Infield play is important to the success of any defense. The ability to field and throw accurately often is the difference in the game. Errors happen to everyone, but a solid infield that makes few errors and can make some difficult plays puts their team in a position to win. To become a great infielder you must possess athletic ability and quickness, AND have a strong work ethic and the desire to continually improve. Think about all the types of plays you have an opportunity to make or not make during the season. You have to move in all directions and field balls hit at various speeds and degrees of difficulty.
This section covers some of the techniques that you can use to improve your ability to play the infield.
Try these techniques out and modify them to fit your style. With hard work and a lot of practice, you can improve all your defensive skills.
All infielders should ready themselves in the same basic body position:
Feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, weight on balls of feet.
Hands in front and slightly below hips.
Body bent slightly at waist, with head up and eyes on the batter.
As the pitch is made, move up a half step; this gives you a jump on the ball.
When playing defense expect EVERY ball to come to you. Before EVERY pitch, think about what'll you do with the ball if it's hit to you. Also, think about what you'll do if the ball is hit to the other 8 players.
to baseball? You may want to check out the lessons labeled
When you get in the ready position, you need to be ready to field a hot line drive AND ready to move. Many players forget the second part (ready to move). They crouch down with their feet very wide, their gloves almost on the ground, and their palms facing the hitter. When the ball comes, these players probably look like they're holding a skillet rather than a glove.
Just as a hitter needs to stay relaxed to be quick, the same also applies to an infielder. The ready position described above creates a couple of problems for the fielder.
The ready position is an athletic position that allows you to move quickly in any direction.
Most players devise a pre-pitch routine that puts them in the ready position as the ball crosses the plate. This may be a shuffle of the feet or a little hop. Whatever method you use, make sure you're balanced, comfortable, and ready to move. Get your momentum moving forward. Don't sit back on your heels. You want to be aggressive and play the ball rather than have the ball play you. This can only be done if you're moving forward and ready.
GROUND BALL HIT AT YOU
Unless the ball is absolutely ripped at you and you don't have time, get in the habit of moving toward the grounder as you prepare to field it. Notice the word 'charge' wasn't used -- that word implies running towards it as fast as you can. Unless it's a slow roller, you want to approach the ball in a controlled manner that is aggressive but not out of control. This allows you to make adjustments so you're not catching it off a short hop or taking it off the first bounce on the infield dirt. As you get closer to the ball, begin breaking down to get into position to field the ball. To do this, shorten your steps and widen your feet. Bend not only at the knees but also with your back. Put your hands out in front of your body and open your glove toward the ball with your bare hand on top.
CATCHING THE GROUND BALL
There are a few common problems that players make when catching a ground ball.
In most situations, try to avoid catching the ball on a short hop; however, sometimes the short hop is the best spot to catch a ball. This is true for a ball chopped high into the ground or a line drive that you can't quite get as it's coming down. In these situations, you may be so close trying to get to the ball in the air that if you stop when you realize you can't make it, you end up trying to catch the ball on a big hop that lands just a few feet in front of you. This is a difficult play to make and taking the ball on a short hop on the way in is a much better option. The big difference when fielding the ball on a short hop over a normal ground ball is that instead of giving with the ball, you actually want to be moving your glove forward as you catch it.
The backhand play is one of the most difficult to make. Poor technique and lack of practice are two of the biggest reasons why players struggle with the backhand play.
As you approach the ball you will either field it with your left foot forward or right foot forward depending on when you get to it. Many players will practice fielding a backhand only one way, but the fact is you will have to make the play both ways so make sure you practice both ways of fielding a backhand. Either way you want to make sure you keep your glove in front of your face. You want to watch the ball all the way into the glove.
As a general rule, if the ball is above the waist, glove fingers should be pointed up. If the ball is coming below the waist, glove fingers should be pointed down. On pop-ups, the glove should be about head high and slightly to the throwing-hand side. Sight over the glove to make the catch.
Unless holding a runner, the first baseman should start every play three steps into fair territory and three steps behind the first base bag.
When taking a throw, always tag the bag with the same foot as your throwing hand. If you're right-handed, and the ball is to your right, cross your left leg over your right to reach it; if you're left-handed, cross your right leg over your left to reach the ball to your left. While it's important to go straight to the bag on every ground ball not hit to you, don't set yourself on the bag too early; you may have to adjust for a poor throw.
