This Drill has Changed the Way I Coach Infield –
The below the knee drill is a relatively new drill that we’ve been implementing to prevent infielders from traveling too tall. So, when I say traveling to tall, what does that mean?
Traveling too tall is when depth maintenance (described here as well as here) is abandoned and the fielder stands up too tall when approaching a routine ground ball. This is bad for a couple of reasons. The first reason why it’s not ideal is because the fielder goes from a good ready position or pre pitch position with good chest depth and eye level to basically a position where they’re standing straight up then back down to the fielding position. We see this all the time and it’s something that’s unnecessary and it just makes fielding a routine ground ball that much harder because the fielder is effectively changing his eye position three times.
The second reason why traveling too tall is a bad thing is because it’s much harder to read the hop (check out the right type of hop that we want the fielder to get ideally here). The lower that the fielders eyes are the easier it is to read the hop. This makes the fielder rush and often get into fielding position too early or too late. Both of these are bad because if the fielder gets into fielding position too early they often get stuck and get an in-between hop. If the fielder gets into fielding position too late they’ll often receive the ball too deep in their stance and we always want the fielder to ideally field the ball out in front of their cap.
Staying down, and keeping the glove below the knee line all throughout the approach to a routine ground ball makes the fielder much more smooth and prevents them from panicking. It almost automatically puts the fielder in the correct fielding position and you’ll see much improved timing with respect to when the fielder actually goes into the fielding position.
So, how do you go about this drill? Well, it’s a pretty simple drill. You have the fielder do their entire approach (pre-pitch, stutter step, final approach and fielding position all with the glove never coming above the knee line. You can start with partners rolling the ball to each other then progress to fungos. The thing you want to avoid as a coach or parent is to start to toss or hit balls that require an extension play (fielding the ball outside their feet either left or right). Just go with regular routine ground balls and do rep after rep. We’ve just recently started experimenting with this drill, but the results have been so great that I felt I needed to share this with everyone because for some reason it connects a lot of the dots for young infielders and the simplicity of it takes all the thinking out the drill. A simple verbal cue of keeping the glove below the knee will go a long way as a coach. Check out the video below…
So forget about the stuff where he’s on his knees, that’s not what I’m actually talking about. Although, that is a good drill to do every day to get the hands warmed up and do take a note of how his glove is always working from down to up. Watch how Arenado travels to the baseball without bringing his glove above his knee line. This keeps the depth that we’re always talking about. If you want more information on depth check out the article on the Triangle Drill. If you’re looking for alternative ways to gain depth check out this drill.