Infield Softball Drills
INFIELD PRACTICE DRILL
I call it ball juggling…
- An infield player stands in the ready position in the infield.
- The coach is about 15-20 feet away with 2 to 3 balls (1 in pocket).
- He throws a grounder and as the fielder is fielding the ball, he throws the second.
- The fielder must concentrate on making a good throw back to the coach and at the same time pick up the location of the second ball, field it cleanly, and throw it back.
The coach should pick up the pace and move the fielder from side to side until they miss. The third ball is for if the coach drops a ball he has another to keep the drill going longer.
I use groups of three players to aid in conditioning. The first player moves forward under control from the starting line. Coach rolls a ball to her and the player breaks down and fields the ball. The player then BACK PEDDLES as fast as she can to the starting line and flips the ball to players on the side waiting their turn. When she reaches the starting line, she moves forward again and breaks down to field the second ball. The player BACK PEDDLES again and repeats for the third ball. Coach won’t roll the balls until the player is moving.
BEGINNING OF THE SEASON
We use this drill at the beginning of the season. It gives players a lot of reps at fielding ground balls and fly balls. It is a great drill at the beginning of the season as a judge to see which players are outfielders and which are infielders.
The drill requires two fungos, one on the first base side of home and one on the third base side of home about half way between the bases. The drill works best with 10 players. Each fungo has a shagger. Align four players at the infielder positions. The other four players should play outfield, with a LF, LCF, RCF and a RF. The 1B fungo hits ground balls to the third baseman and shortstop who return the ball to her shagger. She then hits fly balls to the LF and LCF who relay to the 3B and SS respectively. The 3B fungo hits ground balls to the 2B and 1B who return to the third base shagger he then hits fly balls to the RCF and RF who relay to the 2B and 1B respectively. After three reps the players rotate.
The 1B becomes shagger for the third base fungo, while the 3B shagger moves to LF. The RF becomes shagger for 1B fungo, while the 1B shagger moves to 3B. All other player rotate to the position on their left.
If you have more than 10 players this is also a great time for you to have your pitchers and catchers working off to the side, out of the way of badly thrown balls.
This can be a little dangerous if not done with caution since two balls are going at once, but it is a great way to evaluate the players and the rotating keeps them from getting bored.
I have a drill that I run every so often that the kids really enjoy. This drill is designed to teach the kids to get rid of the ball and not hold it. As coaches, we are trying to avoid the situation of young kids sometimes getting confused and holding the ball.
The drill consists of your squad broken into two teams. The first team will line up, one behind the other, in the shortstop position. The others line up behind first base. A five-gallon bucket is placed upside down on first base. A coach will drop a ball in front of the first person in line. The player has 3 seconds (which the coach counts out loudly) to pick up the ball and throw at the bucket. If the bucket is missed the fielders behind first will field the ball and throw it back to the coach. This drill works best with a large number of balls. You go through each team member 4-5 times and keep track of the hits. Switch sides and keep score.
We also have both teams lined up and throwing at the same time and run it on a timed basis. Be warned though, this variation involves a large number of coaches. If you have the parental involvement, the head to head is also a huge hit with the kids.
The kids thrive on the competition. This teaches quick release, fielding, throwing accuracy and keeping the throw where the first baseman can catch it. I have found success with this drill year after year.
For kids from 5 years to 10 years old, one of the most frustrating drills for the players and the coach is the warm-up throws.
No matter what you say, the two lines will grow farther and farther apart, the kids will start throwing humongoid rainbows to each other and they will spend most of the drill running after the balls.
But this is a necessary evil as the kids need their arms and shoulders stretched and warm and they need to develop catching and throwing, or else they will be playing defense all day long.
Here’s a drill to get your team to stop playing FETCH and to start playing catch:
First, circle up your players with 15-20 feet between players and coach in the middle. Give one player a ball and have them throw to the next player (clockwise or counterclockwise). Have them throw around easy until you get 2 laps and expect them to drop it a few times.
After 2 laps, tell them you want 2 more laps faster but anyone who drops a good throw or makes a wild throw will owe a lap around the outside of the circle.
You can inject a 2nd ball and a 3rd ball if they get going good. Also, you can develop the relay-pivot maneuver with this same circle drill.
You’ll be amazed at how the challenge aspect of this drill perks of their enthusiasm and skills!! It really works.
Purpose: To improve the player’s ability to charge a softly hit ground ball.
Procedure: The drill can have as many tossers as desired. Drill can have three or more players in the lines, which are about 70 feet in front of the tossers.
