An infielder is faced with two obstacles when fielding a ground ball. They must first catch the ball. At that point, they are essentially trying to beat a time to get the ball to first base.
Each hitter is able to get to first base in a certain amount of time. It is different for every hitter, but each hitters time is generally consistent. Whatever that infielder has to do to secure the ball and get it to first base under that hitters time, has to be done.
When it comes to infield training, footwork is the most sought after information. However, 99% of the footwork tips or drills tough are to improve footwork before fielding the ball. Well, what do your feet do after you have the ball? Does it change for each position?
This article breaks down by infield position, the throwing footwork used by the best infielders in Major League Baseball.
Because of the proximity to the first base, the footwork of a second-basemen is much simpler than the other positions. The best second basemen in the game allow themselves more time to secure the ball. As long as they have the understanding that they can quickly set their feet and get the ball to the target.
You can tell with the videos above that the similarities include fielding with the left foot behind the right, as well as the quick setting of the feet to the target. There isn't the need for shuffle steps at second base but that doesn't mean the fielders should rush.
They are able to take more time fielding the ball and emphasizing that they catch the ball cleanly. It is much more important for a second baseman to field the ball cleanly and get it out quickly and on target than it is for them to use shuffle steps and gain ground towards their target.
Below is a video of two different body types that both play shortstop at a high level. They have very different styles to field the ball, however, what they do to throw is very similar.
You can see as a bigger, more physical player, Seager (top video) approaches the ball much quieter with his body than Castro (bottom video). However, as they both transition from catching the ball to starting their footwork to first base there are some similarities.
They both catch the ball with their left foot in front which allows them to create momentum towards their target at first base. They also use a gather shuffle to begin their throw. I often see shortstops cross in front or even behind with their footwork which just isn't necessary.
A shortstop is faced with the least amount of time to get the ball to first. Therefore, their footwork must be more urgent and efficient than other positions.
Allow your shortstop to create momentum towards the target and still be efficient using a gather shuffle step.
Now we get to the hot corner. While the throw may be longer than the shortstop on occasions, the urgency of the infielder is actually much less than that of a shortstop. Because of positioning and how much closer the third baseman plays to the batter, they are allowed less time to react, but more time to complete their throw.
The one thing that stands out with all of these infielders is the urgency after the ball is caught. While the urgency of the infielder changes with the pace of the ball as well as the speed of the runner, it is significantly less than shortstops.
This is a byproduct of third basemen having less time to field, but more time to throw. Each player fielded the ball with their left foot behind their right, with the emphasis being on securing the ball first.
They then use their shuffle steps to gain ground and momentum towards the target. So while the urgency changes at third base, the footwork does as well. A step behind or in front is much more common at third as it allows the fielder to gain momentum after the catch.
While understanding how the best infielders use their footwork is nice, but putting this information into use is more important. So start today by having your infielder understand and use these different steps in their daily routine.
Whether they are taking ground balls or even throwing before practice, have them use their position appropriate footwork. The better they understand and are comfortable with their footwork, the better the infielder they become.
If you have any more questions about infield footwork, reach out to Baseball Rebellion's Infield Instructor, Eric Tyler (firstname.lastname@example.org)