Infield Range And How To Improve It
Great infielders have three things in common. They are steady with the glove, they have strong arms, and they have good range. Being able to get to balls other defenders can’t get to will separate you from the next guy. I am going to explain why range is so important. I will also cover four ways to increase your range in just a few minutes.
Range is the amount of ground you can cover from your ready position. Obviously this is important because the more batted balls you can get to, the smaller you make holes where the batter can hit a ball through the infield. The more you can get to balls that others can’t reach, the better your look as an infielder.
There are 4 ways that are sure to increase your range and make you an overall better infielder.
1.) Have both feet on the ground when the pitch reaches the hitting zone. You can’t make a move to a batted ball until your feet are on the ground. As the pitch is on its way to the plate we go from a relaxed position to a ready position similar to a tennis player waiting to return a serve.
Mick Kelleher, the Yankee infield coach, once brought to my attention that I was late getting my feet down on the ground as I was hopping into my ready position. When your feet are in the air, you can’t move to go after a batted ball until your feet are planted.
After this, I realized most infielders make this mistake. They are ready to move when the pitch hit the catcher’s glove. Instead, they should be ready by the time the ball enters the hitting zone. This adjustment is likely to increase your range by a several inches.
2.) Think side to side. There is a tendency to have our momentum going towards the hitter once we reach our ready position.
An easy way to check for this is to see what your feet do when a batter takes a pitch or a foul ball is hit. Does one of your feet make a step towards the hitter? If it does, think side to side.
Ideally we want to land with our weight on the inside balls of our feet without falling in any direction. We lose valuable range by taking a false step towards the batter. When this happens we take three steps to be in the same spot as a perfect first step to our right or left.
Having our weight evenly distributed and ready to move in any direction will help us get that all important first step. Thinking side to side will help eliminate a wasteful first step and it will put our body in the optimal ready position.
3.) Know your angles. The goal for any infielder is to identify how we are going to go after any ball hit our way. Taking a good angle to a ball will increase your range.
The key is to start your angle as quickly as possible. For example, on a ball hit to our left, a tendency is to gain ground towards the baseball as we approach the ball. Many people also take a deeper angle on a ball to our right. We have more time on a ball hit to our left (shorter throw) so we can afford to take a slightly deeper angle on the baseball.
On a ball hit to our right that we don’t have to fully extend on, we can try to cut the ball off by taking a shallower angle. This will make the throw shorter and will allow us to play the ball rather than letting the ball dictate what happens.
It is always easier to start on a deep angle and then gain ground towards the baseball. If your start shallow and midway through the play you need more space to get to the ball, sorry, you misplayed the baseball.
If you notice good second baseman they will field balls to their left deep into the outfield grass, which gives them a lot of range. This is a learned skill, I see too many high school and college 2nd baseman try to field the same ball on the dirt or maybe one step on the grass.
Understanding which angle to attack a ground ball will greatly give your more range and it will separate your from other infielders.
4.) First step. The first step is extremely important. Once our feet hit the ground on time, and we are in an athletic position to go side to side, and we know which angle we want to take, the first step is what starts the play.
Our first step ALWAYS needs to be explosive. It is much easier to slow up than to speed up. Even on a ball just a couple feet to our right or left, it may be difficult to determine exactly how hard it is hit right off the bat. So take a good hard first step and get into position.
If you happen to get to the spot early, it is easy to gain ground on the baseball. Also, mistakes happen when we let the ball play us. When we go hard we are in control, not the baseball.
The first step is an area most infielders can improve upon. When done correctly you will see an increase in your range.
Summary. When working on these four individual keys to improving your range, you may only see a half step improvement. But, when all of these come together, you will notice an infielder that can cover a lot more ground.
Author: Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 11 years.
After hitting .361 with the New York Yankees this 2012 spring training where he relieved Derek Jeter at shortstop, Doug spent the 2012 season with the Yankees’ triple A team.
Pro Baseball Insider is a free resource for serious baseball players. Pro players offer free tips and instruction, baseball gear recommendations, drills, video and more.