Basic Fielding Technique
Basic Fielding Instruction
If your team can’t catch the ball, your coaching experience will be the worst…take the time to engrain simple, easy to remember rules with your players.Simplicity is the key throughout all areas of baseball
What you’ll learn
Where you should start as a coach when teaching basic fielding
What are the most important things to start on and why are they the most important.
Simplicity is key
If you keep things simple, you’ll get better results no matter what technique you’re trying to teach
Step-by-step process on how to actually teach it
From the start to the finish, you’ll know these techniques inside and out
Why you should be teaching a Pre Pitch
What a pre pitch is and the thinking behind it
Infielders foot timing
It’s all about the feet in the infield
How to correctly approach ground balls
You know it when you see it, but do you know how to teach it?
Teaching infielders to properly turn double plays
Two is always better than one, spend time on this and it will help a lot
First base footwork
Two is always better than one, spend time on this and it will help a lot
One of the most important things you’ll learn. Quick concise verbiage you’ll be using with your players.
Double Play Explanation
First Base Play
THE TRIANGLE DRILL AND LINE DRILL EXPLANATION
The key to success is how you implement these two drills. As a coach you have to introduce these ideas of why it’s important and make sure that you’re doing it in a way that is so simple that anyone could understand. Make sure you practice explaining it prior to actually doing it with your team.
1. Start slow motion
2. Constantly ask players to explain back to you what you’ve just explained to them
3. Use your verbal cues and repeat yourself often
4. Identify players that are doing it correctly and use them as an example
6. Practice explaining the drills and reasoning for them prior to implementing with your team
Take the time to explain each drill thoroughly prior to rolling out ground balls. It’ll save you a lot of headache later. Make sure you check with your players to see if they’re listening (they’re not) directly after you state something important (i.e. – when you’re talking about why you want to be left eye every time because it allows your glove to have give and gives you the opportunity at a replay opportunity…immediately ask one of the kids why they should try and be left eye every time).
Start with the triangle drill first, then move on to the line drill – Even though the triangle drill is important to do first, you should be doing the line drill about 10x more than you’ll ever do the triangle drill.
Starting with the triangle drill – Gather everyone around and make sure they know that you are going to check and see if they’re listening throughout your explanation. Explain the triangle drill and why you’re doing it. Make sure you use your verbal cues for specific drills as you’re demonstrating. Explain the verbal cue and what it means. Make sure they know that you can’t move on to the more fun stuff until everyone can really get this triangle drill right. Split the kids up into partners to have one act as a “spotter” to identify what the other is doing wrong. As a coach, you should be walking around and correcting kids. Don’t let them rush through it. They shouldn’t pick up speed with this drill until they can do it exactly right.
The kids will enjoy the line drill more. Start by drawing the line and going through the explanation of why it’s important. It’s important because it’s designed to prevent infielders from getting stuck (stopping their feet). When a players feet stop, they make errors, they get hit in the face, it costs the team the game, it makes them cry, and makes it bad a experience for everyone. So if you can make them understand that you’re going to spend a lot of time on this drill because it definitely makes their baseball life easier, they’re usually more apt to focus. Start with the ball directly at the fielder, using the line that you’ve already drawn. Make sure the fielder is starting with the line between their feet, so they have to clear themselves every time. Slowly roll the ball down the line and use your verbal cues. Make your fielders do it half speed to start until they can do it perfect. Make sure they’re using the proper footwork on their approach and their exit from the fielded ball.
Give it time – the first day you do these drills, they definitely won’t be perfect and some kids will seem like they’re not making progress. Stick with the and continue to utilize them day after day and you’ll see results. It’s like all of a sudden a kid just gets it, and once he gets it, then he has it forever, but it takes a coach that’s willing to go through the tough reps.
What the Pre-Pitch is and why it’s important
THE PRE PITCH IS THE POSITION THAT THE FIELDER IS IN WHEN THE BALL IS COMING INTO CONTACT WITH THE HITTERS BAT. This position should be the exact same every single pitch of the game. The most important things to remember is the depth . Depth will be talked about throughout instruction and is basically how low the infielders eyes and chest are to the ground. There’s basically two reasons for this. One, the lower you get to the ground the easier it is to judge the hops of a ground ball. And two, because you’re low, and in a kind of loaded position, you explode more quickly in whichever direction the ground ball takes you.