The tosser throws a ground ball so that the player has to charge the ball at about midway between the and the player. The player then throws the ball back to the tosser, turns to the right, and jogs back to the end of the line. A variation of this drill would be for infielders to start about 70 feet in front of the tossers, outfielders should start about 90 feet in front of the tossers. The tosser still attempts to throw the ground ball so that the player has to charge the ball at about midway between the tosser and the player. Rotation can also be varied so that the player replaces the tosser who in turns goes to the end of the line.
This is a fun drill to help the 1st and 2nd graders I coach develop good hands, quick release, and hustle to a loose ball. I have the players line up across from a partner about 20 feet apart. They are to make good throws back and forth as many times an they can while I count down from 30 to zero. The player who does not have the ball at zero wins. (Winning usually puts you in the first group for batting practice.) You should see the kids scramble for a dropped, or passed ball. softball is fun. Let’s make practice fun too.
This fielding drill is called the “Double play drill”. You will need a catcher, two players at 1st base, and the remaining players evenly divided at the shortstop and 2nd base positions.
The coach hits a ground ball to the SS position, the 2B player runs to 2B and then pivots and throws to 1B. The two players then go around to the end of the opposite line they came from.
Once everyone has had a chance to field at the SS position the coach then hits the ball to the 2B position, the SS covers 2B, then pivots and throws to 1B.
Once everyone has had a chance to field at 2B the coach then randomly hits the ball to either the SS or 2B position. The two players at 1B rotate positions every three catches. The second player at 1B acts as a backup for overthrows.
This drill is designed to quicken reaction time to grounders and line drives using lateral movement. We’ve been doing the following for several years with our summer 12 year old traveling squad.
At the end of each practice the entire team competes in a contest to see which player can keep the most out of ten balls from hitting a chain link fence at her back. The fungo hitter stands only thirty-five or so feet from the fielder. The fielder has 20 feet of fence to cover. The fence is 6 feet tall. We hit to the left and the right, up and down. The pace between fungos quickens. A clean catch is not necessary to score. The player need only keep the ball from hitting the fence to her rear. By the end of the season, players need from between 8 to 10 out of ten to win.
FIELD THROW AND RUN
This drill helps with the basic fundamentals such as getting into a proper fielding position, lateral movement, throwing, and lots of running. It also has the advantage of working indoors as well as outdoors.
Have three players line up about 70 feet from the rest of the group (everybody can participate) and give the first player in the line a ball. The rest of the group should line up slightly to the side so the fielder can run left or right. Then the player with the ball throws it on the ground to the first player on the other side, who fields it properly, throws it to the second player in the first line, and runs over to join the first line. The player who threw the grounder should run to the other line after her throw. This then continues until everybody is dead tired.
We usually first throw the grounders to the left, then right, then straight on so the fielder has to run in and make an underhand flip. We usually round off with both sides throwing the ball back and forth instead off rolling it. In short: throw grounder and run; field, throw, and run. You can vary the distance as well as putting only two players in the first line, which will force the players to really run unless they want the ball in their neck.
Purpose: To provide players with an opportunity to field a large number of ground balls.
Procedure: Drill has one fielder, who is 60 feet in front of hitter, and one shagger, who stands on the right side of the hitter. (Three person groups.) Drill can have as many groups as desired.
The hitter hits 10 ground balls to the player. After fielding the 10 ground balls, the player becomes the shagger, the shagger becomes the hitter, and the hitter becomes the new fielder. The drill continues to proceed in this manner for as long as desired.
GET IT OUT!
Too often, young players make the mistake of fielding ground balls with their glove on the ground, directly below their knees, rather than extended out in front of them. This drill helps ensure proper extension.
Lay a bat on the ground perpendicular to a line of players. The first player in line should be 6-8 feet from the bat in a ready position. Coach is 8-10 from the bat, opposite the players. Coach rolls ball toward the bat. Player must approach the ground ball and assume a good fielding position right at the bat, without her feet touching or going over it. In order to prevent the ball from rolling into the bat the player must have her glove extended, rather than hanging directly down below her knees. Once the player secures the ball she sprints forward and places the ball at the feet of the coach who is already rolling a ball to the next player. Continue until all players have had sufficient reps.
HAT IN MOUTH
The purpose of the “Hat in Mouth” drill is to teach infielders to keep their hands extended in front of them while fielding ground balls. Proper fundamentals of fielding a ground ball include extending a player’s arms well in front of the body. With an infielder’s hands held closely to their body, there is little room to react to a ground ball and a smaller margin for error.
