Infield Drills

The Rundown Drill

What You Will Need:

  • Open Area or Baseball Field
  • Baseballs
  • Bases Or Cones
  • Players with their Gloves

If you have coached long enough you have seen it. Your pitcher gets a guy trying to steal and the PICKLE begins.
You begin to get a little excited thinking your team has itself an easy out. Then to your horror a late throw or dropped ball and the runner is safe.
The Rundown Drill will help your team master the art of the rundown.

Setup: This drill can be done anywhere you have some open space. You want to setup two bases or cones that will act as your starting
points. Depending on the amount of players you can break up your team in groups to really get all the players involved. I will normally set my
groups with 5 players.

Process:Player with the ball runs with ball out of glove in “Dart Throwing” position. Player forces baserunner to outside of basepath by
taking inside/hard route (create lane).

Defensive player’s goal is to get baserunner “Turned” and running. Defensive player must always anticipate “ball” or “now” call to closer/tagger.
Follow throw if you chase, drop back passer if no chase (“give it up!”).

Closer/Tagger hangs back- creates separation & distance from baserunner. Spacing is the operative word here! Starts fonvard at a good clip
-yells “ball” or “now” earlier than you think! Closer/Tagger must be early to allow for reaction time or accuracy on throw problems. Perfect
timing is essential! You should receive the ball on the run and be able to tag the runner in front of you comfortably. Tag runner with him on
the outside of you.

Trouble Spots:

  • Defensive player who is running with ball does not run hard enough, thus enabling baserunner to shuffle, dance, or plan his hijinx
  • Pump Fakes = No
  • Following your throw when you don’t chase
  • Not giving it up immediately, then rushing your throw
  • Giving it up correctly – then not doing the QB drop back to create spacing for the return throw
  • Closer/Tagger creates bad spacing by “creeping” up
  • Call for the ball too late/make tag with guy going by. Bad Timing

The routine rundown is all about Spacing & Timing


 

The Infield Grind

Playing The Game

As infielders we need to stay active. We want to instill trust in our pitchers that they do not need to strike everybody out. Pitchers are working to get us groundballs, we need to do everything we can to record outs for them. Play with energy and conviction. Take pride in becoming a good defender. Learn the speed of the game and slow it down when you need to. Not all infielders can play at a big league tempo. The more mature your infielders get the more they have to learn what speed they work best at.

The 5 A’s

Attitude
Anticipate
Aggression
Angle
Attack

Infield Absolutes
  • You have to want and expect every pitch is going to be hit to you.
  • Prepare to prepare- Know what to do with the baseball before it is hit to you.
  • Know the situations. No matter where the ball is hit you have somewhere to be.
  • Let your feet make the hands work: So many young infielders get caught up in having soft hands that they forget about their lower half. Gain ground to the baseball. The base runner is trying to beat you down the line, cut your distance to the ground ball.
  • Glove hand position: top 2-3 inches of glove need to lie on the ground. Keeping your wrist free and easy. Bent wrist or open wrist is not a loose easy feeling. Field ball on glove side eye. (Right handers will field with left pinky laying straight down from left eye). Relax- reflexes are quicker and the groundball will stick when infielder is relaxed and not tense.
  • Ground up: Always work from the ground up when getting to the fielding position. Put your feet in a position to field the baseball at its low point (short hop) or at the high point (long hop)
  • Attack! Go get the ball physically but more mentally.
  • Controlled Aggression. Stay balanced the whole time, keeping your butt under you as you work to the groundball.
  • Let the athletes be athletes.
Pre-Pitch-Preparation “Prep Step”

Your prep step is your basic ready position as the pitch gets into the hitting zone, not to the plate. Many young players do have some type of rhythm into a pitch but don’t really know what they are doing.

