The where, when, and how of the underhand toss

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The underhand toss is a throw you’ll see several infielders make. Used in close range situations, it is as simple as using a similar arm action to that of a bowler. The notable exception is that you don’t want to roll the ball to your waiting teammate.

You’ll see this throw used a lot more often than the backhand flip. Where the shortstop and second baseman are the primary users of the backhand flip, the shortstop, second baseman, first baseman, and pitchers will all use the underhand toss.

The pitcher’s and first baseman’s use of the underhand toss.

If you’re playing first base, you’ll often need to use the underhand toss when you range to your right to field a ground ball. During this play, because you’ve been pulled away from first base, the pitcher’s task is to hustle over from the mound and cover first base on any throw.

As the pitcher is hustling over, you must time your toss so that it reaches the first base bag just prior to the pitcher stepping on first base. This gives the pitcher a chance to catch the ball and find the bag with his foot. Any later and the pitcher will have already run through or stumble over the base, whereas an early throw is likely to be thrown behind the pitcher as he’s on the move.

The toss should be done so that the pitcher receives the ball at chest height. Because the pitcher is running and catching the ball at the same time, the timing and location of this toss is crucial to the pitcher being able to handle the throw.

The where, when, and how of the underhand toss

If you’re pitching for your team, you’ll use the underhand toss primarily on throws to the first baseman when in close proximity of first base.

The ball has been hit to the first base side of the mound and you’ve been able to pick the baseball up. Because the first baseman has had time to set up for your throw, the timing isn’t as crucial as when the first baseman makes a toss to the pitcher covering the first base bag.

However, it is always good to make things simple for your first baseman. Make your toss directly (not a looping toss) to his chest. This direct underhand toss will make his play easier to handle.

The second baseman’s and shortstop’s use of the underhand toss.

As a shortstop or second baseman, you’ll find that you’ll use the underhand toss when in close proximity to and when attempting to get a force out at second base.

The underhand allows you to quickly get the baseball out of your glove when low to the ground for a quick toss to the base. The faster you can get the ball out of the glove, the more time you’ll give your fellow infielder to make the play … especially needed on double play balls.

Use the underhand opposite from the backhand flip. In other words, when your throwing hand is closest to the base, you’ll most likely want to use the backhand flip. But when your throwing hand is farther away from the base as compared to your glove hand, you’ll want to resort to the underhand flip.

The basic techniques of the underhand toss.

When fielding the baseball in your “ready” or alligator position, your feet should be balanced so that they are spread approximately shoulder width apart, giving you good balance.

Once you’ve “clamped” down on the baseball with your throwing hand, quickly transfer the ball to your throwing hand and make a level toss toward the base at chest level – avoiding a high, lofty, toss. This toss should be made in a similar manner to when bowling, with the notable exception that you don’t want to roll the ball to the base.

The ball should be released no higher than waist level, with your follow-through continuing up toward your non-throwing shoulder. Be sure to flick your wrist upon releasing the baseball in an effort to provide better velocity and accuracy.

Step with your throwing side foot toward the base you’re tossing, toes pointing toward the base, while keeping your opposite foot planted.