*Sorry about the video above being blurry, I will get a new one posted as soon as possible, but you can clearly see the difference between movements and that’s the key to this drill.
If I was only able to teach a kid or player one drill it would absolutely be the down, up, baseball drill specific for infielders. This drill is invaluable and a great resource for amateur coaches to use at any level. The down, up drill was shown to me by Tagg Lain and has quickly became my favorite drill to implement. This drill does a couple things. It teaches kids and young players to get in the correct fielding position, work from down to up (beneath and behind the baseball), as well as self coach (which I think is probably the most important attribute any player can have).
How it Works:
The down, up drill consists of two parts. The first part (down), is where the fielder approaches a moving ball and gets into the proper fielding position by touching the knuckles of his glove hand on the ground. As he reaches this first position, you have him verbalize “down”. You can honestly have him say anything, (some people use one, two or a, b) it doesn’t matter, as long as the fielder understands that this is the first movement of a two movement drill.
The reason we verbalize the movements is because it helps the fielder self coach. For example, if the fielder says “down” and is not in the correct fielding position, with his knuckles of his glove hand on the ground (shown to the right, ignore the baseballs at the feet) . It will feel incorrect to him and he’ll know that he’s doing it wrong without a coach being there to correct every rep.
Now, having said that, at first, this drill will take a lot of correction by a coach or spotter while the infielder is learning it. The self coaching comes after the player has already learned the drill and has a good grasp on the difference between the two parts and what positions he should be in at “down” and “up”. When teaching this drill to a player that is being introduced to it for the first time, the coach or spotter cannot let the fielder slide by with barely touching the ground with his glove hand. The “down” movement has to be a concise part, where the glove hand is touching the ground, to a two part motion. The second part is the “up” part. This is where the glove is actually coming into contact with the baseball. You CANNOT let the fielder say “up” early, before the ball has reached his glove, or late, after the ball has hit the glove and he is coming up to throw. This undermines the drill. The whole point of the drill is to be beneath and behind the baseball to avoid losing depth too early and fielding the ball too far back in the fielding stance. So the person coaching or spotting the fielder is just as important as the fielder learning the drill because if the timing of the verbalization is incorrect, the spotter needs to correct it immediately until done right, so the fielder can get the feeling of the separate movements with the correct timing.
I can’t stress enough how important the coach or spotter is for this drill. He really needs to have a complete understanding of what he is looking for when teaching the drill to implement it properly. Like all the drills talked about on this website, you want to start very slow and just begin with rolling the ball by hand. Once the fielder gets the basic concept of the drill and starts to do it correctly you can introduce a fungo. Also, you want to start by rolling the ball slightly to the left (maybe a step or two to the left that’s all. It’s always a routine ground ball with this drill). It just seems that kids pick it up a little quicker like this. The ball slightly to the right or directly at the fielder makes the fielder have to travel further to the right in order to get left eye. You can do this later, but when first introducing it, trust me, slightly to the fielder’s left yields the best results. Lastly, when first introducing it, try to only focus on the timing of the verbalization. You can iron out the other bad habits like flipping, getting stuck, and hop recognition, that a lot of fielders will probably display at first, when the timing is learned correctly. Some kids, depending on ability, can fix these things on the go, but when learning a new movement it’s best to just focus on the purpose of the drill rather than getting off task and trying to teach ten things at once.
Now, let’s tackle some questions you should have if you’ve read through the basics section of the website.
“What if it’s an up hop? How can the fielder come up through the ball if his hands are supposed to give?”
–Even if it’s an up hop, the hands will still be coming up towards the belt due to the fact that during the “down” portion of the drill the glove should be on the ground.
“Shouldn’t the left foot be hitting directly before or right as the glove touches the ball? Won’t the fielder be in the fielding position too early and possibly get stuck with an in-between hop?”
-For the purpose of the drill, it’s ok to get in the fielding position early to learn the difference between movements. Since you are starting slow (hand roll) and not at a great distance, (maybe 20 or 30 ft) this shouldn’t be a huge problem. As the fielder does the drill more, the motion will smooth out and the timing between the two separate parts will decrease.
“I’m having a problem with a lot of my players flipping their gloves in order to get down to the first position. How do I correct this?”
–This is a common problem, and if it’s the first time you are introducing the drill, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The most important thing is the timing of the two separate parts. The second time and every time after that though it will have to be addressed. Try to tell the fielders to pretend there is an eye in their glove and the eye needs to stay on the ball the entire fielding process. If it continues to be a problem I would try doing the up to out drill with the thumb, which is shown in the video below (without verbalization). I would have them verbalize this though if you’re trying to get rid of a flip.
*As always, please feel free to comment with questions or general observations. Let me know what’s working/not working for you and your players. I would love to get a discussion going with different points of view, but if you don’t want to leave a public comment you can always reach me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org
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