Baseball Infield Positions – Fielding Ground Balls

Fielding ground balls are the key to be a success playing a middle infield position at any level. You need to have a few essential tools that will allow you to be successful and recognized.

How To Play the Middle Infield in Baseball

Playing the middle infield, which would be Shortstop or Second Base, you have to be super athletic to make the plays that are necessary to complete the plays. Being able to react and act on a play is very important because of the throws you have to make, along with the speed of the balls that are hit to you.

Second basemen will need amazing timing and intangibles to complete the play. Shortstops have to throw from every arm angle whether you’re on balance or off balance because of the distance they play from first base. Instincts along with the intangibles come into play when there are runners on base. Shortstops are the leaders of the infield and need to be good with relaying balls and dictating where the ball should go to most of the other position players.

Quick Feet

Fielding Ground Balls

Fielding Ground Balls

Having quick feet as a shortstop is a must for the fact that you have to cover a ton of ground. Not only do you have to cover a ton of ground, but you also have the longest throw to first base.

Quick feet allow the shortstop to field the ball quickly and get rid of it. Having quick feet as a shortstop will help the accuracy with his throws as well. Double plays are very key for teams which means the shortstop is a big part of being quick to turn a double play.

Quick feet allow you to be fast, smooth and have good balance.

Accuracy & Velocity

As a shortstop, it’s demanded to be accurate for the fact they make the hardest throws on the field. Not only the routine throws, but they need to make every throw, whether it’s an off-balance, on the run, across their body, over the top, double play, relay, and bare hand. Playing shortstop forces you to get rid of the ball quickly with velocity. The shortstop position has to have someone playing with a strong arm because of all the different angles they will have to throw.

Instincts & Knowledge of the Game

Having senses and knowledge of the game, means the best middle infielders know where to be at all times, where the ball should go and be able to direct others to do what’s needed. Middle infielders have to understand how fast runners are, be able to read swings, realizing what a swing is going to do depending on what pitch is going to be thrown. They need to know the outfielder’s arms because of all the relays they need to do so that they’re in the right spot. Instinctual on the fact that they can’t throw out a lead runner and be able to pick then back and where to back pick because of the timing of the play.

Backhands When Fielding Ground Balls

Fielding Ground Balls

Fielding Ground Balls

There are two different kinds of backhand plays while fielding ground balls.

  • Backhand through the ball with your glove hand foot opens a little bit.
  • Backhand deep in the hole with your throwing hand foot crossed over, receiving the ball. We call these backhand plays having your feet split.

The ball will dictate whether you can play through the ball or if you have to range a lot you will end up doing the backhand with your feet split.

I will explain each one with the same starting point.

1. First, you will start with you PRE PITCH MOVEMENT
a. You can take a few small steps as the pitcher is lifting his leg to throw and are trying to time your balance and body square to the plate when the ball crosses the hitting zone.
b. You can do a little bounce towards the plate when the pitcher releases the ball and again trying to time your land when the ball is crossing the hitting zone.
c. You can jump with your momentum going towards the plate trying to time your landing as the ball is passing the hitting area. (Dustin Pedroia)
While you do this movement, you should land in the athletic position with your head and chest over your toes.

2. Once you get your balance in the athletic position, explode towards the ball hit, you will determine speed, hops, and direction of the ball.
a. path is the first thing you will evaluate. Once you decide that it is a backhand play, now you have to determine the speed to know what angle to take towards the ball. After you identify the speed, you will see whether you can play through the backhand or have to range deep in the hole to backhand with a split. Now that you have the direction and speed of the ground ball you will decide what hop you are going to get.
b. Hops – Short Hop, Long Hop(Ball Coming Up) or In Between Hop. Once you decide what hop you’re going to get you will make the action that demands you to do to field the ball with smoothness and quickness. Short hop you will pick through the ball. Long hop or ball coming up you will give with the ball. The in-between hop is the toughest one, and we do not necessarily want this hop, but when you do get it, you will more times than not give with it.

3. While fielding backhands there is a specific mechanic to do each one with your glove arm.
a. Fielding the backhand that you can play through will demand that you have a slight bend in your elbow and try to lead with your elbow through the ground ball like a hinge. Having your elbow lead while you’re taking your glove arm through will give you the most room in your glove for the ball to go. Remember while you are doing the backhand through the ball, that means your feet are also moving through it as well.
b. Fielding the backhand that you have to range deep in the hole for with your feet split will be a bit different mechanic then the backhand that you play through. Once you get to the ball with your feet, split you will have your glove arm straight for the most part because you are ranging so much that you will have to reach to get the ball which means your arm will be straight. On these

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Fielding Ground Balls

Backhands you are moving away from the first base so you will naturally as soon as you field the ball, you will have to either plant your feet right away and throw or you will jump to stop your momentum and throw. The hop will dictate whether you pick through or give with the ball as your reaching to get the ball. (Think of Derek Jeter going in the hole to make a play)

 

4. Backhanding ground balls is all about your angles and technique. Backhanding ground balls is why many coaches don’t necessarily like players to do it. The reason is that the player doesn’t understand the method and they want the player to square it up. Your angles are the same as if you were going to get around the ball and field in fronts of you like a regular ground ball or forehand.

