Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Infield Tip – Taking things for granted

Infield Tip – Taking things for granted
By IMG Baseball Academy

In amateur baseball these days, many infielders are ill-equipped in game situations. I am not speaking of having the right equipment or playing shortstop with a wrong-handed mitt. What I am directly referring to is the common thought process of thinking ahead while using information you are provided with.

Day in and day out, I work with my infielders on thinking ahead of the play. The game of baseball is unique in that time is never a pressing issue or determining factor in the development of the game. You have more than enough time on the field defensively to think in between every pitch delivered by the pitcher. In order to have your instincts take over when it matters in the game, you need to first train your instincts on the appropriate play to be made.

For example, if I am playing second base with a runner on 1st base and no outs, I need to put myself in a position where I can make every play that is asked of me before the pitch is delivered. I need to be accountable for the runner who may steal 2nd base. I have to worry about covering 1st base on a ball that is bunted. I need to be in a position to turn a double play. I need to know where I will be lining up as a cutoff man wherever the ball is hit into the outfield. All of this needs to be processed in your mind in the 30 or so seconds between each pitch. I stress to my players that this needs to be executed in your mind before all 120 or so pitches you are out in the field for on defense.

The biggest thing that is taken for granted, though, falls in the hands of the middle infielders. It frustrates me the most when I do not see the middle infielders looking into the catcher’s signs for the pitcher, whether there is a man on base or not.

In order for you to have an edge defensively and allow your instincts to take over, you need to have all of the information you can get your hands on to put yourself in a position to make the play. The best infielders can read the angle of the hitter’s bat as the ball crosses the hitting zone and lean in the direction where the ball is going to be hit. This isn’t just luck or conditioning through repetition. It is a matter of also knowing that a ball is going to be pitched into a certain zone and at a certain speed if the pitcher is effective enough in locating his pitches.

It shouldn’t just be the middle infielders who use this information to their advantage, as corner infielders should also be included. With a runner on any base, we employ a “touch” system for our catcher’s signs to the pitcher, instead of the standard number signs in between the catcher’s legs. With all of the signs being visible and on display to all infielders, this will allow all 4 infielders to be on the same page and give us an added edge on the opposing team.
Baseball is a game measured on percentages and statistics, and you would be a fool not to use them both to accelerate your defensive prowess. It’s all about giving yourself and your team that extra edge to win games.

Kevin Sharp is the head coach of the IMG Baseball Academy varsity team. An expert in infield instruction, Sharp led the team to a 29-1 record and Top-25 national ranking in several outlets for the 2009 season.

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