A lot of people talk about “decleating” and how a little bunny hop can get players on their toes every time and prevents players feet from getting stuck or having “cement feet”. I would just be careful when teaching this to the younger players because what I have noticed is sometimes when the younger kids hop their chest seems to come up and creates a pre pitch that is two straight up and down and this makes the eye level change to drastically (preventing everything we’re trying to accomplish).
I think the way to teach it is a right step, left step, with a chest sink. I see less and less pro guys do the hop now and as long as the infielder is on their toes then that’s the whole point. So right step, left step as the chest sinks and the eyes get lower. Then, as the pitch reaches contact point the player is on his toes still moving slightly forward but not to drastic. The head position should be in front of the toes at least by the contact point.
Hand Position- The main thing you want to remember with hand position is thumb up and to not be too far outside the leg with the glove hand. The reason for thumb up is because it’s a naturally comfortable position as opposed to what some people teach with the palm up because you’re already in a running position and it’s easy to move out of. Also we like to teach this because it prevents “flipping” which is where the glove is flipped into the fielding position late and causes hard hands. Remember the more movement the hands have as the body approaches the harder it is to stay soft and have the hands in the right position early.
LEFT FOOT TIMING
Left foot timing is referring to the infielders left foot as they enter the fielding position. We talk about how we never want the fielders feet to stop moving. If the infielder’s left foot lands too early, a lot of the time, they will get “stuck” and run themselves into an in-between hop. If they are too late with the left foot, they’ll end up fielding a routine ground ball outside their feet and the top and bottom halves will be off time and require extra steps to get rid of the ball.
Left foot timing is SO important. The feet are probably the most important part of the body when it comes to setting yourself up in an advantageous position to pick the right hop to catch. Talk to your players all the time about getting the left foot behind. This is especially important when playing on rough surfaces.
SNEAKING UP ON THE BALL – THE APPROACH
A problem that we see all the time with young infielders is how they approach the ball and their posture being too tall. When fielders are too upright, their eyes end up having too drastic of a drop when they actually go into the fielding position. We want our players to keep their eyes behind the ball and low. We tell our guys to think about “sneaking up on the ball” and it seems to translate pretty well for them.
In addition to staying low and keeping our eyes down, we want our shoulders to stay square as our hips turn on the routine ground ball. We don’t really want to shuffle during the approach of a ground ball because it tends to lead to our eyes bouncing. If it’s a ball that requires an extension play a long ways from the infielders initial position, they will need to turn the shoulders and run to the ball. We only keep our shoulders square to the play on a routine ground ball.
TEACHING DOUBLE PLAYS
THE SS FLIP – is your generic “taylor made” double play. This should be one of the easiest and most consistent double plays turned on any team. For those of you that are relatively new to coaching, the flip is an underhand toss to the second baseman.
The first thing that I want to talk about with the SS flip is foot positioning. The foot positioning is a little different from a routine ground ball. We teach dropping the left foot slightly behind the right foot. We do this for a couple of reasons.
When you drop the left foot back slightly, the right shoulder will naturally be in front of the left shoulder (relative to the plate) creating an unblocked path directly to second base. This eliminates and extra step.
The second reason we do this is to help with clearing the glove hand. Clearing the glove hand is when the fielder makes sure to get the glove hand out of the way as he’s flipping the ball. A lot of younger kids will try to flip the ball with a two arm motion. This makes it hard to see for the second baseman receiving the ball, as well as creates the chance for more errors.
The footwork for a flip from SS is Right, Left, Field, Right, Left, Flip, and follow the flip. People will argue this, and there are definitely times that you can cut out the second set of Right, Left steps, but believe me, especially with younger kids, this will help with the timing and the accuracy of the flip in a huge way.
This is a good transition into maintenance of depth throughout the SS flip. I talk about the exactly what depth is in the Correct Fielding Position post. The reason that you want to maintain depth throughout the flip is because it’s easier to field the ball clean and come out of fielding position more smoothly, and it also creates a flat flip. We always want flat flips and feeds because it is easier for the fielder receiving to judge and turn the double play with a flip or a feed thats flat as opposed to a flip or feed that has tilt.
Now, as the SS fields the ball and transitions into the flip the glove hand should vacate and the flipping arm should be straight without backswing (backswing is an unnecessary load of the arm to create a harder flip). You’ll probably encounter this with a lot of the younger kids. The way to prevent this is to stress the importance of following the flip. You get your momentum on the ball with your legs, not your flipping arm. If you refer to the video above I am always following my flip towards second base. As the arm starts to go towards second base so does the back leg. You want the fielder to follow their flip for at least two or three steps towards second base.
