Movement and Mechanics for Infielders
Consistency is very important to being a great infielder. Getting to a proper fielding stance on each and every ground ball allows for the greatest consistency. A few key points on an infielder's stance:
- Feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- Back should be kept straight and players should bend at the waist
- Knees should be bent
- The player should be leaning slightly forward on the balls of their feet
- Hips should be square and feet parallel
- Players should keep their head down, watching the ball into the glove
- The glove should be out in front of the body on the ground
- The non-glove hand is open, pointing up and hovering at the base of the glove (this prevents a bad hop from hitting the player)
- Once the infielder receives the ground ball, he should step towards the bag with his back foot, plant and throw.
Getting the Right Hop
Proper footwork assures that an infielder will rarely get a bad hop. Even on a field in poor condition, an infielder can limit the number of bad hops he receives. Infielders should field every ground ball on either a long hop or a short hop. To do this, the approach to the ball is very important. Avoiding the in-between hop will limit the number of errors an infielder makes.
Ground Ball Approach/Footwork
- Getting outside the ball: When a ball is hit directly to an infielder, his first move should be a shuffle or jab step to the right. This is called getting "outside the ball." With this tactic, the fielder can read the ground ball correctly and then field the ball on a long hop or a short hop. In addition, the fielder will maintain his flow to and through the ball, allowing for a smooth throw to first base.
- After the initial jab step, the infielder should move into the proper fielding position. Using short, quick, choppy steps, the fielder should move forward to the ball. The final steps will bring him to the proper fielding position with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, glove down and eyes on the ball.
- The fielder should always try to keep his feet moving to maintain his rhythm through the ball.
- On balls hit to the infielder's right, there are two ways to field a ground ball back-handed. The most effective way is to cross-over with the left foot, fielding the ball in front of that leg. Once the infielder fields the ball, he should plant his back leg and throw. One should only use this quick movement when it is impossible to field the ball out in front. The second, somewhat slower way, is to field the ball off the back foot. The fielder should plant his right leg and shift his weight from back to front, bringing his glove through on the ground. Once he fields the ball, he shuffles to first base and throws.
Note: Third base may not have a choice of which method to use if the ball is hit hard enough. Middle infielders may also find themselves using the second method, based on the speed of the ball. The objective is to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible with an accurate throw to first base.
- On balls hit to an infielder's left, the infielder should field the ball with his left foot forward and glove in front of his left foot.
- Throws from second base: Depending on the distance from first base, either square your shoulders to the base and make the throw or under-hand the ball. You may even flip the ball with your glove if you're charging in to field the ball and close enough to make a controlled, accurate flip.
- Throws from shortstop: Field the ball, square your shoulders to first base and make the throw. Depending on how much time the shortstop has or how fast he is running when he fields the ball, this could be an off-balance throw. No matter the situation, the key is to square your shoulders to first base and maintain control of your body when throwing the ball. Trying to make a spectacular play without setting your feet and torso will often result in an errant throw.
- Throws from third base: Square your shoulders to first base by shuffling your feet and make the throw.
- Depending on the speed of the ball, an infielder will use either two hands or his bare hand to field the slow roller. Use two hands if the ball is rolling with some speed. In either instance the same footwork is required. Once the fielder sees the slow roller off the bat, he should sprint (under control) in a straight line to the ball. Before reaching the ball, he should slow down, such that he has full control over his body when bending down to pick up the slow roller. Typically, the fielder takes two "breakdown" steps, which allow him to both slow down and make sure of the correct footwork. With his bare hand, the fielder should push the ball into the ground when picking it up. This helps with grip and minimizes running past the ball. The fielder steps with his left foot, fielding the ball on his right side. Once he has secured the ball, the fielder continues forward with his right foot and throws side-arm to the bag. This play requires quickness and maximum body control. The best fielders make this play look routine. They accomplish this by never losing control and by practicing this play every time they are on the baseball field.