To help prevent players from holding their arms too close to the body, have your athlete take their hat or visor off and put the bill of the cap in their mouth. This should be done so that the back half of the hat is pointing away from their body, and the flat bill is held in the player’s mouth. Then, as a coach feeds them ground balls, have the player field the ball with proper footwork and fundamentals. Be conscious to notice if the player is reaching well out in front of them to field the ball. Having the bill of the hat in a player’s mouth causes a vision block on the ground directly in front of them. This will force the player’s hands farther out in front of their body position, so they can see themselves field the ball.
Beginning players, this drill should not be done at the same time as any other form of team practice. Beginning level fielders should concentrate only on the position of their hands while fielding ground balls. More advanced players (high school and above), the “Hat in Mouth” drill can be combined with a regular fungo routine, where players are also making throws and covering bases.
1. Have infielders start about 30-40 ft from coach or partner. Infielder starts with glove open and finger tips on the ground. Coach or partner rolls the ball to infielder. The glove stays in contact with the ground and open to the ball the entire time the ball is motion except for the last movement. The last movement can be up, but never down. this gets them to feel the old “stay down and work up” concept.
2. Have infielder start at position with coach or partner hitting a fungo to fielder. Need not hit too hard but can make the ball bounce a little (no big hoppers). The concept is the same.
If the player fields the ball correctly, tell her so and build her confidence. If not… if the fielder’s hands go up then down, or player flips by showing the back of the glove and then flipping around, or if the glove leaves contact with the ground too early… then the player does a sprint to the outfield fence and back or does push-ups-Good Push-ups.
Great drill to show and feel proper fielding of ground ball technique when breaking down.
IS IT BALL #1 OR BALL #2?
How many times do players, especially young ones, pull up too fast on a grounder in anticipation of making the throw to first only to leave the ball back on the ground or bobbling it because they have taken their eye off the ball. This drill helps teach the players to look the ball into their glove before they set and throw to a base. Since they have to read the number on the ball, they learn to pick it up and handle it first before throwing it. It also helps teach reacting and throwing to different bases.
Players line up between third base and shortstop position facing a thrower at home. There is one player at first base and one at second base. The thrower has 12-24 balls with either #1 or #2 written on the ball.
The thrower rolls a ball to infielder who fields the ball and reads the number on the ball.
If ball = #1, throw goes to first base. First baseman throws to second base. Second basemen runs the ball to the bucket that is at the shortstop position. The players rotate while ball is being put in the bucket (fielder goes to first, first baseman goes to second, and second baseman goes to end of line).
Once the ball is put in the bucket, the next ball is rolled. If ball = #2, throw goes to second base, second throws to first, first throws back to second and second baseman runs ball to bucket as the players rotate again.
Each time throw is made, player must tag base before next throw is made. Wild throws must be retrieved and the base tagged before the throw to the next base is made. Any of the three players can retrieve wild throws but the ball must go back to proper base before next throw.
The drill can be turned into a competition by splitting up into teams and simultaneously conducting the drill (other team starts in between home and first and throw to third for #1 and home for #2) or timing each team on how long it takes them to complete 12-24 balls. Emphasis should be put on setting the feet to throw to the proper base and that making good throws will avoid lost time chasing after wild throws. As players advance, make sure proper footwork for tagging a base and throwing to the next base is taught.
Purpose: To improve the player’s ability to react and move laterally in fielding a ground ball.
Procedure: The drill has two tossers near the pitching area. Each tosser has two shaggers with one standing on each side of the tosser. The drill can have four or more players in each line. One line of players is at the shortstop’s defensive position, while the other line of players is at the second baseman’s defensive position.
The tosser throws a ground ball randomly to the right or left of the player making the player move laterally to field the ball. After fielding the ball, the player throws the ball back to the shagger on that side. Then the player turns to the outside and Jogs back to the end of the line.
1. To improve the players overall conditioning.
2. To improve the player’s ability to move laterally and to assume a good defensive position in fielding a ground ball.
Procedure: The drill has one tosser and one player, who are 6-7 feet apart facing each other. (Pairs) Drill can have as many groups as desired.
The tosser rolls a ball about 5-6 feet out to the side. The player moves on a semicircular path to field the ball. After picking-up the ball, the player throws the ball back to the tosser. The tosser then rolls a ball about 5-6 feet out to the opposite side, and the player fields the ball in a similar manner. The drill sequence is repeated from five to 10 times depending on the player’s conditioning level.