RECEIVING THE THROW
When catching the ball from infielders, you, the first baseman, should get to the bag as quickly as possible. Once there, turn and face the direction the ball is coming from. Make sure you do not stand directly on the bag-the runner does not have room to run through the base without stepping on you. Keep both feet on the bag; this allows you to reach out with either foot depending on which side the ball comes to you on, while the other foot stays in contact with the base.
EXAMPLE: BALL COMING FROM THE SHORTSTOP
If the shortstop throws the ball directly at you or to your glove hand side, step out with your left foot (for a right-handed first baseman) in the direction of where you want to catch the ball. So, if the ball was thrown a few feet on the infield side of first, you may need to step towards home (not directly down the line) to make the catch.
On a ball thrown to your throwing hand side, step out with your other foot to give you the maximum range to catch the ball.
A common mistake made by young players is to step out to receive the ball prior to the ball being thrown. You have plenty of time to stretch out for the ball after it's in the air.
BALLS IN THE DIRT
It would be great if you always received the ball chest high from the other fielders on a throw to first. Unfortunately there are many times when the ball hits the dirt before it hits your glove. As a first baseman, this play has the greatest impact on how coaches, teammates, and fans judge your defensive ability. While you won't have an error under your name if you can't come up with the ball in the dirt, it still reflects on your ability. Although you won't field all these "dirt" balls cleanly, it is a skill you should master to the best of your ability.
TO SHORT HOP or NOT TO SHORT HOP
An infielder adjusts as he approaches a ground ball to catch it, either as it's coming down or on a short hop; as a first baseman, you need to do the same and keep in contact with first base. As the ball comes toward you, quickly determine where it will hit the dirt. If you can, stretch out toward the ball or stride out at an angle that puts your glove in a position to catch the ball on the short hop. As the ball hits the dirt, move your glove forward and at a downward angle toward the ball. This allows you to catch the ball right after it hits the ground and most importantly keep it in your glove. When catching the ball on a short hop, you don't want to stretch out and then have your glove give or have it angled back. This most likely will result in the ball bouncing off your glove.
If you cannot stretch out in order to catch the ball on a short hop, then modify your approach.
Generally, the second baseman plays about two-thirds the way between first and second base and a couple of steps back of the imaginary baseline between first and second. Use the stance described above for all infielders and be sure your weight is shifting forward as the pitch is made. This will enable you to quickly break to either side or to charge forward on the slowly hit ball. Keep your glove low as the ball approaches. When you are able, get directly in front of all ground balls. On balls hit far to either side, cross over for your first step. Don't be afraid to dive and knock the ball down. Often you will still have time to throw out a runner.
Young second basemen must remember that they have an important job on balls hit to the outfield -- they are often responsible for taking the relay throw, and sometimes making the throw on to third or to the plate.
NO RUNNERS ON BASE
Since the throw from the second base position is fairly short, you will be able to play fairly deep with no runners on base. Make sure you are not so deep that you have to hurry on a routine ground ball in order to make the out, or you can't get to first on time if the first baseman has to field a bunt.
RUNNER ON FIRST
With a runner on first you will want to take a few steps in toward homeplate and a couple of steps toward second base. This will put you in position to cover second on a double play, force out, or steal attempt if you are covering on the play.
When the ball is hit in your direction and you believe you have a chance to turn a double play, make sure you don't rush. While a double play can be a savior for your pitcher and your team, you must make sure you at least get the lead runner. An error that results in no outs and possibly a runner on third can lead to a big inning for the opposing team. Concentrate on fielding the ball cleanly and making a good throw to the shortstop. If you can do this quickly but under control then you have given your team at least one out and the opportunity to get two.
BALL HIT DIRECTLY AT YOU
When the ball is hit at you, you will want field the ball with your right foot slightly behind your left. This will allow you to easily pivot and throw because your hips will already be slightly open.
Once you have fielded the ball cleanly, you have two options for delivering the ball to the shortstop:
* * *
COACHES TIP: Younger players may have difficulty with both methods, so it may be necessary for them to shuffle their feet in order to make this throw accurately.
* * *
BALL HIT TO YOUR RIGHT
On this play you will normally be close enough to underhand the ball to the shortstop. Since you are going to your right, you should naturally be in a position where your right foot is slightly behind your left. This is the position your want to be in. Once you have fielded the ball, you will pivot on your right foot, clear your glove (this will give the shortstop a clear view of the ball), and deliver the ball. When tossing the ball underhanded you want to keep your wrist stiff, your arm motion will provide the power behind the toss. As your arm makes the underhand throwing motion, you will want to follow your throw with your left leg. This will help you deliver an accurate throw to second.
