Fielding a groundball is a controlled, aggressive and graceful dance between the fielder and the ball. This dance needs to have a smooth flow and a sense of personal style to it. This flow and style is applied through rhythm. Dive into infield play enough and you’ll hear the term rhythm being thrown around, but why is rhythm important? Rhythm allows us to arrive into the fielding position on time and aids in the transition from the our approach to fielding to our gather and ultimately the throw.
Not every groundball can be fielded in rhythm, but the ones that can rely on our tempo and foot patterns; the 2 components of groundball rhythm. Tempo refers to our foot speed, pace, and timing. Foot patterns refers to the sequence or arrangement of our steps.
Our tempo is dictated by ball speed, ball direction, and hop anticipation.
Our foot patterns (right, left, field) is performed within our tempo.
Applying our tempo and foot patterns to a groundball leads to groundball rhythm.
Those fielders with elite rhythm will flow through the groundball and make the play look incredibly smooth. Their approach to the ball will be properly paced, under control, with a gradual descent into the fielding position. Their feet will arrive with a right, left, field pattern into the fielding position and seamlessly transition into the gather.
What will often go unnoticed is how the elite fielders adjust their tempo to match an anticipated hop of the groundball. Sometimes their tempo won’t take them to the easy to handle hop. In these scenarios the infielder will utilize some timing steps or hesitations steps, demonstrated in GIF B & C below, to arrive on time into the fielding position. These timing steps or hesitation steps can come in many patterns. This is often a personal preference, style, or feel in the moment. The simplest form of timing steps would be short choppy steps that allow the fielder to gather themselves while maintaining momentum into the right, left, field foot pattern.
Tempo, Foot Pattern, & Rhythm Drill Variations
- Ladder Drills
- There are numerous ladder drills that can be searched online. They promote foot pattern efficiency and rhythm.
- Match the Music
- During drill work, really any kind of drill work, play music. Have the infielders match their tempo to the beat and rhythm of the song playing. Have a good mix of different genres. Include everything from smooth jazz to salsa to hip hop and everything in between.
- Last 2 Steps
- Good for a component of a daily hand routine. Isolate the last 2 steps before fielding the ball. Right, left, field while maintaining good posture before, during and after fielding: GIF D (Please excuse the 34 year old stiffness).