Ok, so I realize that there is a lot that happens in fielding a groundball before the infielder reaches the actual fielding position but this is the basis for where you want to get to and is definitely the basis for everything I will talk about in this blog. Keep in mind this position is for the ground ball that’s hit directly at the infielder or just a couple steps to the left or the right. This is not for the extention play to the left or the right where the infielder will be fielding the ball outside either foot.
If there is one thing that should be practiced more than any other drill and on a daily basis is the correct fielding position. I can’t emphasize enough how so many problems or bad habits are created from a poor fielding position. You always want to have a partner or a coach watch the infielder while they practice this position for two reasons. One, the infielder may think he is in the correct position but there is a big difference between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing. Having said that you have to make sure that the partner or coach is looking for the right things as well. Try to think of it as a
- Flat Back
- Hands in front of bill of cap
- Left eye
Ok, so I understand that you may not exactly understand what a couple of those bullet points mean, but not to worry I’m about to explain in detail.
Depth: If you need to pay attention to one thing in this section it’s the difference of what conventional coaches and parents think depth is and how I define depth. I define it as the depth of the infielders eyes and chest. Most of the time when people teach depth all they talk about is hips and legs. Don’t get me wrong you do have to have a good hip sink to field a ground ball, you can by no means do it with straight legs. What I have noticed though, with a lot of the pro guys and infielders that people would regard as some of the best infielders in the game are not even close to the 90 deg. depth that I’ve heard taught. But, what they all do have in common is that their eyes and chest are as low as possible. The reason for this is because it’s much easier to judge the speed of a ground ball the closer your eyes are to the ground. A good saying that kids seem to get is chest to thighs. This forces the eyes down and promotes better depth as well as a flat back, which is discussed next.
Flat Back: Flat back does not just mean flat back. What I mean when I say that is a lot of the time when I tell a kid to flatten out his back, it is actually flat, but his butt is so low it’s almost touching his calves. So, he could have a flat back but it would be closer to perpendicular to the ground as opposed to parallel to the ground like we want. I haven’t really came up with a good piece of terminology yet for this, but once you explain it to them they usually pick it up pretty quickly. I’ll try to get some pictures of some people making common mistakes like this one so I can show you the difference. But, notice A-Rod’s depth as well as how flat (parallel to the ground) his back is.
Hands in front of Bill: This is pretty simple, check to see if the players hands are in front of the bill of his cap. You don’t want hands too far back in the stance (prevents sight of ball) or too far forward (arm bar, no give, hard hands). Check both of the pictures above they display this.
Feet: It doesn’t really matter which is in front of which just as long as they’re not too staggered either way (I prefer left slightly ahead). The reason that it doesn’t matter is because sometimes you will have to take a drop step depending on the hop you get. One thing that I do want to talk about that I really have never heard taught is the timing of the left foot. I think the left foot should hit as the ball hits the glove or slightly before. My reasoning on this is because a lot of times younger players will be so concerned with getting in the right position that they will get into it too early. This gets them stuck and if they judged the hop wrong (which happens all the time with younger kids) they’ll receive an up hop and have to take themselves out of position and likely into a right eye position (talked about below). So another key phrase you can tell them is left foot hits as ball hits glove or slightly before. You can see in the first and the third picture that the left foot is just hitting as the ball is about the hit the glove. A-Rod is down a little early but not to where he would be stuck. I’ll talk about getting the proper hop in a future post.
Left Eye: This is one of my favorite sayings. Kids really seem to take to it well. They understand that they always want to receive the ball with the glove hand lined up with the left eye. The reasoning for this is players that field right eye tend to get hard hands and they don’t have the range of motion with the glove hand that left eye fielders do. Left eye prevents a lot of errors and is one of the handiest coaching tools out there. Left eye gives the player a better chance at a bad hop as well as a better chance at replays on balls that simply pop out of the glove. All three of the pictures above represent left eye and those are some pretty good infielders. Check out google images and type in fielding position and go through them and you can really understand how many professional infielders field the ball left eye. There are exceptions though for certain plays and I will explain those instances where you field the ball right eye in a future post.
I have all kinds of helpful drills for this and I will post them in a future post. Until then please feel free to comment with questions or suggestions.
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