Make the routine plays and let the great ones happen is more than a quote. It’s a philosophy and back bone for training infielders. As we prepare for infield play it has to be our priority to make the plays we’re suppose to make and any of the great plays we get in the flow of the game is a bonus. We need to focus on those plays we’re supposed to make and rep those until they become almost automatic. At that point those plays are our foundation and it opens up our athletic freedom to make the web gems.
How to determine which are the routine plays and which ones aren’t?
I like to break groundballs into 3 groups. We have our rhythm groundballs (green), our crossover rhythm groundballs (yellow), and our sprint groundballs (red) all represented in IMAGE A.. They describe how we field balls or how we break to get the ball from our prep step. IMAGE A is an illustration of the groundball classification. The sizes of the areas are not exact and are meant to be used an example.
The rhythm groundballs are those plays basically right at us that we are able to field in rhythm and make the play. They aren’t hit very far side to side from us although sometimes we need to come get these balls. They’re the plays we, as coaches, say that play has to be an out.
The crossover rhythm groundballs are those balls we need to use a crossover step to move laterally side to side but are able to field in rhythm. We can either beat the ball to the spot or get to the left of the ball and play thru it to our target. These will require more effort to get to than our rhythm groundballs but these are still plays that will need to be turned into outs.
Finally, sprint groundballs are those that will require us to extend ourselves for. These are the plays that are fielded without rhythm or momentum toward our target. We might be fielded while extending/reaching, sliding, or even diving. A good indication if the play is a sprint groundball is that if it were completed you’d say, “That’s a heck of a play.” Another indication of a sprint groundball is when the player’s peers in the dugout get excited when the play is made.
When training, it’s our job to focus on the rhythm and crossover rhythm groundballs. We need to not only practice until we consistently play these balls correctly, but we need to practice these balls until we can’t get these wrong. This type of training focus gives us a solid foundation. It builds skills that will allow us to make those great plays. These groundballs should be the bulk of our groundball work, along with other infield play skills.
This isn’t to say web gems, or extended plays shouldn’t be practiced. There is a time and a place to work on these, and that time is after we establish a solid foundation of consistently completing the routine plays. If you don’t work on the sprint groundball fielding positions, glove actions, glove to hand transfers, as well as the footwork then you really don’t know what you’re capable of. To top it off, these are the fun plays to try. It could be a special drill for the day to practice the diving or sliding plays. Or a batting practice round that is a web gem round. However you incorporate those plays we need to make sure our foundation is made of consistent routine ball play.
As an infielder using the “Make the routine plays & let the great ones happen” approach should trigger the infielder to stay within themselves. It allows us to rely and trust in our training to turn our opportunities into outs. Trusting in your training leads to a relaxed mind which in turn translates to relaxed, smooth, and quick fielding actions. Those type of actions allow for the web gems to happen. When one of those sprint groundballs gets hit our way often times we don’t have the luxury of thinking, “I’m going to try to do ______ right here.” These groundballs have to be instinctual plays and like the saying goes, you just need to let them happen. Allow your preparation, athleticism, and that fun you had trying those web gems in batting practice take over.
“Make the routine plays & let the great ones happen.” It’s more than a quote. It’s a training approach and philosophy. Focus your training on those rhythm, and crossover rhythm groundballs until you have a solid foundation. Mix in the sprint groundballs to begin to expand your toolbox. Then trust in your training to apply the philosophy on the field with smooth, relaxed, and quick fielding actions to make the routine plays and allow the great ones to happen.