By Pete Flores
As infielders we need to stay active. We want to instill trust in our pitchers that they do not need to strike everybody out. Pitchers are working to get us groundballs, we need to do everything we can to record outs for them. Play with energy and conviction. Take pride in becoming a good defender. Learn the speed of the game and slow it down when you need to. Not all infielders can play at a big league tempo. The more mature your infielders get the more they have to learn what speed they work best at.
- You have to want and expect every pitch is going to be hit to you.
- Prepare to prepare- Know what to do with the baseball before it is hit to you.
- Know the situations. No matter where the ball is hit you have somewhere to be.
- Let your feet make the hands work: So many young infielders get caught up in having soft hands that they forget about their lower half. Gain ground to the baseball. The base runner is trying to beat you down the line, cut your distance to the ground ball.
- Glove hand position: top 2-3 inches of glove need to lie on the ground. Keeping your wrist free and easy. Bent wrist or open wrist is not a loose easy feeling. Field ball on glove side eye. (Right handers will field with left pinky laying straight down from left eye). Relax- reflexes are quicker and the groundball will stick when infielder is relaxed and not tense.
- Ground up: Always work from the ground up when getting to the fielding position. Put your feet in a position to field the baseball at its low point (short hop) or at the high point (long hop)
- Attack! Go get the ball physically but more mentally.
- Controlled Aggression. Stay balanced the whole time, keeping your butt under you as you work to the groundball.
- Let the athletes be athletes.
Your prep step is your basic ready position as the pitch gets into the hitting zone, not to the plate. Many young players do have some type of rhythm into a pitch but don’t really know what they are doing.
- Middle guys: Walk in. Left, right or right, left, this does not matter as we are just getting moving a little bit but not set yet. As you are walking in the pitch will reach the hitting zone. As the pitch gets to hit zone it is key that we take a short hop with both feet landing at the same time. Good athletic base with chest up. Thumbs up right above your knees.
- Corner guys: Your depth matters here. The deeper your positioning is the taller you can land. The closer you start to the plate, the lower to the ground you have to start as your range is now cutoff. The closer we are, we can start with our feet straddled and in a lower base. From this point you simply hop right in to your prep step. *But need to land in prep step a little lower to ground to make the quick reaction play.
- Type of hitter. Power, speed, pull guy?
- Pitch and location
- Read hitter. Read bat head
This is the toughest groundball to field. It is a little bit harder to read velocity off bat and it is hard to read distance between hops
- Where is the ball hit? Straight up
- What kind of groundball do we have? Chopper, hugs ground or true groundball
- Velocity off bat? You have to trust your instincts here and trust you have made the correct first step.
- After we have landed in our prep step- we want to stay low as we approach the ball. Think of your eye level working on a downward angle.
- Gain ground. Keep going until the hop makes you stop (long or short) keep the rhythm in your feet
Middle guys vs. corner guys
Gain ground vs. straight in
- First step “Peak Step”Middle guys-try to get left shoulder on a straight line with the groundball and get back through it. This is not going to take us out and around the groundball. It will take us almost on a straight line to the ball with a chance to read a hop.Corner guys- our time is cut now. We have to square up our chest to the groundball as quick as we can. There is still a rhythm we can create with our feet. After we land in our prep step we will walk in to the baseball. Short step with right foot, show glove presentation, left foot will follow to get toes lined up and glove will lie on the ground. This footwork will still give us a chance to stay loose with our feet and hands.
- Gaining ground-Small aggressive strides will allow you to make quick adjustments, change direction, accelerate or decelerate. The longer the stride the longer your foot is in the air.
- Right-left field-By this point we have tried to create a downhill level with our eyes as we go through our footwork. Our last 2 steps into the groundball should be right foot land (glove presentation), left foot land (ball in glove.) Left foot land and ball in glove should happen at just about the same time. This will make you field through the baseball. Stay relaxed.
- Transition into belly-Maintain balance and be free to move. After ball security, think about fielding the ball with your elbows as your hands and feet are already set. Transfer should come up towards, but not all the way into the belly. This will get you back to balance as you shuffle your feet into your throw. Be quick but don’t rush.