The number of repetitions is increased as the the players conditioning level improves. It is important for the player to field the ball by moving on a semicircular path in order for the drill to be effective.
LATERAL PICK-UP WITH MIMIC
I use drill similar to the lateral pick-up drill of Jamie Roberts. Instead of two players I use three, one is the feeder, the second is the fielder and the third mimics the fielder in all motions. The feeder starts by announcing the direction at first, and both rolls and short hops the ball to the fielder who must field the ball by funneling it into his glove showing “soft-hands”, come to a throwing position and return the ball to the feeder. The mimic follows all of the fielders motions. Places are switched after 10-12 tosses. This gets more fielders involved and enables me to watch the fielding fundamentals of two players.
OVER THE SHOULDER CATCH
Purpose: To improve the player’s ability to catch a fly ball over the shoulder.
Procedure: The drill can have as many tossers as desired. The drill can have 4 or more players in each line. Each player has a ball.
The tosser stands on the left side of the player. The player hands the ball to the tosser, then runs out, and the tosser leads with a fly ball so that the player has to reach to catch the ball over the left shoulder. After catching or retrieving the ball, the player turns to the left, an jogs back to the end of the line.
A variation of this drill would be to work the players in a rotation of tosser, fielder, end of line. Make sure to have all players also work on fielding fly balls over the right shoulder.
A different form of soft hands, and a drill or two to go along with it.
We use black rubber conveyor belt or something with a similar density to take out the sting. The optimal width of the material is about 3/8″ thick. Lay your glove hand flat on a piece of paper and draw a line around it. Give yourself about 1 1/2 to 2 inches cushion around the entire hand. Cut on the dotted line and now you have an outline for a paddle. You just need the material to cut it out of. Something that will not shock if we want to catch baseballs with it, but something that will make the player use his free hand to catch the ball. The best we have found is the conveyor belt.
Once we have cut the paddles, we add a strap (that covers the entire back of the hand) of innertube to the back to hold the paddle in place. We drill holes in the paddle and run a piece of leather through each side to hold the tube in place. We use a sort of plastic washer to hold the tube down. They are easy to make, very cheap if you can access the materials, and we have never had one break…Never!
The four basic paddle drills are designed to simulate the underhand and overhand flips most commonly used by 2nd baseman and shortstops. The players will partner up and start about 10 yards apart. The one with the ball will start in a fielding position, ball in hand, right shoulder facing her partner. She is about to perform the underhand flip that a 2nd baseman uses in starting a double play. We teach her to pivot on her right foot and crossover…show her partner the ball the whole way….flip the ball chest high with no spin on the ball…and follow your flip. The receiving partner in ALL paddle drills performs the motions a 2nd baseman would to complete a double play….weight on right side, ball up quickly, etc. She will always start in a position facing her partner in a ready position….hands up and in front of body…weight on the balls of your feet…constant movement with feet in anticipation of any type throw.
Once the ball has gone from originator to receiver we have worked on two different things…and the bonus is the improving eye-hand coordination as a residual effect. Staying where they are, the players switch drills…so the original receiver is now tossing and the tosser is now the receiver. The drills go very quickly. The basic four can be completed in 8-10 minutes if you stay on task. You can do them inside or outside and they take very little room. You can use any kind of ball you wish. The benefit from the drills comes from repetition.
We describe the different paddle drills based on where the tossing partner will start. We want to complete 10 from each starting position daily. It is probably easiest to teach the drills for the first time on the field where they will actually make the movements we are practicing. The kids will understand fairly quickly and will take it from there. The four drills are 1) up close – right shoulder 2) up close – left shoulder 3) back up – right shoulder 4) back up – left shoulder. Number 1 is the one we described above and it is the 2nd baseman’s toss from close to the bag. Number two is the shortstop’s toss from close to the bag. Number 3 is the 2nd baseman’s toss from further back, when she must toss the ball overhanded. Number 4, of course, is the shortstop’s overhand toss. We give our middle infielders the rule for when to use which toss in a game: if the ball is at you or takes you to the bag, you should flip underhanded. You must communicate your intentions verbally as soon as you know which actions you will take.
These are the basic paddle drills. I didn’t describe the footwork that we teach because the drills are not limited to my preferences. Although many coaches would like information on that subject, it is not the subject of this piece of information (email me if interested).
PARTNER SHORT HOP / LONG HOP
This drill is used to prepare the fielder for short hops and longer hops. Two athletes will get on both knees about 15 to 20 feet apart facing each other. They will then play catch by throwing hops at one another, varying between short and longer hops.