SS FEED – Now onto the feed from the shortstop. We refer to a feed as anything that’s not a flip. Any ball more than one step to the SS’s right should be fed. There are a lot of similarities to the flip.
First, we want the same foot positioning (left behind right) as with the flip. We want this to get the shoulders square to second base. It makes the throw easier and prevents the fielder from having to throw across his body. Honestly, I would say that the left behind right needs to be a little more drastic than with the flip.
Next, we want the maintenance of depth as well, just like in the flip. It’s important here because if the fielder stands up straight as opposed to staying down, he will create tilt on the ball which we want to avoid. We do this because it’s quicker, creates a better feed, and requires the least movement.
So, as we’re transitioning into the throw we do something that we refer to as the rock. We still have our left foot timing as with any ground ball. So our weight will be on the left foot as we field the ball. As the ball is fielded the weight will shift from the left foot to the right foot. We maintain our depth and deliver the feed to 2b.
So if we do everything correctly from above we will create a tilt of the shoulders that may make it look like we are feeding the ball sidearm or almost submarine. This is what we want. We do not want the fielder to stand up and feed the ball. The more depth the quicker it will be as well as more accurate.
2B FLIP– The flip from second base is a little different from anything that we have talked about on this website. It is the exception for a couple of things.
The first thing is the sequence that the feet land in. Instead of the feet landing right first then left, we will do the opposite. We want the feet to land left first then right. We do this because the destination of the flip from second base is opposite of any other ground ball infielders will take. We also do this because we’ve found that it creates a better rhythm with the feet of the second baseman and makes the transition into the flip much easier. So instead of doing left foot timing we will do right foot timing (right foot hits as or right before the ball touches the glove). We want the left foot in front of the right to square the shoulders towards second base better. We can still field the ball on the left eye for the 2B flip.
Once we field the ball we’ll maintain depth, vacate the glove hand, keep the flip arm straight (without backswing), and follow our flip to second base. There are two flips used from second base that we teach. The main thing with both flips used is to remember to create flat flips. The first is the conventional underhand flip. For the ball one step to the 2B’s left, we like to use the backhand flip. The thing to remember with the backhand flip is the footwork is the same but the elbow of the flipping arm HAS to be above the ball to create a flat and consistent flip. Also, the fielder has to follow to flip to avoid loopy flips.
2B FEED – The feed from second base is also quite different from anything taught to this point on this website.
The main difference of the feed from second base is that we are going to want to field the ball on the RIGHT EYE. The reason that we want it on the right eye is because it’s an easier transition into the feed as opposed to when we field it left eye. Also, if we happen to have a deflection of the ball from not fielding it cleanly, it will most likely deflect toward the base that we are trying to get the out at (second base). We sacrifice the give (with the glove hand) that we have when we field it left eye to make the transition smoother.
The foot positioning will be a more drastic left in front of right to get our shoulders squared with second base. We want to field the ball further back in the stance as well, closer to the right foot to make the transition into the feed quicker.
Once the ball is fielded and we are transitioning into the throw we want to really concentrate on our maintenance of depth. Our feet will pivot and be square to second base. We will have our depth and feed the ball with our tilt (talked about above).
Some coaches teach going to one knee to feed the ball. I don’t like this because it doesn’t feel natural and it seems like the fielder is working against his body movement to make the feed.
TURNING THE DOUBLE PLAY FROM SS
TURNING THE DOUBLE PLAY FROM 2B
For the extension play to the left we like to use the spin (last couple of reps in video above). There’s a couple of things we want to focus on for this feed. The first is to maintain depth and not stand straight up. The second is to make sure the ball is fielded back in the stance either in line or behind the left foot. The third thing is to focus on getting the right foot planted as quickly as possible to line the feet and the shoulders up with second base.
PROPER FIRST BASE FOOTWORK
Probably one of the most neglected positions on the field by coaches. A first baseman that knows how to properly work the base and picks the ball in the dirt consistently is a huge addition to any team. Here’s what you want to remember when coaching first base play:
1. Find the circle (font inside corner of 1st base) with the throwing hand foot
2. Maintain a universal athletic position and expect the ball to be in the dirt
3. Use a two step approach every time with the glove hand foot finding the base with the ball of the foot, not the heel
4. Stride directly toward where the ball is thrown from
5. Proper glove hand foot timing (as the ball hits the glove)
6. Keep the top half tall and don’t fold over at the waist
8. Get depth with the legs and maintain weight in both legs (folding at the waist will make your first basemen fall off the base)
9. If there’s a pick opportunity, the glove always works down to up (no matter if it’s a short hop or up hop)
Why are these drills the best to use?
