of throwing accuracy from the outfield to a cutoff to a base. At the end of practice, promise what fun is to come in the next practice.
That will have your players excited to get to practice and bring them there with smiles on their faces. A reminder of the treat to come later in the session gives them the idea that they have to stay engaged, attentive and working hard in order for that fun portion of practice to begin.
In turn, that makes for a more productive practice, so that over time your players improve their skills and baseball and softball become even more fun. This approach also teaches lessons in delayed gratification and working for life's pleasures.
Of course, the "fun" in practice need not be confined to a specific activity you've promised. You can introduce fun through baseball trivia quizzes and getting-to-know-you games, possibly wherein players talk about their own ideas of fun.
You also can weave fun into the necessary elements of practice. For example, all of the above can happen during warmup jogs, stretches or throwing drills.
It's important to keep routines fresh; there is a time and place for tradition and proven stretches and exercises that can be used every day. But the more you can vary and keep the players on their toes, not knowing what's next, the more alert the reactions and responses.
Just about any drill can be made fun by introducing an element of competition, such as counting successful reps. Throughout practice, as long as you and the players keep it positive, there are few moments that preclude jokes, nicknames, chatter and little rewards for enthusiasm and hustle.
There really should be no end to the fun you can have with baseball and softball, and that means there should be no end to kids wanting to continue playing ball.
You can learn more about the importance of keeping things fun in this video of PCA National Advisory Board member and Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, which is included in the PCA's website of free resources at www.PCADevZone.org.