Backhanding is an art, and you have to learn how to do it. Being taught right and taking a ton of reps will allow you to react better in a game and let it happen.

Glove Hand Location For Fielding Ground Balls

The glove arm and hand have to be very accurate when it comes to playing baseball and primarily as an infielder. As an infielder, your glove needs to have rhythm and timing while fielding ground balls. When you have a great glove position, it gives you a better chance to have better rhythm and timing to catch the ball.

Being an infielder, you want soft hands which means having quick and smooth timing with your glove hand. When playing infield, you want to have smooth, steady hands because all you’re trying to do is re-direct the baseball to your throwing hand to throw the ball to the appropriate base.

Glove Arm Location For Fielding Ground Balls

The glove arm is just as important as the glove itself. The reason why the glove arm is so important is that the arm is what takes the glove to the ball. In the infield, you have to be able to react quickly with the arm because of the hop you might get. If your arm isn’t quick, it will be hard to catch the ground ball. Being that you don’t ever know where the ball is hit, you have different types of plays you have to be able to make.

Each play has a little bit different technique/fundamental to do as your fielding. Regular is anything that you field in front of your body. Backhand is a groundball that you field on your throwing arm side of your body. Forehand is when you field the ball on the outside of your body on the glove side. With that said, your arm has to be quick and smooth to be able to field one of three ways for the correct fielding position that is determined by where the ball is hit.

Rhythm and Timing For Fielding Ground Balls

Rhythm and timing are very handy when it comes to fielding ground balls. Think of it as playing the violin and how much rhythm and timing you need with your hands. Not only do you need rhythm and timing but you also have to be smooth, or you will break the cords on the violin. When fielding ground balls you want to be loose in your arm and hand. Being flexible will allow you to have better rhythm and timing to field the ball.

That means timing the ground ball with your arm and hand in the correct position to field. What good timing with your arm and hand will do for you is to be more consistent at fielding the ball with the perfect fielding mechanics because you are always on time. Being on time with your glove arm and hand makes the ground balls easy to field in any way, whether it’s a regular, backhand or forehand. If you have perfect glove position, it allows your arm and hand to have great rhythm and timing to field ground balls.

Fielding is all about re-directing the baseball to your throwing hand. The ones who can re-direct the ball the quickest, you will see how well their glove position is every time they field a ball. Not only will you notice their glove position but you will see how much rhythm and timing they have with their glove arm/hand.

Learning how to field ground balls with their glove arm/hand first is very key to fielding ground balls with both hands. Once the fielder learns how to field with just there glove arm they will be a lot quicker to transfer the ball from glove to throwing hand because you do things quicker with one hand versus two hands.

This is how vital your glove arm and hand are for infielders fielding ground balls. Having better rhythm and timing will allow you to be quicker with your glove arm and hand.

Baseball Footwork For Fielding Ball Ground Balls

Footwork for Fielding

We’ve discussed the importance of perfect body position for fielding; staying low with glove out in front, back parallel to the ground, and, most important of all, having your feet in the proper position. If every hit came straight to you, then we’d be all set – discussion over! However, that is not the case. You have to move, and it is your feet that take you where you want to go and where you need to be. So let’s take a closer look at footwork, its importance to an infielder and how to get into the correct position to be the most effective and consistent.

Why is Footwork important?

Footwork is what makes an infielder look very impressive! The player’s footwork is key to getting their body into the correct stance to field while allowing your glove arm to not only catch the ball but to redirect the ball with power and momentum. Remember that the ground is the source of power for an infielder’s throw. When the player’s footwork is on point, their arm will look impressive as they harness all this power into the throw.

Fielding Ground Balls

Fielding Ground Balls

Ground balls are caught by how well your feet are positioned. Well-positioned feet are quick feet! Footwork is everything when it comes to fielding ground balls, as it is the key to being quick and agile. A player’s feet will make or break how good they are at fielding. Bad footwork will throw you off balance, lessening your speed in getting to the ball and reducing the strength of your throw.

