The game of baseball lends itself to over-coaching. There are so many intricacies to the game that there will always be something to correct, and by the end of the practice session, player’s heads will spin with all of the feedback. This style of coaching is done with good intentions, but all of the cues for correction can flood the brains of the players and lead to overthinking. Simply put, when you overthink the game of baseball, you won’t perform at your best. Thinking of what you should be doing every step of every rep limits reaction time and coordination, which leads to delayed and segmented movements. It’s a classic case of paralysis by analysis. Infielders are at their best when they play loose and free.
To prevent paralysis by analysis, its beneficial to have a simple foundation to which infielders can refer. This foundation should be limited to a few words that can apply to the infielder’s many skills. The graphic shown here is Defend the Diamond’s Foundation of Infield Play. Each infielder needs Engaged Eyes, Active Feet, Composed Hands, and a Versatile Arm. Each piece of the foundation needs to be performed with rhythm of the game speed. Let’s dive into each piece of the foundation.
Our eyes are responsible for the intake of the first information our brain receives. After our brain receives the visual information of the baseball (speed, direction, game situation, etc.), our brain is responsible for telling our body how to react. Without engaged eyes, our body can’t react. Don’t think our eyes are important? Try closing your eyes during batting practice. Now go field the ball without opening your eyes. Can’t be done.
The eyes need to be locked in. Whether it’s being in rhythm with the pitcher in his delivery to begin your prep step or picking out the favorable hop, the eyes need to be on top of their game and stay in the present moment.
The feet are critical for an infielder. Show me an infielder with poor footwork and I’ll show you a poor infielder. The feet can’t be stationary. So much of infield defense is about momentum. Stationary feet can’t carry momentum. Efficient, organized, balanced, and rhythmic foot movement needs to be present across all infield skills, such as fielding a ground ball, double play pivots, outfield throw relays, and the list goes on. The importance of the feet can’t be understated.
No one wants to be known as “frying pan hands.” Having composed hands means they’re calm, relaxed, confident, quick, and soft. Whether its fielding ground balls, deflecting a throw, or making a tag, composed hands play across any skill demand the game places on infielders.
There’s no question infielders need to make a wide range of throws. Throws are made from different arm slots, varying momentum, and varying foot platforms (sometimes not even on your feet). Infielders must have the confidence to make the necessary throw and do it with strength and accuracy in rhythm with the feet.
Putting it all together
It’s important to understand the aspects of infield play and their role in the infield defense. When infielders have a true understanding of the foundations of infield play, simple cues can go a long way. When teaching infielders the finer details of the game, remember not to over-complicate things. That’s not to say you shouldn’t provide the smallest of details in a training setting when the reps are rehearsed, but when the live ball comes into play, keeping the cues simple can lead to the biggest improvements. A simple, “keep those feet active,” can be just the trigger needed. Talk it through and educate the fielder about the foundation of infield play. As a result, the simple cues will offer the infielder a way to self correct without paralysis by analysis.