Fundamentals: Ground Balls is a drill designed to assist both coach and player to understand the complete ground ball process, as one would watch on TV. There are four distinct steps every infielder takes on every ground ball, which are outlined below in the execution section. Understand that once YOU as coach fully understand the process of fielding a ground ball, YOU can teach to your athlete’s age and skill level. Dugout Captain has a teaching progression offered when working with young infielders (see How-to-Coach Ground Balls #1, #2, #3). However, each team or individual is at a unique spot in the development timeline. For that reason, DC approaches ground balls first by breaking down and teaching athletes to understand the steps actually taken when fielding a ground ball… and then, instruction moves into the How-to-Coach Ground Ball series.
Note: Most infield drills can address any of the steps outlined in this fundamental segment. Example: One coach could focus on exit footwork while running a specific drill… while another coach could break down the fielding triangle while running the exact same drill.
EXECUTION – The following steps represent the fundamental steps of a ground ball (for right handed athlete): 1) Ready Position; 2) Approach; 3) Fielding Triangle; 4) Exit Footwork
1. Ready Position – Understand the infielder’s ready-position from feet-to-head. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate gently (or not-so-gently) hopping into the ready position:
- Feet outside shoulders
- Knees bent
- Chest up
- Palms facing the batter (hands relaxed)
For younger athletes, the true goal of the Ready Position is to get 18-20 eyes up and ready for action. For older athletes, moving into the ready position ensures the weight is on balls of feet for optimal first step (increases range). Keyword: Gorilla Stomp for young athletes. Jump, growl, and stomp on the ground if that’s what it takes!
2. Approach – Keep it simple… come get the baseball! Charge the ball? Sure. Surround the ball and gather momentum in the direction of first base? Uhhh, yeah. Field the ball just inside the glove-side-foot? Good luck with that!
3. Fielding Triangle – A VERY important position, the Fielding Triangle is created by the two feet (as the base of the triangle) and the hands as the point of the triangle. This position provides the best chance for success in cleanly fielding a ground ball and will be drilled during the first session of How-to-Coach Ground Balls. During this drill, have everyone practice getting into the Fielding Triangle and even take the opportunity to draw their best triangle in the infield dirt.
- Feet outside shoulders
- Knees bent
- Butt down
- Flat Back
- Hands out in front (alligator mouth)
4. Exit Footwork – The final step, after fielding the ball, is called Exit Footwork. Exit footwork is defined as the movements used when LEAVING the Fielding Triangle. That footwork is (for right-handed thrower):
- Right Foot (ankle eye to target)
- Left Foot (“wings” up at same time)
- Shuffle & Throw
Focus on feeling R / L / Shuffle / Throw. Have the athletes repeat these steps several times (no baseballs) and also verbally call out the steps. Down the road a bit, the right foot and left foot steps will become POP! footwork. The POP! is an athletic movement that is almost a controlled jump, which connects the fielding triangle to the throwing position. The athlete gains ground towards first base, creates momentum and power for the throw, and better sets a direction towards the throwing target.
With your guiding verbals, work through repetitions to gain an understanding of how an infielder successfully moves from the ready position (freeze)… through approach… into fielding triangle (freeze)… and then exits with right (freeze)… left (freeze)… shuffle and throw.
Introduce ground balls next simply to get repetitions, maintain athlete focus, and take inventory of what you are working with!
Coach’s Note: With the ground ball fundamental steps listed above understood, the DC coaching series (How-to-Coach Ground Balls) starts at the Fielding Triangle. This will be done first with a ball in hand, and a focus on the exit footwork that occurs AFTER fielding the ground ball. “Exit Footwork” refers to the R/L/Shuffle/Throw or Pop/Shuffle/Throw action. There are three videos in the DC infield library entitled “How-to-Teach.” Watch those three to see the DC teaching process in action, and in the order that we recommend teaching.
- Fundamentals vs. How to Coach – YOU understand all steps, attempt to teach all steps, but run drills so that the athlete does not have to understand all at once. Instead, the athlete can simply follow your coaching progression.
- Follow a Progression – Watch DC video series How-to-Coach: Ground Balls. Going forward, ANY ground ball drill can work ANY aspect of ground ball fundamentals.
- Repetition vs. Instruction vs. Fun – Balance these three coaching points during drills.
- READY POSITION
- FIELDING TRIANGLE
- EXIT FOOTWORK - "POP"
- UNDERSTAND FUNDAMENTALS - USE HOW-TO-COACH VIDEOS TO TEACH
- FOLLOW TEACHING PROGRESSION - USE REPS ANYTIME
- REPS vs. INSTRUCTION vs. FUN
- Baseball Buckets1
- Catch Net1