1. Fielding Position – The reason that you’re spending time on the triangle drill is to help players feel what the proper fielding position as well as approach feels like. If they don’t know what the proper fielding position feels like, how can we ever expect them to reach it? It helps the players connect simple verbal cues with the feeling of the position (i.e. flat back)
2. Practices the three most common plays in the infield – The three most basic plays that you need your players to be able to make in the infield are the routine ground balls right at them, to their left, and to their right. You shouldn’t move on to backhands, double plays, etc until the kids can show you that they are able to field these balls on a consistent basis. Especially with the younger kids, if you throw too many new things at them, they will have a hard time figuring out what type of approach to take towards specific types of ground balls.
Why are we practicing these so much?
You need to practice these 3 plays over and over until they are engrained into your players heads. Ideally, you want it to work like a computer program for your players (i.e. – when they see the ground ball to their left, the “program” fires and they just automatically have a set way to approach and field that ball as well as get rid of it in an efficient manner). Repetition eliminates them having to think about what play they should match up with a certain type of ground ball.
Why do I feel like I’m repeating myself over and over?
If you’re doing these drills right you should be repeating yourself all the time. The kids are NOT listening most of the time, especially the younger they get. Eventually they will tune in and when they do you want to make sure you’re providing them with the information that they’re looking for, even if they missed it in earlier explanation. Sometimes, the kids get tired enough of you saying the same thing over and over that they’ll give in and do it correctly.
Good vs. Bad
Beginner’s Fielding Technique Verbal Cues
Left eye – refers to the position of the ball relative to the players body when they’re fielding it. If you were to drop a string from the players left eye, that should be about the place they’re fielding the ball (on a routine gb). If you want to read more about left eye you can do so in a couple of articles [LINK TO TRIANGLE DRILL] [LINK TO FIELDING POSITION ARTICLE]
Glove presentation – refers to how the player is carrying his glove from the time the ball is hit to the time he fields the ball. We want it on the outside of the left hip or left side of the body hanging and loose. We don’t want it inside of the frame of the body or flexed.
Clear yourself – refers to creating an angle toward any type of ground ball. We want our players to do this on any routine ground ball no matter what direction. It gives the players a better perspective to judge hops and speeds. It also helps with keeping the players feet moving. It also helps with keeping the players from over pursuing on the ball to the left, as well as, creating momentum towards first on the ball to the player’s right. If you want a deeper explanation on the line drill you can read this article [LINK TO THE LINE DRILL]
Field the right side of the ball – This is a good one that helps the players with clearing themselves. If you were to take the ball and split it in half vertically, you want them to try and field the right half of the ball. Will they actually field the right side of the ball, no. But, it’s all about the approach and the steps prior to even fielding it.
Never let your feet stop – this is a big one, as soon as the feet become stuck errors will follow. Even if the player clears themselves and is in the right position waiting to take his final approach steps, their feet should still be moving. The feet should either be chopping (not like a football player, just an easy movement) in place or gaining ground toward the baseball. You’ll use this cue a lot on the ball to a players left. Often, they get their early and aren’t quite sure what to do when they’re sitting in that “hallway”. We tell them, if they’re in the hallway early, and they feel like they’re waiting to long to go ahead and “gain a level” (explained next).
Sneak up on the ball – refers to the posture and general approach to the ball. We tell our players to sneak up on the ball when they are approaching it too tall or they have heavy feet. This cue seems to really connect with players and they pick it up quickly.
Gain a level – you can use this when you’re explaining how to correctly charge a baseball. You don’t want your players charging the baseball and becoming out of control or being late with their approach steps. Gaining a level simply refers to taking 1-2 steps towards the ball (while staying in the hallway) so as to cut down the distance, but to still be in control and be able to take our final approach steps into a routine ground ball.
Funnel – refers to the hands coming to the center of the body around the belly button area after the player has received the ball. Even if the player picks a short hop, with his hands moving through the ball, we want them to bring them back to the center to have a consistent breaking point leading into a throw.
Right to left, left to the target – refers to the feet after the player has received the ball. We don’t teach the step in front method because in our experience, you don’t gain a significantly larger amount of of ground towards the target and it seems easier for the kids to pick up. Remember, often times on a routine ground ball it will end up being shuffle, shuffle, throw. The right to left, left to the target is only talking about the initial steps out of the fielding position. Feel free to start with the shuffle, shuffle…which would be right to left, left to the target, right to left, left to the target and throw.