When talking about infield play, I like to break down, in depth, every aspect of getting ready to field a groundball, fielding the groundball and then preparing to throw the ball accurately to a target. One part of the process that is almost always overlooked is what we should do immediately after we field the ball. Most of those who coach, talk about fielding the ball and getting the feet in position to throw, glossing over one of the most important aspects. Once we field the ball, before we move our feet, we must get the ball to the “home” position.
The “home” position refers to the part of the body where players should begin the throwing process, which is between near the letters on the uniform to the belly button. We want to get our hands and the ball to that position because is affords for a natural position for us to begin our throw as an infielder. Every throw that we make in the infield, whether it be throwing on a cut off to turning a double play, comes from that position.
I often give the example of a quarterback dropping back to pass. Every time they drop back, watch where they get the ball. Now, it may be a bit higher as a quarterback, the arm path for a quarterback and an infielder are very similar. Short and quick. As an infielder, if we bring the ball too high or too low, it makes for a longer or inconsistent arm path.
Now, in order to get to the home position once we field the ball, we have to ensure that we field and transfer the ball out in front of the body. Once we transfer the ball out front, we must get the ball directly to the home position before we begin to take steps towards our target. This ensures that we can keep our shoulders square to where we fielded the ball and can create a direct path to where we want to throw the ball. While bringing the ball to the home position, it is important that we get them directly to the body and not to bring them between the legs and up. Bringing them too far between the legs and up will cause our shoulders to face down towards the ground making it more difficult to create a direct and efficient path to our target.
Once we get the hands to the home position, the orientation of our hands and the ball is extremely important. I like to teach players to have the opening of our glove parallel to the ground, facing the throwing hand side. A lot of players have the opening of the glove facing up or facing down. If we think about how we have to throw, the opening of the glove directs the path that our hand takes to begin the throwing process. Facing outwards to the throwing hand makes certain that the hand and ball comes out sideways of the glove rather than down or up making a longer or inconsistent hand path. I also call it a handshake position with the glove and throwing hand. If we were to take off the glove, somebody should be able to shake both hands.
One simple drill to work on to make sure players grasp this concept is to have them in a fielding position, but keeping their feet stationary so they do not try to work too far ahead in the process. Roll balls to them and make sure they field the ball and transfer out in front of the body and getting the ball directly to the home position. Taking the legs out of the drill ensures that players focus on getting the ball in proper position, allowing them to be more efficient throughout the remaining task of throwing the ball to a target.