With both of the plays described above, it's important to remember that they should look seamless. Which in these cases means they should be performed from the crouching position. You don't want to catch the ball, stand up, and then rotate and underhand it. Simply field the ball, rotate from that position and deliver the ball.
BALL HIT TO YOUR LEFT
On this ball that takes you away from where you are going to throw the ball, you will want to field the ball, plant your right foot, pivot to your left and throw the ball to second. It's important that you don't whirl and throw blindly back to second. After you have planted your right foot, turn your head and pick up your target prior to throwing the ball. If you have any doubt about having enough time to get the runner at second, just throw the ball to first and get the sure out. A wild throw that pulls the shortstop off of second and results in not getting an out, means you were rushing the play and probably should have just made the out at first. Physical errors will happen, but sometimes they are the direct result of a poor decision.
BALL HIT TO THE THIRD BASEMAN OR SHORTSTOP
With the ball hit to the left-hand side of the infield, you will most likely be the pivot man at second base. The only exception is when the shortstop is close enough to make the play unassisted. There are a number of ways for you to receive the ball and make the throw to first. Which method you use will be determined by the location of the throw and your position around the bag when the ball is on its way.
One method is to straddle second base. You can use this method when you have gotten to the base quickly and the throw is on target. Position your feet on each side of second base and as you catch the ball you will take a short step with your left foot and throw to first. When using this method you are never really touching the base. Most umpires will not be in a position to notice and even if they did they most likely wouldn't call it. But, at lower levels such as little league, you never know. If you are concerned, either don't use this method or get in a habit of dragging your right foot over the bag as you follow throw with your throw.
The other problem with the straddle method is that it puts you in a vulnerable position as you are waiting for the ball. If the fielder drops the ball or has some other problem and you forget to move, you are exposed to taking a cleat in the side of your leg and if the slider comes up with his cleat your knee is in a vulnerable position to injury.
* * *
COACHES TIP: For these reasons it's not recommended that young players use the straddle method. All second baseman need to be able to use the methods below, so have young players work on those pivots.
* * *
Another method is to use your left foot on second base. This method will allow you to go in any direction and get a good quick throw off. As you approach second base, breakdown your steps a few feet from the bag. This will allow you to time the actual step on second with your left foot and determine how your going to move off that foot.
There are a number of ways you can turn the double play from your left foot. Again, the location of the throw and when you arrive at second will determine what method you will use.
You will use your right foot on the bag when either the throw is to the left of the bag or you're late getting to the bag and the ball arrives before you. In the second case you will catch the ball on your way to second and when you get there you will step on the bag with your right foot, step toward first with your left and throw.
Occasionally the feed will be very low or in the dirt. This is a difficult ball to turn two on. Come across second base and try to catch the ball in front of the base. You will be acting more like a first baseman with this type of throw. In this situation you want to make sure you get the out at second.
AVOIDING THE RUNNER
With all the throws you make to first you have to always be aware of avoiding the runner that is coming at you. The first key to avoiding injury is to always point your left toe toward first when you make the throw. This will point your kneecap in the direction of the runner which is a less vulnerable position then having the side of your leg exposed.
The best method to avoid the runner sliding into second base is to hop on your left leg after making the throw and jumping over the oncoming runner. You'll often see second baseman who practice this hop whenever they practice turning the double play. Having confidence in your ability to get out of the way of a sliding runner will add to your confidence in turning a double play.
As a third baseman, you won't need the quickness of a shortstop or a second baseman, but still must have quick reflexes. The ball often is hit very hard toward third base and the lack of distance doesn't give you much time to react. In addition to quick reflexes, you need lots of courage and toughness. When a hard hit ball comes to third, you often only has time to knock the ball down&ldots; with your body.
Since the ball can be on top of you so quickly, it's important to position yourself a little lower to the ground than the shortstop or second baseman needs to. You must have your glove lower as well. Be ready for the hot shot hit right at your feet. Remember it's easier and quicker to bring your glove up than it is to drop it down.
Fielders at other positions often have the time to round the ball and play it in front of them. For the most part, the third baseman doesn't have this luxury. At third base you must be able to cross over quickly and get to the ball hit to either side. Work very hard on your lateral movement and fielding ground balls, both backhanded and to your glove hand side.
