HOW YOUTH BASEBALL PLAYERS CAN FIELD LIKE A PRO
Playing infield at the high school level is more than the “triangle”, the “alligator”, and the “funnel” to your belly button. Hitters get down the line faster and you have to cover more ground because you are playing on a pro-sized field. At the high school level, you must field the ball cleaner, and get rid of it faster. Here’s a quick review of how to field at the pro level.
Pitchers at the high school level should have good enough control to know where the pitch is going. While the pitcher and catcher are agreeing on the pitch and location, you can start to think about probabilities and adjusting where you stand. Inside pitches should be pulled and outside pitches should be hit the opposite way. Start to shade, which means one to three steps left or right, when you have confidence that your pitcher is hitting his spots.
Start your feet moving as the pitcher is about to release the ball. The prep step keeps you on your toes. You may have learned that most movements in sport are faster and smoother when the athlete has the opportunity to move before the major movement. Pitchers wind-up, hitters load, and fielders should take a small step with each foot so that they are on the ball of the foot when the pitch enters the hitting zone.
The most fundamentally sound method for actually fielding a ground ball is to have your glove touch the ground on every opportunity. Seems simple, but most young fielders never put their glove flat. You will see many fielders stab at the ball with their gloves perpendicular to the ground, or they put their glove down at the last possible second. The rule is that if you have stopped charging the ball, or moving laterally, put your glove flat on the ground. Starting from the ground, and coming up if necessary, will make you surer-handed as you field most ground balls between the ground and the bottom of your knee. The next step to becoming a stronger fielder is to keep your feet moving while you field the ball. You may have heard your coach explain this as “fielding through the ground ball.” Shortstops must learn this skill. To keep your feet moving, while also having your glove flat on the ground, you must make sure that your glove is extended (going back to the basics you learned when you first started fielding grounders at the top of the triangle). If you field too close to your body, you risk getting your hands tangled in your feet. When you field through the ball, the motion looks fluid. You charge the ball, your glove hits the ground, your feet keep moving toward first base, your glove’s out in front, and you throw. This can be helpful for second and third baseman as well but not necessary. A third baseman usually doesn’t have time to charge, whereas a second baseman has a little more time than a shortstop to make the throw. The best way to practice this skill is to throw a ball against a wall and work on your footwork. Stand back far enough so that you have some space to set up your feet. The drill is not a race or a reaction drill. The drill is meant for you to simulate a routine ground ball hit to you from about the same distance from home to your infield position. You may also work on going to your right or left.
Pulling the ball out of the glove with a four-seam grip is the next skill to master. You can practice this while watching TV. Throw the ball in the glove, finding the four-seam grip without looking, and then pop it into the glove for another rep. This is the best way to quicken your release.
Pro fielders move faster and smoother. Simply fielding the ball cleanly no longer suffices at this level. You have to quicken your fielding skills to keep up with the faster base runner. The alternative? Move to the outfield.
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