Infield play is very reactionary. We react to the ball hit and need to quickly identify what direction we need to break on the ball and the depth in which we need to move. In previous posts I’ve discussed the importance of a prep step in that reaction to the ball. You can read more about the prep step here.
In that post I discuss the importance of the timing of the prep step. There are a few different trains of thought. The easiest rule of thumb, for those learning the prep step, is to land in an athletic position at the ball-bat contact point. If we do that we’re in a great position to react to the ball in any direction the ball is hit.
For a more advanced prep step, infielders can utilize the flow step or sometimes called a split step. This move is often utilized, and most commonly known, in the game of tennis during the player’s receiving serves.
Let’s dive into the flow step.
What is it?
The flow step is a more efficient variation of the prep step to help players react to balls put in play.
How to perform it?
To perform the flow step the infielder will utilize a small jump as the ball approaches the contact zone. As they land this small jump with correct timing (more on that shortly), the foot opposite side of the ball will come down and make contact with the ground first. As they land on that foot, they’ll drive off that foot while taking a directional step with the foot on the same side of the ball. Utilizing this type of prep step the fielder lands and flows into their break on the ball with no hesitation.
What’s the timing?
The timing of the flow step is slightly different than the timing of the traditional prep step, of landing at ball-bat contact. The flow step timing should be landed with that opposite foot just post contact. The timing is just as crucial with the flow step as a traditional prep step. This outside foot must come down just after contact. Land the flow step too soon and you have to hesitate and then get yourself going again. Land the flow step too late and you’re playing catch up with the ball.
Flow Step Focus
It’s important to have great visual focus while performing the flow step. In order for the flow step to work properly you must key in on multiple factors in order for your timing and break out of the flow step to be it’s most efficient. First, we always (especially middle infielders) must always know which pitch is coming. Second, be able to take in the flight of the pitch (pitch location) in relation to the batter’s swing timing. Are they late or early? Finally, we need to be able to recognize the speed and hops of the batted ball in order to take an efficient directional step with the foot on the same side of the ball.
The flow step is a more advanced variation of the prep step. When performed correctly with the proper timing and visual cues it can increase your reaction time on batted balls which will in turn increase your range on defense. It takes time and experience to perfect but when you master it, the flow step can be a game changer.