  • Middle guys: Walk in. Left, right or right, left, this does not matter as we are just getting moving a little bit but not set yet. As you are walking in the pitch will reach the hitting zone. As the pitch gets to hit zone it is key that we take a short hop with both feet landing at the same time. Good athletic base with chest up. Thumbs up right above your knees.
  • Corner guys: Your depth matters here. The deeper your positioning is the taller you can land. The closer you start to the plate, the lower to the ground you have to start as your range is now cutoff. The closer we are, we can start with our feet straddled and in a lower base. From this point you simply hop right in to your prep step. *But need to land in prep step a little lower to ground to make the quick reaction play.
The better the infielder becomes at the prep step the better his reaction will be off the bat and the baseball instinct will take over.
Keys to look for-
  1. Type of hitter. Power, speed, pull guy?
  2. Pitch and location
  3. Read hitter. Read bat head
Routine Groundball/ Straight Up

This is the toughest groundball to field. It is a little bit harder to read velocity off bat and it is hard to read distance between hops

  1. Where is the ball hit? Straight up
  2. What kind of groundball do we have? Chopper, hugs ground or true groundball
  3. Velocity off bat? You have to trust your instincts here and trust you have made the correct first step.
  • After we have landed in our prep step- we want to stay low as we approach the ball. Think of your eye level working on a downward angle.
  • Gain ground. Keep going until the hop makes you stop (long or short) keep the rhythm in your feet

Middle guys vs. corner guys
Gain ground vs. straight in

  1. First step “Peak Step”Middle guys-try to get left shoulder on a straight line with the groundball and get back through it. This is not going to take us out and around the groundball. It will take us almost on a straight line to the ball with a chance to read a hop.

    Corner guys- our time is cut now. We have to square up our chest to the groundball as quick as we can. There is still a rhythm we can create with our feet. After we land in our prep step we will walk in to the baseball. Short step with right foot, show glove presentation, left foot will follow to get toes lined up and glove will lie on the ground. This footwork will still give us a chance to stay loose with our feet and hands.

  2. Gaining ground-Small aggressive strides will allow you to make quick adjustments, change direction, accelerate or decelerate. The longer the stride the longer your foot is in the air.
  3. Right-left field-By this point we have tried to create a downhill level with our eyes as we go through our footwork. Our last 2 steps into the groundball should be right foot land (glove presentation), left foot land (ball in glove.) Left foot land and ball in glove should happen at just about the same time. This will make you field through the baseball. Stay relaxed.
  4. Transition into belly-Maintain balance and be free to move. After ball security, think about fielding the ball with your elbows as your hands and feet are already set. Transfer should come up towards, but not all the way into the belly. This will get you back to balance as you shuffle your feet into your throw. Be quick but don’t rush.


 

Multiple Ball Drill


I have an infield drill that I call the multiple ball drill. Its purpose is to help infielders work on maintaining their balance while getting rid of the ball quickly, so that they are still able to make accurate throws even when they are rushed. In this example I will be running the drill at the shortstop position, but it can be run at any of the infield positions, depending on which throws you want your players to work on.

The player should start deep in the hole at shortstop, with the coach near the lip of the infield grass. The coach rolls a medium-speed ground ball to the player’s glove side; the player shuffles forward a couple of steps, fields the ball and tries to make an accurate throw to first base. Just before the player releases the throw, the coach rolls the next ball to the player – this forces the player to get rid of the ball quickly and stay balanced, otherwise he won’t be able to field the next ball in time. The drill continues in this pattern until the end of the cycle.

As for the length of the cycle, when players first start this drill, I recommend that they only field three balls. This gives the player the opportunity to get used to the basic mechanics of the drill first, and also allows me to correct any mechanical errors between rounds without wasting a bunch of reps. Once the player masters three balls, you can add additional balls one at a time – my most accomplished players can do seven balls, which is about the most a player can do before getting to the infield grass.

There are two things I’m looking for in this drill as points of instruction: balance and forward movement. If I think I spot problems in either of these areas, I can quickly confirm my suspicion by looking at the player’s throw – since I’m rolling the next ball right before release, I can usually take a quick peek over my shoulder and watch the trajectory of the ball. Here’s what I look for:

  • Errant throws tell me that the player is not keeping his balance as he goes from fielding to release and back to fielding. In this case, I slow the drill down and have the player work on keeping his eyes level throughout the process.

  • Weaker than normal throws – ones that either rainbow to first or bounce short – tells me he is stopping his forward movement as he fields the ball. In this case, I again slow the drill down and have the player work on walking forward throughout the entire drill – step to the ball, another step as they bend down to field it, another as they plant to throw, and another as their back leg releases during the follow-through.

I’ve had a lot of success with this drill in establishing good fundamentals for my infielders, as well as building their confidence that they can make strong and accurate throws no matter what situation they’re faced with.

Gabe Alvarez

University Of Southern California