What are the many aspects of fielding a ground ball?

A ground ball is a baseball hit by a batter in which the ball bounces or rolls on the ground prior to reaching the outfield grass. This type of hit is also often referred to as a grounder.

The Infielder.

An infielder is a player typically positioned closest to the hitter, and thus must have quick reflexes to react to hard-hit ground balls – unlike that of an outfielder. The infield positions include shortstop, first base, second base, third base, and the pitcher. The grounder makes up a significant majority of these infielders’ plays.

When fielding a ground ball, an infielder’s responsibility is to immediately throw the ball toward the base where the opponent is most likely to be out. In a game of inches, this must be done with great speed and accuracy … as every split second counts.

Difficulties associated with fielding a ground ball.

Fielding grounders can be difficult. A batted baseball can be coming toward you at various speeds, on multiple sides of your position, and at different heights. You may have to charge in toward a ground ball or dive to prevent a ground ball from getting through to the outfield.

The baseball can also change directions on you at the last moment … skipping off a rock sideways, or bouncing off of the lip of the infield grass over your head.

On the plus side, fielding ground balls can be a learned skill. But, it is not easy. It all comes down to three words – practice, practice, practice. If you’re not a natural at fielding ground balls (and few of us are), but are willing to apply much practice time, you can attain the necessary skills to be good at fielding ground balls.

What are the many aspects of fielding a ground ball?

The techniques of fielding a ground ball.

There are several key techniques to effectively and efficiently field grounders.

You must first determine if the speed and direction of the hit requires you to charge the ball, stay back while waiting for the ball to come to, or to move quickly to your left or right, taking what is called the “banana route”.

Charging the ball.

Charging the ball can be quite challenging on many levels. This includes rushing in while picking up the ball, throwing on the run, and keeping your eyes on the ball. The speed of the batter may also play a role in the difficulty of this play.

If the batter is fast down the line, you may not have a chance to field the ball using your glove. Instead, you may need to rush in toward the ball with your body positioned so that your throwing arm can reach down and pick up the ball in one quick motion … right into your throwing action. Being fluid in this action may be your only shot at throwing the runner out.

If wanting to be a good fielder, take time to practice charging techniques. It isn’t easy, but can be the difference between you being a good fielder or a great fielder.

Staying back.

If the ball is hit hard and in your general direction, you’ll want to hang back – giving yourself a better chance to field the ball in thanks to how fast the ball will get to you.

When hanging back, you’ll want to keep your head down, eyes on the ball, and keep your glove low to the ground so that its webbing touches the dirt. Keeping the glove any higher often results in the baseball rolling “through the wickets” into the outfield.

Be sure to have your feet comfortably apart. This distance is typically shoulder width or slightly more. You’ll want to have them far enough apart where you can easily bend your knees in a manner that your knees act as shock absorbers (providing you good bounce), while still maintaining good upper body balance.

Soft hands.

You may have heard of the expression, “soft hands”. Having soft hands is crucial to fielding ground balls. And, it doesn’t mean that you should dive into your Mom’s skin moisturizers.

Soft hands are when you cushion the ball as it reaches you, making its impact with your glove less violent. A violent impact will often cause the ball to squirt out of your glove – exactly what you want to avoid.

To have soft hands, keep your wrists and elbows bent. As the ball hits the webbing of your glove, use these natural shock absorbers and gently pull your hands backward in the same direction as the ball. This slows the ball down “gradually”, resulting in “soft hands”.

Use your body.

One last key technique of fielding a ground ball is using your body to block a ball. Blocking the ball with your body is a common method used by infielders to prevent a batted ball from reaching the outfield.

Referred to as using the “alligator” position, using your body can be intimidating initially. But with practice and proper techniques, you can help lessen any ball’s impact with your body.

By having your glove close to the ground, the ball naturally wants to roll up your glove and arm toward your face. Be sure to place your open throwing hand about one foot above your glove. Doing so will prevent any ball that wants to hop up toward your face … meaning that you’ll be less likely to take your eyes off the ball and more likely to prevent the baseball from hitting you. Keeping your eyes on the ball makes it far more likely you’ll be able to field the ball – keeping you safe.