The key to the athlete fielding the ball is to understand where their hands need to be. What is most critical is that the throwing hand is on top of the glove to prevent the ball from popping out, as well as keeping the glove out in front. This can be done in correlation with the Hat in Mouth drill, which stresses keeping the glove out front.
The coach needs to emphasize that on the short hops, the fielder presents his glove in a manner so that he can field the ball out front. On the longer hop, the ball will bounce higher in its trajectory as it closes in on the fielder, therefore the fielder’s glove will not be out in front so much. So again, on short hops make the fielder force the hands out front and not into his body to field the ball, and then just the opposite for a longer hop. This drill also allows the fielder to recognize different hops in relation to where they bounce in front of the fielder. Make sure that the athlete who is throwing the ball doesn’t just lob balls in; make her throw them hard. If they just lob it, you aren’t helping the fielder at all.
This drill makes infielding fun and competitive and puts the players in pressure situations.
Put your infeilders in their positions with 2 players at each spot.
Rule is you must make play correctly and make good throw. If you dont do everything right, everyone on your infield team does push-ups and the next group goes.
Start with infield in and come to plate for force.
Next is infield in with runner on third.
Next is regular depth, nobody on.
Next is runner on first.
Next is runners on first and second.
Finally, move infield deep with nobody on.
You can allow for balls to be blocked as long as when they pick it up, they immediately throw it and dont pump it in their gloves.
If they do make a mistake, you start all over with that team on the step they were on. The team that loses does sit-ups while the others go home.
RELAY SPEED DRILL
Take the entire team and break them into groups of three. Spread them out about 10 feet apart, with one player on the outfield foul line and the other two lined up at equal distances towards center field.
Starting with the ball at the feet of the player along the outfield line, hollar GO! to start the drill. The first player must pick up the ball and throw to the middle player. The middle player is to turn to the glove side, and relay the throw to player three. Player three then uses quick feet throwing back to the middle player, who turns glove side once again, throwing back to player one.
Do the drill a couple of times getting the middle player comfortable turning to the glove side and then rotate team members so each one has a turn as the middle fielder. This drill also works quick feet and can also work as a game of competition with the slowest team dropping off. The team left standing wins!
One of the basic fielding drills that our kids use is called the “Soft Hands” drill.
We took a ping-pong paddle and cut the handle off and stapled a batting glove to the back. The player puts his glove hand in the glove and fields ground balls from a fungo. The drill emphasizes the use of the top hand, to ensure the ball doesn’t become loose and so that the throwing hand is there to throw or flip the ball.
SOFT HANDS – QUICK RELEASE
The drills I would like to share is one that helps infielders to develop “soft” hands and release the ball quickly and one that helps with lateral movement and fielding.
Have four infielders form a square with about 10 ft. between them. Then, without gloves they flip the ball around counter-clockwise, then shift direction and gradually increase the distance. In the other one divide the infielders into pairs and have them face their partner at a distance of about 10 to 15ft., then, while moving sideways they roll the ball to each other a couple of times before shifting direction. It’s important in this drill that the fielders stay low and get rid of the ball quickly.
Line up team at the shortstop position.
Line up team at the 2nd base position.
Coach at home plate with bucket of balls.
Have two players act as catcher, one on each side of the coach.
Hit grounders to alternate sides, having the fielder throw the ball to the appropriate side catcher.
After player fields the ball and throws to the left or right side catcher, the player runs to the rear of the opposite line to await her turn at fielding grounders from the other side. Make sure the fielding player runs around their line, and behind it to the opposite side, thus not to interfere with the next person up.
Need a drill that enables your infielders to get maximum reps on ground balls and throwing to first, in a short period of time. “Three Bag” is perfect.
This drill is designed for 60′ bases. This drill utilizes three First Bases. Place a throw down base approximately 40′ from home plate, next is the regular base at 60′, then place a third bag 20′ farther down the line. 3 coaches are positioned near home plate with a bucket of balls. One coach hits grounders to the third baseman (she throws to the bag at 40′). Another coach hits to the SS (she throws to the normal first base bag). The third coach hits to the second baseman (she throws to the bag at 80′) It may sound confusing, and a lot is going on with three coaches hitting grounders at the same time, but a tremendous amount gets accomplished. Each infielder will get numerous ground balls and throws across the diamond.
Additional Drill Organization:
A) Each first baseman can have a bucket to toss his balls into, or if you have limited balls, he can “lazy toss” back to the coach.