The backhand play down the third base line can turn a sure double into a single. Even if you just manage to knock the ball down, you certainly can turn a double into a single. When making a backhanded play a ball hit to your right, make sure you keep your glove in front of your face. Watch the ball all the way into the glove and try and catch it in the webbing. On a backhand, if the ball hits the palm of your glove, it can pop out since you don't have the benefit of using your throwing hand while fielding.
You can field the ball with your left foot in front, your right foot in front, or while diving. No matter how you field the ball, position yourself to make a good throw after the play. If needed, take an extra step toward the line to slow down and make a good strong plant. Once you have planted, take a shuffle step toward first and make a strong throw. Make sure you throw the ball overhand with good 12-6 rotation. Throwing the ball sidearm causes the ball to tail and can make it difficult for the first baseman to catch it.
Whether a bunted ball or chopped ball on a full swing, the slow roller is one of the most difficult defensive plays in baseball. This ball can be fielded one-handed or two-handed, as determined by the speed of the ball and the speed of the runner. No matter how you end up fielding the ball, charge the ball hard and then break down with short steps for proper timing, prior to fielding the ball.
If you have time, the surest way to field the ball is two-handed. The next best method of fielding the ball is catching it on your glove hand side while running. You should time it to catch the ball with your left foot planted and your glove out in front. Once you have fielded the ball, quickly transfer the ball and make a throw to first. The final method of fielding the slow roller is to use your bare hand. It's essential that you watch the ball all the way into your hand. Don't pick up your head prior to fielding the ball and leave the ball on the ground.
No matter how you field the ball, make sure you are balanced. Without balance, it is difficult not only to make the catch, but to make the difficult throw to first. Practice fielding the slow roller using all the methods described above. It's a difficult play and as a third baseman, it's one you have many opportunities to make over the course of a season.
When you are starting a double play, you want to get the ball to the second baseman quickly and accurately. You should be aiming to put the ball on his glove hand side at chest level. This will allow the second baseman to start his momentum moving toward first as the ball is coming. Make sure you don't try to lead him off the base, your throw should be in line with the inside of the bag.
Quickly delivering the ball to second shouldn't be mistaken with rushing. You want to make sure you get that out at second. We've seen, at all levels, the fielder that makes a fielding error or a throwing error because he was in such a rush to get the ball to the second baseman. Make sure you field the ball first, then throw.
BALL HIT AT YOU
On any ball hit directly at you or to your right that you can get in front of, catch the ball as you normally would and instead of moving your feet and body like you do when you're throwing to first, you will want to throw from the fielding position. As you bring the ball up, step slightly toward second with your left foot and use a small arm motion to deliver the ball to second.
BALL HIT TO YOUR RIGHT
On a ball hit to your right that you have to field backhand, you will want to plant your right leg after you make the catch and make a strong accurate throw to second. You may be tempted to jump and throw in one motion after catching the ball, but for most players the arm strength and accuracy aren't there to make this play. It will be quicker and you'll have a better chance if you plant and make a good hard throw to second.
BALL HIT TO YOUR LEFT
On a ball hit to your left that you can get in front of, you will want to deliver the ball underhanded to the second baseman. As you field the ball out in front of you, turn your hips and clear as quickly as you can your glovehand to the left of your body. This will allow the second baseman to clearly see the ball as it's being delivered. As you underhand the ball step with your right foot in the direction of second base. This will help you follow through as you deliver the ball.
Sometimes you will field the ball behind second and won't be able to get in front of it. Fielding the ball off your left side will put you in a position that makes it difficult to underhand the ball. In this case you will need to make a backhand toss to the second baseman. This is a difficult skill and must be practiced over and over again to become good at. With the backhand toss you will turn your thumb towards the ground and with your elbow, toss the ball across your body.
While in the field, always have the thought process of, "What should I do if the ball is hit to me on the ground or in the air." If you are always thinking this, you will always know where to throw the ball.
When moving to field a fly ball, remember the words ´Get Sideways.´ By doing a drop step and remaining sideways on your approach, you will have a much better chance to field the ball cleanly. ´Getting Sideways´ helps you avoid backpedalling, which often gets you in the most trouble.
Work on a quick exchange from glove to throwing hand. Even while warming up your arm you can work on this skill. Try to make a crisp, clean exchange that puts you in the best position to throw.
The term "Little League" and the Little League logo are trademarks of Little League Baseball, Inc., Williamsport, Pa., extended only to local chartered leagues for purposes of identification and publicity
Copyright © 2000 Brookside Little League, Inc. All rights reserved
Thank you , for visiting Brookside's Little League Web Site