Pre Pitch and Transition

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*Please Read the Post about Fielding Position below before reading this.
pre pitch - mandieThe pre pitch is another basic fundamental that all of the big leaguers do and should be taught at a very young age.  The pre pitch gives the fielder the best opportunity to move into the fielding position seamlessly, as well as puts the player in the best possible athletic position before the ball is actually hit.  The pre pitch is rarely taught with enough detail and that’s why you see so many variations of it.  I think the key thing to remember about the pre pitch is that the eyes will be lower to the ground at the end of the pre pitch than at the beginning.  The reason for this is because the lower the eyes are to the ground the better chance that the infielder has of judging hops. Some people talk about how you want to explain it to kids through the landing of an airplane as opposed to the landing of a helicopter. An airplane gradually gets lower to the ground and it’s destination (fielding position).  While, a helicopter gets to it’s destination and drops directly on top of it.  I like the idea of sneaking up on the ball.  Kid’s seem to understand this for some reason.  When you are sneaking up on something you are going to stay low and creep up on your target.  Even though you may have to move fast, you still stay low throughout with a low head (eyes and chest) and light feet.

Photo by Jonathan Assink

Photo by Jonathan Assink

Body Position— There’s a bunch of different ways to teach this.  The pre pitch needs to be defined though. I find that a lot of younger kids don’t typically know exactly what moment to start as finish the pre pitch.  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.

pre pitch astros middle - photo by post406Hand 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.

So let’s make a checklist:

I love checklists because they are simple and they make sure that you don’t miss anything on a daily basis.  A lot of the time, with the techniques described in this blog, if a coach or player forgets something on the checklist it will screw up the other techniques on the checklist in a domino effect.

  • Right, Left, Chest Sink
  • Optional decleat (don’t raise the chest)
  • Have a “sneaky” approach
  • Thumb up
  • Glove not too far outside the leg
  • Nose in front of feet at contact

Ok, now we will talk about transition.  Transition is where you, guess what, transition from the pre pitch to the fielding position. Transition is simply a timing mechanism. Some coaches call it the stutter step, the chop, or tennis feet.  Whatever it’s called there should be one thing in the players mind and that is to get that left foot to hit as or just before the ball hits their glove.  Remember this is just in their mind. They haven’t actually done this yet, but thinking about the timing of the left foot will keep the fielders feet moving and you’ll see a lot better timing out of the transition.  Now, another important point to talk about is the depth during transition.  Inevitably the eyes and chest will come up a lot of the time in the transition, but we want to really work hard to avoid this.  I’ve talked about depth a lot and this is where we lose that depth a lot of the time.  I have some drills that can help with this, (I have a future post coming where I talk about and explain the drills) but as a coach or a parent it’s important to stay vigilant of depth especially during this stage.

**This post and the previous post are only directed toward the routine ground balls.  I will have different posts explaining the backhand and extension plays.

I encourage you to comment good or bad.  I’d really love to talk to anyone with questions or to tell me why I’m wrong.  It’s obvious that not all infielders do things the same way, but I’m trying to give you a good foundation to build on.

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