B) You probably don’t have three first baseman. Adapt and use additional players (such as a catcher) for this particular drill.
C) Each time you do this drill you might focus on something different (ground balls to the left, ground balls to the right, slow rollers) Or you can alternate during the drill, spending 3-4 minutes on each type of ground ball.
D) Don’t forget the value of this drill to your first baseman. They should be working on proper stretch, scooping balls in the dirt, tagging down on a high throw as they would in a game, etc.
TWO HANDS WHEN YOU CAN
As a Tee-ball Coach working with beginners we do our best to come up with catch phrases or anything that will help them remember how it feels to do it right. One of the ways I have found that helps the youngsters in remembering to field the ball with two hands is simply with two rubber bands. Simply tie the rubber bands together forming a figure 8 and put them around both wrists, you can have several sets of these so you can do this drill quicker. Each player takes 5-10 grounders, and as they field each ball, they obviously can not throw so you have them move their feet and body into a throwing position.
The rubber bands help make them keep their hands together by the resistance of the rubber bands. This will help in getting them to use both hands together to field the ball. After you have done this, take the rubber bands off, and have them do the drill again. This time, have the kids make their throw. It is amazing how well this drill works. Another benefit of the two hands drill, is helping younger kids who can’t quite “squeeze” the glove yet, or have a new glove not yet broken making it difficult to keep the ball from “popping out.”
Note: Obviously you must be careful to properly supervise young kids with the potential for horseplay with rubber bands.
Split your team up into an A and B team. Have the A team spread out between second and third base and the B team spread out between second base and first base.
Once this is accomplished, have a coach (from home plate) hit ground balls to each teams side. If a ball gets through on either side of the infield and makes it to the outfield grass, then that team receives a point. First team with ten points losses.
Kids love this game and are really aggressive (diving) going after the ball. This game has also taught my kids the importance of backing up one another when fielding a ground ball.
This game is similar to the Point game, but this game is an individual competition.
Have each player take a turn in the Pit. The Pit is a 8-10 feet horizontal span area up against any type of wall surface. Have each player take a turn in the Pit receiving a ground ball. If the any ball gets past the playerin the Pit, within the span area, then he or she is out of the game. For the player who field the ground ball cleanly and makes an accurate throw back to the coaches hitting, make the ground balls faster and tougher.
We usually use an indoor ball in case the ball is missed (the ball then goes directly off the wall and back towards the player) and in situations were the players are fielding cleanly and the balls are starting to come faster.
2 TRIANGLE METHOD
Here is philosophy number two in the process of fielding a ground ball. We need to talk about body position before we field the ground ball.
Taking into consideration the previous philosophy on approach to the groundball, we can now get our body ready to field it. We call this the 2 Triangle Method. Our infielders want to get their bodies so that they make two separate triangles. Lets explain…
Remember that the left foot is behind the right foot from the approach. When we put our glove out in front of our feet ready to field the ball we construct two triangles. The first triangle is made if we connect both of our feet and then from each foot to the glove. If this isn’t in a triangle, your glove tends to be in between your legs…and that is no man’s land. It is very tough to field a ground ball with your glove between your feet. This also keeps your butt down and back straight.
The second triangle is formed with the ground, your forearms and your shins. This is a vertical triangle while the other is a horizontal one. Again, if your glove goes between your feet, you lose that triangle as well. As infielders are fielding ground balls, you must look for both of those triangles to be formed, if not, they aren’t in the right position.
HANDS STAYING TOGETHER
In working with the infielders and trying to eliminate the ball that sails over the first baseman, I took some video of my infielders making throws across the diamond. I realized a very critical error they were making as athletes and one that I was not seeing as a coach. Nine times out of ten when the athlete separated his throwing hand from his glove hand while still moving toward first base, the throw was high.
So, what we have our kids do is try to throw with their feet!!! Yes, it sounds crazy but we do it…not literally of course. We have the kids keep their hands inside of their body, throwing hand with ball in glove. Next, they complete their footwork toward where they are going to throw and just let the ball fall out of their hands. With the momentum they create with their feet, the ball should actually roll away from their body.
What we force our infielders to do is to keep their hands inside their body until the last second at which they can separate and make their throw. In the video, we noticed that if that separation occurs to soon, the front side starts to fly out and the throwing arm lags behind making the elbow drop and the ball sail.
