Fielding a ground ball is one of the most basic plays in baseball but it can be difficult to learn how to do it efficiently, especially for beginners. If you are a beginner or you are trying to perfect your fielding, we are going to discuss some vital steps and tips on how to efficiently field a ground ball. Hopefully, you will find this article will help you field a typical ground ball like a major leaguer.
How to Field a Ground Ball in Baseball
Step 1: Set-Up and Ready Position
Before any pitch, you want to make sure you get set-up and in a ready athletic position. Every player will have a different set-up and a different ready position. You want to know where you are in the field and be in the proper position.
Your set-up may include a couple of pre-pitch routines or rituals such as warming up your glove or checking in with your second baseman.
Pre-pitch ready position is the position you take right as the pitcher goes to deliver a pitch and it will vary between players. Some players like to be in a full squat with their hands resting on their knees. Another common position is a semi-squat with the elbows resting on the knees or the arms near the chest.
Your ready position might be different than another player, just do what is comfortable for you. The one thing that is universal for all ready positions is the hitter should have your full attention and you should be ready to make a play. Always anticipate the ball coming to you.
Step 2: Identify the Type of Ground Ball
A routine grounder is a ball that is hit right towards you. In order to successfully field a ground ball, you want to first determine the type of ground ball it is and how fast it is traveling.
Both pieces of information are crucial to deciding where you need to move to and how fast you need to get there. Do you need to charge the ball, or will you need to stay back? Is the ball a chopper or a ground hugger or maybe it is something in-between?
Once you have determined what type of ball is heading towards you and what type of play you will make, it is time to get into position to field the ball. Gauging where the ball will bounce will take practice. Over time, you will be able to anticipate where the ball is going and the type of play that will be required to field the ball.
Step 3: Move into Position, Stay Low, Watch Your Footwork
Move towards the path of the ball. If possible, allow the ball to come to you instead of charging it unless you have to on a slow roller.
Charging the ball often creates more chances to make a mistake. Your depth perception is altered when you are on the run and you invite the opportunity for the ball to go past you. It is better to move into the path of the ball, get into a good position, and wait for it to come to you. When you chase the ball down you risk missing the catch. Waiting for the ball to come to you also allows you the opportunity to make quick corrections in the case of an unexpected bounce.
When you begin moving into position, take small steps. Footwork is a key aspect of efficiently fielding a ground ball. Small steps allow for the opportunity to adjust to the ball’s direction and speed.
Tip: Stay Low
Begin making your approach to the ball but stay low. Staying low puts you in the most athletic position, allowing for on-the-fly adjustments and allowing you a better view of the incoming grounder.
It will always be easier to come up and meet the ball than it is to drop down to pick it up. Remember to stay inside the knees when getting into position to field the ball. The butt should be low, nearly or at knee level, and the back should be near parallel to the ground.
Tip: Watch Your Footwork
During this stage of fielding a ground ball, begin planning ahead to get yourself into a good position to throw the ball after making the catch.
Ideally, when you move towards the ball you will begin your approach on a diagonal instead of running straight up to the ball. Moving sideways to intersect the path of the ball will automatically get you on the correct side of the baseball for a strong throw.
If you have ever heard the term rounding the baseball, fielding grounders is a great place to practice it. You will move at a diagonal on your approach to the ball and round your path to intersect with the path of the ground ball. Imagine drawing an imaginary C-shape in the ground with your feet as you approach the ball. You will want to be one step outside of the ball when you field it to get yourself into a good position to throw.
Your first step to fielding will be with your throwing hand side foot and the second step will be with your glove hand side foot.
If you are a right-handed thrower, you will want to step with your right, left, and then field the ball. For lefties, you will do the same but opposite foot first.
To be in the best position to throw the ball, you want to keep your glove-side foot slightly out in front of your throwing side when fielding. The right footwork here will keep you aligned with the ball while also putting you in an excellent throwing position.
Step 4: Play Through the Ball
Relax the body as you prepare to field the grounder. Keep your fingers pointed towards the ground and the palm facing towards the hitter. When the back of the hand touches or is parallel to the ground, it creates a ramp for the baseball and gives you less surface area to work with.
Keeping the fingers pointed towards the ground allows for the most surface area to successfully field the ball. Keep your glove in the zone for as long as possible and keep the glove and the ball lined up. Your head should also be in line with the ball and your glove. Stay in control of the ball and play through the ball. Do not let the ball play you.
Tip: Use Both Hands and Do the Gator
The gloved hand is the primary catching tool, but your throwing hand is important too. Keep your throwing hand above the glove with the heel of your throwing hand touching the heel of your gloved hand.
This shape forms the mouth of an alligator and is a fun way to remember to use both hands when fielding a ball. With both hands, you can secure and throw the ball faster. Keeping your throwing hand low also gives you the opportunity to grab the ball quickly if it pops out of your glove.
Step 5: Bring the Ball to your Chest and Throwing Shoulder
Once you have fielded the ball, begin funneling it to your chest and ultimately your throwing shoulder. Bringing the ball closer to your shoulder allows you to throw it faster through momentum. Fielding and funneling the ball should be done in one swift motion.
Step 6: Throw the Ball
As soon as you field the ball and you begin funneling it, your feet will begin moving towards your target. Plant your back foot, get into a good throwing position, and fire across the diamond.
Depending on what is comfortable for you and what kind of play you need to make, you may choose to use a crow hop, skip, shuffle, or strides. Your footwork here will add momentum, velocity, and distance to your throw. Do not rush your throw but do not overthink it either. Trust your arm, stay in control of the ball, let it fly, and hit your target in the chest.
Step 7: Stay Relaxed and Do What is Comfortable
There is more than one way to field a ground ball and you may need to make different plays to catch it. The most important thing to making great plays is to stay relaxed and do what is comfortable.
Some players prefer to catch the ball with just one hand and that is okay if it works for you. There may be times when you want to center yourself on the ball instead of being a step outside of it. Some professional players prefer to keep their throwing side foot out in front of the gloved side foot. There are a lot of different playing styles and yours will develop over time through practice and playtime.
Great plays come when the fielder is most relaxed and can make rapid adjustments at the drop of a dime.