Having great hand-eye coordination, a quick transfer and just as fast of a release are traits for any good infielder.Tyler Munro, who is the head varsity coach of the Heritage High School (Littleton, Colorado) baseball team, dedicates quite a bit of time each season to his infielders working on the important aspects of fielding the ball in front, in all field conditions.
“You almost have to teach infielders two different ways of fielding,” Munro said. “One, when it’s really dry and unmanicured and you have to really go get it … or when our fields are good and nice we can stay back and trust that last hop a little bit.”
When the weather in Colorado is cold in November and December, Munro has his guys inside the school in a basketball gymnasium turned turf room working on fielding drills. Also, in season when the weather is rough, Munro doesn’t have a problem heading inside to work on fundamentals.
“That’s sort of my favorite time to work with infielders when we’re in there, because I use a lot of stuff off the wall,” Munro said. “Some of the drills I stole from watching them trying to train hockey players. A lot of hand-eye coordination and reaction stuff that I can’t simulate, but that’s what you sort of see during a game.”
One big issue Munro has noticed in his 21 years as a baseball coach is most infielders don’t see the ball going into their mitt.
“We do a lot that really emphasizes tracking the ball in to their mitt and fielding out in front of where they see, whether it’s a backhand or forehand,” Munro said. “One of the things I always tell them is the mitt’s not there to catch the ball when you’re fielding but to slow it down so your bare hand can get to it.”
Munro has produced two Division I starting infielders in the last five years when he was at Rock Canyon (Colorado), working with current Xavier shortstop Chris Givin and Army second baseman Josh White. Both guys were teammates in high school. So, Munro has plenty of experience training high-caliber infielders.
“I take a lot of pride in that they weren’t blessed with this amazing arm strength, but they had those quick exchanges and good feet and soft hands and all that good stuff,” Munro said.
Some of the main drills Munro uses with his infielders revolve around working in pairs. One player will be on his knees without a glove and the other will be behind him with a tennis ball. The player on his knees won’t know where the ball is coming from as the other person throws it.
“They have to react barehanded, and everything they do is fielding the ball out in front and not in the peripheral but out in front of their eyes,” Munro said.
Another drill adds a second tennis ball with the kid on his knees juggling.
“It’s just a throw it, field it but this time I’m using the second hand,” Munro said. “Still no mitt, and field it with their left (hand) and exchange it to their right and flip it behind them to the thrower, and he’s catching it and throwing it. When they get in a nice rhythm like they should, it’s pretty repetitive, but working on that exchange between the left to right hand at the same time.”
In the next drill, Munro allows the players to use their gloves, but will add a golf ball into the mix and have the players on their feet. Players are 10 to 15 feet away from the wall and the teammate is still behind them throwing the golf ball.
“We go with a super wide base so they can learn how to drop their butt — the wider the base is the more that they’ll have their arm out in front and therefore they can see the ball go into the mitt and it’s not in between their legs,” Munro said. “When you see most young kids fielding a ground ball isn’t always between their legs and that’s because their base isn’t wide enough.”
The players are seeing the ball go into their glove and then seeing how quickly they can get the ball out on a transfer.
“The reason I use a golf ball is because it’s so small that it’s even harder for them to get it out (of the mitt),” Munro said. “But if they field it in the right place which is not the webbing — if I put my thumb and pinky together, sort of right in between there, that’s where I want them to field it.”
From GameChanger and Greg Bates
Want more info on indoor practice drills? Check out the two articles below: