Mastering the fundamentals of baseball will bring you great success, and ground ball work is no different. Even professional baseball field a minimum of 50 balls everyday. Whether you’re a newbie or just trying to learn new ways to perfect your approach, these drills are guaranteed to help you never miss a ground ball again.
This first drill is very easy and great for beginners. For this drill draw a triangle in the dirt, or use baseballs as markers. The infielder’s knees are at the base of the triangle, and the aim is to field the ball at the triangle’s point or apex. In the first part of the drill, the infielder’s feet do not move and are meant to be planted. The player’s wrist should be connected in line with their elbow and forearm and be mindful to keep their fingers angled down. Also, the infielder should watch their wrist placement. All infielders should avoid holding their wrist too close to the ground or angling it to steep. The player’s palm should face where the ball is coming from.
The second part of this drill involves some footwork and a wider base. The infielder stands in an athletic position and as he gets ready to receive the ball, his knees are positioned over his feet. The infielder takes one step toward the ball with his right foot as he lowers his body closer to the ground. His left foot comes soon after as he retrieves the ball. Once the infielder has the ball, he steps back and repositions his feet to the original stance, ready to throw the ball. Practice 10-15 grounders for each part of this drill. This drill takes around 15 minutes to complete (per person).
Drop Step Ground Ball Drill
This next drill is also easy and a little quicker than the first drill. The object of this drill is to drop step backward to get in front of the ball. The partner who is throwing the ball to the fielder rolls a ground ball to the infielder, aiming around ten feet to either side of the infielder. It’s important the infielder stays low for this drill and has their eyes on the ball. This drill can increase its intensity in a number of ways. The partner rolling the grounders has the option to test the infielder and roll balls farther away so he has to move quicker to get behind each ball. The infielder also has the option to increase difficulty by using no glove or switching between using one and two hands. Partners should field the ball ten times each.
For this drill you’ll need to form a triangle with three baseballs. The apex of the triangle, the ball aimed for the glove, should be slightly leaning toward the left. The infielder approaches the ground ball with a few stutter steps. These are quick, choppy steps where the body is narrow and close. As he takes his first actual step (not stutter steps) toward the ball, he checks to make sure his thumb in his glove transitions from pointing up to pointing out. The player’s chest should be over his toes in a way that makes it look like he is sneaking up on the ball. The infielder’s feet are wide, chest is almost on his thighs and his back should be flat. If the player is struggling to keep his back flat, he needs to focus on pointing his Adam’s apple to the baseball. The player’s hands should be placed in front of the bill of the cap. If not, his chest becomes too deep and he’ll lose sight of the ball very quickly. It’s important the infielder keeps his body aligned with his left eye as he approaches and receives the ball. By aligning his body to his left eye, the infielder allows himself more give with his left arm. If the ball bounces to the left, the ball is still moving in the direction toward the play. If his body isn’t aligned left and the ball bounces from his glove, the ball will bounce to the right which is the opposite direction of the play.
Right-Left Catch Drill
The only thing this drill requires is a glove. The object is to stay low to the ground and perfect the stance needed for any ground ball. The player steps forward with their right foot, which allows them to get close to the ground. The left leg soon follows, inching the body closer to the ball. Without anyone rolling any balls toward the player, he moves as though someone is throwing the ball to him and taps his glove twice on the ground in a ready position as if he is receiving the ball. Repeat these steps. Right foot, left foot, tap-tap. The player can move quickly horizontally or vertically. Again, the object of this drill is to perfect the infielder’s stance, stay low and get comfortable in the receiving position. The player’s back should be flat and his arm should approach the ground smoothly and stay there. Players should avoid “stabbing” the ground at all costs as it will get you nowhere if the ball takes a bad hop.
Momentum Infield Drill
This drill requires three cones in the shape of a triangle, all about five-seven feet away from each other. This drill can be done alone or with a throwing partner. For those without a throwing partner, place the ball a foot or so away from the apex of the triangle. The player starts at one of the bases of the cone and get in a ready position. For righties, this is that right-left footing position. Instead of running straight toward the ball and funneling it, the players runs around the triangle toward the apex to retrieve the ball. Before the player goes to field the ball, he has to incorporate the right-left footwork and step toward the ball. This drill focuses on getting around the ball and building momentum while doing so. It’s important to have energy in the direction of the target. If this drill was conducted with a throwing partner, the partner would roll the player a ground ball as they move their feet right then left. Throwing the ball isn’t important in this drill.
Stationary and Movement Ground Balls Drill
This next drill requires multiple balls and a throwing partner. The fielder is positioned about ten feet away from the thrower. The thrower rolls grounders to the fielder in quick succession, one after the other. The fielder is low, stationary and gloveless. He’s fielding the ball and throwing it right back to the throwing partner. This drill should be very quick moving, almost like the pair is juggling a baseball. To add difficulty to the drill, the fielder has the option to add in movement. With the same proper fielding stance, flat back and chest to thighs, the fielder is low to the grown and moving quickly side to side. He throws the ball back to the throwing partner and is met with another ball on the opposite side, again, in quick succession. The fielder should be mindful of their feet while they’re shuffling from side to side as their feet can easily slip and get too close, which ruins the form.
On Knees Fielder Drill
All this drill needs is a baseball and a throwing partner. The infielders should be on their knees in a semi-wide stance. Before they incorporate the actual ball, the infielder practices the motion of fielding the ball and throwing it without actually touching it. After that, the throwing partner rolls a ground ball to the infielder, still on his knees. The throwing partner should be relatively close, only about ten to fifteen feet away. The infielder should practice this drill without a glove and switch between one and two hands. It’s important that the infielder focuses on bringing the ball toward the center of his chest after he fields the ball and remembers to keep his elbows out.
The Line Drill
For this drill you can either use tape to form a straight line or draw a line in the dirt. For the first part of this drill, place a few baseballs going down the line, all spaced out from each other. The infielder is stands a few feet back from the beginning of the line. The infielder should go into his pre-pitch stance and then clear himself. To clear yourself, the player must be positioned to the right of the ball. It’s important for the infielder to approach the ball in the shape of an “L” and not at a diagonal. He steps forward with his right foot, and his left brings his foot to the left of the line. At that point the infielder’s back should be straight and his body low to the ground. The infielder walks into his glove when funneling the ball. After the player fields the ball, he shuffles twice to the left with the ball in his glove. For the second part of the drill, the player can have a throwing partner roll the ball toward him on the line. The player would still approach the ball on the right side in an L shape and focus on keeping his left eye aligned with the ball.
Ladder Infield Drill
An agility ladder and a few baseballs are needed for this drill. Place the ladder on the ground and line up four baseballs along one side of the ladder. The infielder approaches the ladder and steps with his right foot first, soon followed by his left, one foot in each square horizontally. The fielder gets into proper fielding form and reaches toward the still ball but does not funnel it. He steps back out of the ladder, right foot then left foot. Have the infielder repeat this motion under he reaches the end of the ladder, where a fifth ball sits. The fifth ball is meant to be thrown at a target. Some use the ball at the end of the ladder to roll in a live grounder to the player who then throws it at a target.
Tennis balls are required for this drill. The first part of this drill focuses on maintaining posture, so use a glove or any balls while warming up. The fielders are in a fielding position and pivot along the dirt practicing mock backhand ground balls without any actual baseballs. The hand should never leave the ground and 70% of the player’s body weight should fall on his back leg. After that, the second step is to incorporate the tennis balls. The throwing partner sits about 20 feet away as he pitches the infielder ground tennis balls. The player is in a fielding position with no glove. As the tennis ball approaches the player, he taps the tennis ball back to the partner with the inside of his hand/fingers. The hand should be tilted toward the ground. For the third part of this drill, incorporate the tennis ball tap drill in the backhand position. You can increase difficultly by adding a fourth part to this drill, triple movement. Instead of pitching the infielder regular backhand ground balls, pitch them to either side of the player so he must switch his footing with each ball.
Ladder Variation Drill
For this drill you’ll need an agility ladder. Have the player at one end of the ladder and the throwing partner on the other. The infielder runs through the ladder in any variation of exercises. Some of the footwork the player can practice in the ladder include high knees, shuffle, one leg, in and out, quick feet, toe taps and eyes up (player can’t watch his feet move). At the end of the ladder the throwing partner throws the infielder a ground ball. The player can switch on and off between using a glove. If the infielder is practicing toe taps horizontally along the ladder, the throwing partner can pitch a nice backhand ground ball to the infielder. Try practice fielding 15 regular ground balls, and 15 then backhand ground balls.
Infielder Toss Drill
All you’ll need for this drill is a baseball. This drill is a little more difficult than the other drills and may not be suitable for youth. Two infield players stand about 20 feet apart. The two players should be in constant fielding position. As they throw to each other, each ball should be close to the ground and touch it only now and then. Alternate between using and not using gloves and focus on catching the ball with one hand each time. These throws are completed in quick succession.
Infield Shuffle Drill
You’ll need a throwing partner for this drill. The throwing partner stands in the dirt with the infielder about 25 feet in front of him. The partner throws ground balls to the far right or the far left of the infielder. The infielder must shuffle around while in fielding position and get behind the ball to scoop it. The infielder throws the ball back to their throwing partner, and a new ball is ready for retrieval on the opposite of where the player fielded the previous ball. He should be fielding the ball without a glove and alternating between using one and two hands.
Knees with Backhand Drill
All that is needed for this drill is a throwing partner. The infielder and their throwing partner are positioned about 30 feet apart and the infielder is on his knees in the fielding position. It’s important the infielder remembers to stay tall and not lean back because he is kneeling. The two practice fielding head on for a while before adding backhand fielding into the mix. The throwing partner pitches to the infielder, who catches it while on his knees and returns it to the throwing partner. The infielder should focus on keeping his finger tips to the ground and cutting the hop off. After a while, the throwing partner can incorporate utilizing the infielder’s backhand into the drill. This drill lasts about 15-20 throws per person.
Stationary Ball Line Drill
Place four balls on a line in the dirt about 5 yards apart from each other. The infielder shuffles toward the first ball in a fielding position, pretends to funnel the ball, and moves on down the line until the fourth ball. The infielder is moving toward the play and has momentum aiming toward the ball’s target. At the fourth ball, the infielder switches positions, and shuffles away from first base, leading with his right foot. Now that the ball is on the opposite side of their glove, the infielder has to adjust himself with each approach. He must get behind and around the ball to get more momentum and a stronger/more accurate throw. The infielder should be mock-funneling the ball with his left eye aligned to the ball even though he is approaching it from the left side.