Proper Footwork

Whether you are fielding a routine, backhand, or forehand ground balls, the proper footwork is identical. You always want to take small, quick steps as you gain ground on ground balls, taking hops away to get a good hop to field. Taking smalls steps keeps your body free to move in any direction and to set up your fielding position where needed.

Conversely, taking more significant steps commits you into a direction and makes it more difficult to adjust to the incoming ground ball. Keep in mind that taking small steps does not mean shuffling your feet. Shuffling feet are anchored to the ground and make fast responses difficult. You want your feet to be like springs, waiting to explode off the ground. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, with a glove!

Your footwork is also dependent on your throwing arm. For right-handed throwers, your very last two steps before you get to the ball should be a right then left. As you arrive at the ball, you would take a right step and then a left step so that your left foot lands a little bit ahead of your right foot. Left-handed throwers follow the same pattern but in reverse. This footwork puts your body, not only an excellent position to receive the ball but to redirect it with power and follow through. Your footwork is the same for all your plays in the infield except for plays where you are on the run.

Consistent footwork leads to a higher chance of catching the ball. Great infielders are the most compatible with their footwork. Once you get the footwork down, you will become an outstanding infielder. Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of good footwork.

Steps for Fielding Footwork

  1. As the ball is crossing home plate, creep towards home plate.
  2. React to the direction the ball is hit and start taking small steps towards the ball gaining, ground. Read the spin, speed, and height of the ball from the ground and adjust your approach as needed.
  3. Continue taking steps toward the ball until you are about 4 feet from the ball.
  4. Take your right step, then your left step (Left handed, take a left, then right) when the ball is 2 feet away from your glove.
  5. From catch to throw your footwork puts you in the right position to throw. So from fielding to throwing your footwork will be the right foot in front of left foot, stepping towards your target with your right foot and the left foot will follow. Again you do not want your footwork to stop in this process.

The proper way to field a ground ball

Pre Position with your Body

As the ball is crossing the zone(Plate) you should be getting low or into an athletic stance to react. Maybe have a slight movement forward into it is ok as well.
Being low with your chest and head will give you a better view of what kind of spin and hop the ball has. It is quicker to start low and come up on a ball then to start high and try to go down on the ball.

Anticipation

As you get your pre-pitch position, you should be anticipating what kind of hop you are about to get. Depending on what pitch it is, and reading the hitters stance and swings, will help you with anticipation.

Even if your wrong with what you were expecting, you will have momentum and better reaction on the ball because you are moving.

Angles to Field the Ball

Right-handed throwers we have to create angles to field and throw creating the right angles, we have to get to the right side of the ball as soon as we can. Once you get to the right side of the ball, you continue to play through the ball with your momentum towards first base. As you approach the ball, you square it up which means you field slightly on the left of your belly button or in front of your left boob. With this, it’s like a 2 step, where its right, then left.

Footwork

When playing the infield, your footwork should never stop. That doesn’t mean you go 100 MPH to the ball; it means your footwork should be consistently taking small steps at all times. Your feet need to take small steps so that you can redirect at any speed and any time. Footwork is essential because it creates the rhythm and timing to be in the perfect position to field.

Glove Work and Transfer

Once your footwork takes you to the ball, and you get your right, left the field, your glove “arm” takes over, and you should pick/field the ball. Once you field the ball, you will take your glove directly to your right hand(or throwing hand). As your taking your glove to your throwing hand which is near your face your eyes see the transfer which makes it more consistent. As your glove is going to your throwing hand, your right foot should step in front of your left foot going towards first base. The play will dictate that your footwork shuffles which is ok too. On routine plays, you should always have the right foot step in front of the left foot.

Momentum through the Ball

Learning to field with momentum and under control through the ball. You want to feel as if you are nonchalant with a ton of momentum and rhythm through the ball. You should never have to stop your momentum to field. All your actions are in rhythm and smooth which is called the economy of motion while fielding. Not only are your feet working through the ball but your glove arm has to work through the ball as well.

Under Control and Relaxed

Learning to stay under control with your actions and acting like you are an expert at fielding ground balls will allow you to be more confident and consistent. Once you do that you will learn to explode through your throw also. Under control and relaxed makes your actions quicker and smoother.

Throwing

Infielders we are taught to short arm the ball which is good because we have to get rid of the ball quickly. If you get directly on top and behind the ball with your throwing hand with a ton of momentum, you won’t have to throw the ball that hard, and you will see your ball carrying a lot more.

As infielders, we shouldn’t have to crank or throw the ball as hard as we can. There are very few plays that you have to do that. Infielders need to learn how to throw from many arm angles because of the plays we have to make as infielders that’s why it is important that we learn to short arm and get carry on the ball.