Anytime a youth player takes to the baseball diamond, coaches should stress to them the importance of fundamental defense. Players should be mentally preparing as they take the field by asking themselves questions like: What does a proper defensive stance look like? How do I prepare before the pitcher throws a pitch? Where am I going with the ball if it is hit to me?
While baseball is a thinking man's game, playing sound defensive baseball is all about movement. Staying in an athletic stance, keeping your knees bent and balancing on the balls of your feet go a long way toward placing players a position where they can succeed. The following drills for improving your defensive technique are from Sean Holiday and the team at Triple Crown Training. The only gear you'll need for this series of drills is a glove and a baseball.
Many talented defensive infielders appear to have soft hands. While this may be the case, it's actually their great footwork that allows their hands to work so freely. The better your footwork, the easier it is for you to make great plays with your glove and your arm. When your feet shut down, your hands follow, and your body tends to get stiff. So keeping your feet moving is critical.
The first thing we're going to do is work on our foot work and how we set ourselves up to field through the ground ball. We're going to set ourselves up from the angle that we're playing shortstop. When I'm playing shortstop, I have an angle towards home. I want to make sure that as that ball is hit, I'm trying to set my body up at an angle to where now as I work my feet, I can set up my hands in my body to work through the baseball and continue towards first base.
The foot work that we like to use, that we like to tell our guys to set up, is using a right-left path. If this baseball has hit directly at my midline, at the center of my body, I need to make sure that I work my body behind the ball, back through the ball, and set myself up so my feet work right left through the baseball.
When a player practices on their knees, several things automatically happen that teach the proper way to field a ground ball. The first thing is that it forces the player's hands out front of their body. The next thing is that when the hands are out front, you can actually see the ball enter the glove.
What we're doing now is we're going to take our lower half out of the equation and work our hands and work on reading the hop and working through the hop. First thing we need to understand is how that ball is working towards us. Does it have backspin? Does it have top spin?
Backspin? Any ball hit with backspin into the ground is generally going to stay a little bit lower, where we're going to keep our body down in work our hands in our glove through the ball.
As you can see, I've got this nice glove here that I'm working with our Wilson A2000 Jose Altuve model almost feels the baseball for you as we work through the hop.
So what we're going to do now is we have ourselves down on our knees and we're going to keep yourself low and read the hop and work our hands through the baseball. My partner is going to throw me a ground ball. I'm going to keep my hands down through, keep my chest down low and work through the baseball.
Now what we're going to do is stand on our knees, turn our body a little bit and work on our backhand. When we're working on backhand, same thing: we have to make sure that we're reading the spin to read the hop.
Anything we'll backspin will stay low. Generally we're going to stay down and pick through.
Anything with topspin is going to have a tendency to kick up and which we'll work back and secure the baseball.
So I'm going to work with my partner here. He's just going to go ahead and throw some backhands to me and we're going to read that you go through it. Keeping our head down our chest low so our hand can work.
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