The 2 step and 4 step patterns are the two most common footwork sequences used during the Gather Phase of the Fielding Process. The Gather Phase is the transition between securing the ball in the glove and the arm action of the throw. These two footwork patterns are how we generate/maintain momentum and direction to our throwing target. Each one can be used across all fielding lanes and types of groundballs, with the charge play being the exception. Let’s dive in and break each each one down.
2 Step Pattern
The 2 step pattern is the shorter of the two footwork patterns. From our fielding position it’s a simple replacing our feet to our target and throw. That’s the general gist of what a 2 step pattern is, however, there’s a way to perform it for the greatest efficiency. When performing the 2 step pattern we’re always going to bring our right foot to our left and our left to the target followed by the throw, as seen in GIF A. It truly is a replacing of the feet or a shuffle. What we want to avoid is crossing our feet by bringing our right in front or behind the left.
As we bring our right foot to the left, we need to plant the right under our center of mass or under our right hip. We do this to allow our momentum we’ve created playing through the ball to carry into the throw. Placing the right foot under the right hip will allow our body to ride the momentum but also use the right foot to push off of during the throw. All of these things will aide in better rhythm and syncing of the lower half and our arm action.
4 Step Pattern
The 4 step pattern is an extension of the 2 step pattern. In essence the 4 step pattern is a 2 step pattern but with an extra shuffle. There are a couple trains of thought when it comes to the 4 step pattern, in particular with the 1st shuffle of the 4 step pattern. Some people will teach to bring their right foot to the left, then the left to the target, right to left, and left to target followed by the throw. Others will teach to bring their right foot in front of their left, left foot to the target, right to left, left to the target followed by the throw, as seen in GIF B. Neither way is wrong. A lot of it will have to do with personal preference. If I had to choose one, I’d choose the right foot in front of the left during the 1st shuffle of the 4 step pattern. Why? By bringing our right foot in front of the left we’re able to gain more distance toward our target which is one of the benefits of the 4 step pattern.
No matter your preference regarding replacing your feet or bringing your right in front of the left during the first shuffle, the 4 step pattern is one additional foot replacement to the target followed by the throw. It’s important to note that the second foot replacement should always be a right to left and not a right in front of left. The right to left allows for our momentum to carry into our throw as well as better rhythm and syncing of the lower half and arm as it’s also explained in the 2 step pattern. The right in front of the left takes slightly more time and with the 4 step pattern already taking longer than the 2 step we don’t want to add unnecessary time.
When to use each
Having the 2 step and 4 step patterns in the your toolbox allows for some adjustability during live action. The key is to understand when to pull each one out of the toolbox. This is where your internal clock comes in. The ball will talk to you. You just have to listen. The 2 step pattern is used when your clock tells you to field it and get rid of it. The 4 step pattern is used when your clock says you have some time to establish more distance and direction to your target.
I look at the 2 step pattern as the defensive version of being in “swing mode” at the plate. At the plate we think swing until the ball tells us not to. In my opinion, we need to be prepared to use the 2 step pattern on every groundball until the ball tells us that it’s not necessary. Even though the ball may tell us that it’s not necessary doesn’t mean we can’t use it. In my opinion, in fielder’s should only show off their arm when they have to. It plays a part in making defense look effortless. If we use the 2 step approach on every groundball we can make a nice easy throw to the target with a loose, stress free arm action; obviously these would be the plays to 1B. The only exception when the 2 step approach wouldn’t come into play would be charge plays and when we’re out of rhythm after 2 step pattern (1st shuffle). By only showing off our arm when we need to we can prevent some of those errant throws caused from having to cut it loose.
Expand your toolbox by including the 2 step and 4 step patterns. Practice each so you’re ready to efficiently pull out either pattern when the ball calls for it. Listen to the ball; it’ll tell you a lot.