Communication is the key to any relationship. Clear communication prevents some conflict, builds trust, provides direction, and ensures clarity. This applies to your relationships on the field. It’s imperative for teammates to communicate effectively verbally and non-verbally before, during, and after each pitch.
From an infielder’s perspective, there are more obvious ways we communicate than others.
Verbally we often relay the number of outs, call out direction for where the play should go, relay our alignment, and encourage our teammates among other ways.
Non-verbally we get signs from the catcher, hold up the number of outs, and provide a clear target for a throw among others.
What often goes unnoticed are some of the finer details of communication used between infielders. There are both verbal and non-verbal communication techniques used within the flow of the game between infielders that are less subtle than those forms of communication above.
Middle Infield-Corner Infield Communication
This form of verbal communication used between the middle infielders and the corner infielders is the most under utilized form in the amateur levels. It’s clear that the middle infielders will look in at the catcher’s pitch signs being given to the pitcher. What’s not as clear is the communication from the middle infielder to the corner infielder on the same side of the field. What is routinely done in the more advanced communicating infields is a subtle verbal cue to the corner infielder on the offspeed pitches that could potentially be pulled their way.
This verbal cue must be something predetermined by the teammates and must not be said too loud or made too obvious. The verbal cue could simply be the player’s name, or nickname, and should be said late enough that the batter/base coach can’t acknowledge and make any adjustment but early enough for the corner infielder to make any necessary adjustments.
Middle Infield Stolen Base Coverage
The middle infielders are the ones that are expected to communicate as much, if not more, than anyone on the field. One of the most important forms of communication between the two is who will be covering the 2nd base bag on a steal. To do this they hold up their glove to their face blocking the batter and coach’s view of their mouth. When their face is concealed they’ll give a signal of either an open mouth or a closed mouth. Which signal they give will depend on a few things. They’ll read the catcher’s sign to determine the pitch, the batter’s swing, the game situation, as well as their own positioning on the field. Each of these factors determines which sign they’ll give each other.
Here’s an example of the open-closed mouth communication:
Right handed batter up. Runner on 1B. Catcher calls for a curveball.
This could have been the scenario in the GIF A. You can see the middle infielders cover their face and give the open/closed mouth signal. The 2B gives the closed mouth, meaning “me”, and the shortstop would give the open mouth, meaning “you”. If there would have been a stoen base attempt on this pitch the 2B would’ve covered the bag because of his closed mouth, “me” or “my bag”, sign. In this made up scenario the thinking is that the middle infielders would anticipate the right handed batter to pull the curveball. With this in mind the shortstop would want to remain in his position for the pulled curveball during a possible stolen base attempt. This is why he would give the open mouth, the “you” or “your bag”, sign as a way to confirm the coverage.
This kind of communication should be done every pitch there is a stolen base threat. The coverage can be altered due to the batter’s swing, game situation, pitch type, and the middle infielder’s positioning as I mentioned above.
Middle Infield-Outfield Communication
Another type of non-verbal communication that is occasionally used is the middle infielder’s relaying upcoming pitch types to the outfielders. Pitch type relaying is not used everywhere and is often a personal preference of the outfielder or coaching staff beliefs. This type of communication is similar to the verbal cue the middle infielder will give their corner infield teammates but this particular type is a non-verbal hand signal to the outfielder. Just like for the corner infielders, this type of communication will give the outfielder’s a heads up on the pitch type to allow for some batted ball anticipation.
To perform this, the middle infielder will look at the catcher’s pitch sign. If the catcher calls for a fastball, the infielder will hold up a closed fits behind their back. If the catcher calls for something offspeed, the middle infielder will hold an open hand behind their back. Again, this will help with the outfielder’s anticipation on the upcoming pitch.
This is something that I’ve used as a player and some of my outfield teammates preferred it while others didn’t. It’s something that definitely isn’t widely used but it can make a difference in anticipation. As a middle infielder you’ll have to communicate with your outfielder’s behind you to know their preference.
These are just some of the communication intricacies performed on the infield. The best teams are clear and effective communicators. Effective communication begins in practice and is carried over into the game. Having clear and deliberate verbal and non-verbal communication strategies set you and your team up for success.