If you’ve been following along the last 5 weeks you know that we’ve been discussing double play feeds. We’ve covered feeds all the way around the diamond. You can check out the previous posts here (3B, SS, 2B, left handed 1B, right handed 1B). It’s important to dive into the catch vs. deflect topic before we dissect the double play pivots for the SS and 2B.
Anytime we receive a ball we should try our best to step to the baseball to receive it as close to our chest as possible. This can be seen on relay throws, double play turns and any other ball we receive that we need to quickly make another throw. Many times, whether its due to having to hold a bag or an overly errant throw, we aren’t able to step to the ball as much as we’d like causing us to reach for the ball to receive it. Receiving the ball, the transfer from glove to throwing hand, and making the subsequent throw needs to be done smooth and quick. Understanding how, when and why we use the catch & exchange as well as the deflection is vital in ball security thus making the transfer as effortless as possible.
The deflection is widely used and understood by infielders across most age groups. Deflecting the baseball is when the infielder receives the ball inside of their shoulders by allowing the ball to hit off the knuckle pad of the index finger into their throwing hand without closing their glove. You can see the target point in the glove for the deflection in Image B. Due to the throw being accurate, inside of the shoulders, the deflecting of the ball tends to be the quickest transfer from glove to throwing hand. Our deflection window is generally from shoulder height down to just above the belt line and inside of the shoulders; represented in the red area in Image A above. With practice and the right ball to receive, some infielders can become proficient at deflecting balls below the belt. The width of the deflecting window will extend just beyond the throwing shoulder due to its proximity to the throwing hand.
The catch & exchange tends to be a natural movement on those balls that infielders have to reach for. Many infielders already perform the catch & exchange and don’t realize why or what they’re doing. The catch & exchange is performed on those balls that we must receive outside of our deflection window; represented in the green area in Image A. On these balls we do exactly what it says; we extend to catch the ball in the catch sweet spot (see in Image C: glove’s pocket) and then bring the ball to the throwing hand for the exchange. Some will question, “why don’t we deflect everything?” That’s because reaching with both hands can make us stiff which leads to slower movements and when we’re trying to catch and release, on a double play for example, we’re looking for quick, efficient movements.
So we reach and catch with the glove hand, but what do we do with our throwing hand? In the catch & exchange we want to think about us having an imaginary line running straight down the middle of our body, the exchange line. The exchange line, the dotted white line in Image A above, is where our throwing hand will be waiting for the glove to exchange the ball. I’m a firm believer that a lot of, if not all, athletic movements involving your hands initiate from the center of the body. A quarterback dropping back to pass, a boxer ready to deliver a punch, a chest pass, jump shot, or securing a rebound to make an outlet pass in basketball all have their hands in a strong position at the center of the body. With that theory we want to think of bringing the ball to this mid line for the exchange. The only caveat to that is when the throw is to our throw side. It wouldn’t make much sense to reach with our glove and catch the ball on the throw side of our body and then bring the glove back to the center. Ultimately the ball will have to travel to the throw side in order for us to throw. In this case the exchange can be made on the throw side of our body for quickness.
Understanding the use of the deflect and the catch & exchange becomes beneficial to a smooth transfer from reception to throw. Understanding is the first step. Recognizing when each should when a ball is coming at you is another. A great way to practice, which many infielders already do without their knowledge, is to perform both on the appropriate balls during their warm up throwing. Simply making a conscious effort to recognize and give a little self reflection on where you received the ball and which transfer method you use can be educational. If you’re looking for a small drill to enforce the movements try:
Reception to Transfer Drill
Multi round drill using both the deflection and catch & exchange
- Round 1:
- Have a player or coach flip balls inside of the deflection window. On each ball, deflect into the throwing hand, get in a good throwing position, toss ball back or to the side. Make sure you incorporate good foot rhythm with throwing foot down at deflection and glove foot down to throw.
- Round 2:
- Have a player or coach flip balls outside of the deflection window. On each ball, catch & exchange at the mid line, get in a good throwing position, toss ball back or to the side. Make sure you incorporate good foot rhythm with the throwing foot down just before/on the exchange and glove foot down to throw.
- Round 3:
- Have a player or coach flip balls all around so that both deflect and catch & exchange are used. On each ball, use the appropriate reception and transfer method with the appropriate footwork, get in a good throwing position, and toss the ball back or to the side.
Each round can be measured by either a number of reps or by time. For example, you may perform each round for 10 reps or you can perform each round for 15 seconds to get as many reps in as possible. I’d start with a number of reps and then as you get more comfortable with movements you can set a time for more of a challenge. To start, the flips should be deliberate and have time in between to reset. As you need more of a challenge the flips can be more of a rapid fire.
Understanding the deflection and catch & exchange will carry over to our next few posts about double play pivots from shortstop and second base. Using each will aide in your double play pivots by making the ball transfer from glove to throwing hand and ultimately into the throw as smooth as possible.