Infielders need to be ready for anything. A hard slap, a slow groundball or a fast-moving chopper, all require focus and good hand-eye coordination to stop.
Luke Sheppard, coach of the Smyrna (Tenn.) High Bulldogs, shared three simple but effective drills that put infielders through a variety of game-like situations:
DRILL 1: EVERYDAYS
Focus on glove work, good fundamentals of fielding, hand-eye coordination
Begin by having partners line up five feet apart. Have them roll groundballs to each other. The fielder should set up in a triangle position (knees bent, shoulders over knees, elbows inside knees, hands out in front, palms up).
Next, have the partners bounce short hops to each other. The fielder should set in a center stance. From this position, she should practice backhand, forehand, crossover backhand and jab-step backhand catches.
The Bulldogs spend 10 to 15 minutes on these drills in every practice, hence the name. The infielders work in pairs and focus on good glove work. The drill uses baseballs and nine-inch kiddie gloves.
“The small object makes them focus, so when they see that softball (in games) it will look like a watermelon,” Sheppard said.
This drill gives the fielder lots of repetition in a short amount of time and forces her to focus on correct glove angle and movement.
“We try to get them in all the different positions they’re going to be in (during a game),” Sheppard said.
DRILL 2: THE OZZIE DRILL
Hand-eye coordination, trust in instincts and glove work
Have a fielder set up on her knees with her chest straight up, perpendicular to the ground. Her glove should be low and her palms up. When ready, the partner throws short hops within an arm’s length of the fielder. The fielder then snatches the ball with a quick motion moving toward the ball. Have the partners practice forehand and backhand catches.
This is a popular baseball drill that also works well for softball players. The Bulldogs also use a baseball for this short-hop drill. The drill focuses on fielding in front of the body and on good hand and glove position. The fielder will develop quick, smooth movements with her glove and build confidence in her instincts.
DRILL 3: THE THREE-BALL DRILL
Improve throwing accuracy under pressure
Have a player begin at her position. Lay three balls in front of her, at three, five and 10 feet away. When ready, the fielder sprints to the first ball, grabs it and throws to the designated base. She then sprints back to her position and repeats this for the second and third balls.
The Bulldogs use this drill primarily for the corners — for example, the third baseman usually throws to first base — but it can be adapted for the middle infield.
“It’s a simple drill, but you can modify it to work on a lot of different skills,” Sheppard said. “Depending on what we’re working on that day, we can adjust for different situations.”
For example, the drill can be set up to throw to home to practice squeeze bunt situations. Middle infielders can run the drill to practice throwing to first base for an out, throwing to second base to start a double play or throwing home to catch an imaginary runner.
In addition, the versatile drill can be timed to reinforce speed and accuracy in fielding and throwing.