A major defensive skill is catching. This includes catching a thrown ball, catching a grounder hit off a bat, and catching a fly ball. Initially, some players will be afraid of catching a softball. That fear will make them flinch right before the ball reaches the glove. They’ll end up dropping the ball instead of catching it, or, worse, the ball may hit them. By that time, they may be ready to quit.
Teaching players the correct catching technique is not easy. You must first over come their fear of getting hit by a ball. That’s why it’s so much better to start kids with safety balls that don’t hurt. Players can miss the ball, even get conked on the head with it, and not wind up with a big bump and bruise. When your players have mastered catching the safety ball, you can introduce easy catching with a regulation baseball.
To catch a softball, the player should position the glove according to the flight of the ball. If the ball is below the waist, the fingers and the palm of the glove hand should be pointed down with the glove fully open. If the ball is chest high, the fingers and the palm of the glove should be pointing out, with the thumbs pointing to the sky. If the ball is above the chest, the fingers point toward the sky. In all catching attempts, a player should :
- keep eyes on the ball
- have both hands ready, with arms relaxed and extended towards the ball
- bend the elbows to absorb the force of the throw
- watch the ball into the glove and squeeze it.
- After the catch, the player should immediately grip the ball with the throwing hand in the correct overhand throwing technique.
Too often you see a retreating runner start to juke — and the fielder stops or slows her advance, and matches dosey-do with the runner, often pump-faking.
If the runner has not turned around and fled full speed to the base, the fielder should continue running right at her. A fielder running forward will ALWAYS catch a runner dancing backward. If you go full speed, the runner has two choices: be out, or run away FAST. If the runner jukes, leave spike marks up his jersey (metaphorically). But if she commits, turns, and finally is himself going full speed back to her base of origin, she is an easy out on a good throw.
GLOVE WORK FOR FIELDING GROUND BALL
This is the third part in a succession of tips for fielding a ground ball. This part we will talk about our glove work in fielding a ground ball for infielders.
After we have our approach and footwork ready and are in our two triangle formation, we can now go to work on the ball with our glove. We firmly believe that we have to go and get the ball being VERY aggressive to it. There are many philosophies out there that tell you to field a ground ball by making a rounded ‘L’ to your belly as you field the ball…however, we think that as you field the ball, your glove should be going to it (attacking it) instead of moving away from it in the ‘L’ theory.
So, our gloves literally go out to the ball and up. This allows us to get rid of short hops that eat you up and forces your hands to go to the ball not letting the ball play you. At the beginning of the year we exaggerate this to the point that our hands go above our heads…as the kids understand how important it is to go to the ball, we don’t require all of that exaggeration.
We make sure that our glove is ALWAYS presented from the beginning of the approach. Presentation requires the wrist to be broken so that the back of the glove is parallel with your legs, instead of the wrist being straight and having the back of the glove parallel with the ground. This eliminates the ball the roles up the arm or off the heal or front of the glove causing the ball to go elsewhere. We focus on trying to get the ball to hit the palm of the glove giving way to our ‘alligator jaw’ formation. This is what we call our throwing hand and glove together…they look like alligator jaws.
That’s part three…part four will take care of the rest of the footwork and your arms as we get rid of the baseball.
RUNDOWNS: SLAM DUNKS OF OFFENSIVE BASEBALL
A team unprepared to deal with rundowns might panic at the sight of a runner caught off base. In reality, few situations favor the defense more. Once your team masters the following strategies, they’ll view rundowns as “slam dunk” outs.
The keys to successful rundown defense are as follows:
1) Conduct the entire rundown far away from the lead base,
2) Stay out of the runner’s path when not in possession of the ball,
3) Force the runner full speed back to the original (trail) base,
4) Hold the ball steady, don’t pump fake,
5) Tag as soon as you can, throw only if you must,
6) Limit to one throw at the right moment.
Apply these six fundamentals to all rundown situations, regardless of which players are involved, or which direction you instruct them to peel off after releasing the ball.
Before a tag is even attempted, infielders must establish proper coverage of the lead and trail bases. All nine defenders take part. The two most important roles to fill are those of the ball handlers.
They position themselves at least 10-15 feet in front of each base in order to herd the runner into the middle of the base path. A third infielder stands adjacent to the lead base. The pitcher and catcher, if not already engaged in the play, provide back up, as do the outfielders. The value of back up cannot be overemphasized.
Start the rundown by getting the ball as quickly as possible in front of the runner– into the hands of the fielder ten feet in front of the lead base. If no one is there to accept a throw, whoever has the ball must run and occupy that position. Guarding the lead base is the first priority.
The next priority is to stay out of the runner’s way. Anyone who blocks the progress of a base runner while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball will be called for obstruction.
Some coaches teach their players to throw and run to the inside of the base path. Others prefer that their defense remain to the right side, since most infielders are right-handed. Either way, crisscrossing the base path is asking for trouble. If the runner tries to obscure your fielders’ throws or vision, they should move further to the chosen side.
The ball handler sprints toward the runner forcing him to abandon his shuffle steps, square his shoulders, and retreat at full speed. Speed is crucial. It exposes the runner’s inherent vulnerability in rundowns. While sprinting, the infielder holds the ball steady beside his ear ready to tag or release at any instant. The trail base fielder presents his glove as a visible target and is poised to move toward an arrant throw, just in case.
As the runner approaches within 6-8 feet of the receiving fielder, the ball handler gains control of his body and throws. The baserunner will consume precious seconds coming to a complete stop and changing direction.
During this maneuver, he is an easy mark. A synchronized throw will allow the receiving fielder to administer the tag with only a stride or two toward the runner. After releasing the ball, the fielder peels off either to the inside or the right side. Whichever method you teach, employ it consistently on all throws. The fielder then curls back behind the base and assumes a back up role.
With two runners on base, the defense must cover the lead and trail bases of both runners and prepare for simultaneous rundowns. If the lead runner is in a rundown, the defense focuses on the greater scoring threat. At the play’s conclusion, if both runners occupy the same base, tag them both and you still gain an out.
Runners at 1st and 3rd pose yet another challenge. The trail runner may stray off base hoping to draw a throw and permit the lead runner to score. Institute a verbal signal for the infield to shout, such as “Going” or “Step Off”, when they see the trail runner leaving early.
Upon hearing the signal, the pitcher steps off the rubber to prevent a balk. He’ll then launch the basic rundown defense already described. While attacking the runner on 1st, whoever has the ball must remain in control and be ready to throw home. Again, a verbal signal is in order when the runner on 3rd makes his break.
Any time a rundown begins with the trail base fielder possessing the ball, like after a pick-off attempt, he momentarily stands his ground. He won’t want to force the runner toward the lead base. Nor can he leave his post until backup arrives. Instead, he waits for lead base fielder to charge in and then throws to him to begin the standard scheme.
During rundown drills in practice, allow all potential ball handlers to play the part of the runner. Have them draw on this experience the next time they’re on defense. From the runner’s vantage point, they can best sense the optimum moment for the fielder to throw the ball to secure the out.
Baseball offers few occasions where the outcome is certain before a play is over. But, the next time your defense encounters a rundown, the only unknown may be how to record the out in your score book. All you need is the right strategy and the repetition of practice to make it so.
THE CRUCIAL FIRST BASE PLAY
The Crucial First Base Play: Make sure that the 1B can get to the bag without having to run and catch at the same time. When receiving a throw make sure the 1B uses both hands, and that she catches the ball with the fingers of the glove pointing up, especially from the knees to the thigh. This forces the head to stay behind the glove.
When stretching, the 1B should land on the heel of her foot, as this will push you back to the bag making sure you don’t pull your foot.
When fielding a bunt you should always use two hands. Anticipate getting the lead runner by setting up your feet to throw in that particular direction.
If you have to tag the runner, hold the ball with the throwing hand inside the glove. After tag, sweep arms in the direction of the runner and immediately separate hands with the ball still in throwing hand.
If you have to feed the pitcher covering first, move towards the pitcher, not the bag, and make sure you are showing him the ball. Underhand the ball whenever possible, and make sure it is a chest high throw. Use a stiff wrist when throwing underhand and only follow through to around eye level. Get the ball to the pitcher before he gets to the bag. If you have to throw overhand, throw the ball like you are throwing a dart.
THE DOUBLE PLAY THROW
The Double Play: “Make sure of one” is considered as being negative. Pivot player must get to bag early, and the first throw to that player is the most important. Try to make the throw where the 2B wants it. The 2B should only have to change the direction of the ball, not catch it. She should receive the ball on the glove side of his body, so that his momentum carries her to 1B. You should time how long it takes for the 2B to make her turn and throw to 1B….time from the moment the ball hits her glove to the time the ball hits the 1B’s glove. A good throw will take .4 seconds off the pivot players’ turn. After the pivot, the 2B should point her toe to 1B to open her hips to be able to throw in that direction. For the SS, the ball should be thrown to the outfield side of the bag. From here the SS should sweep the bag her momentum will be towards first.