Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Teach Fielding to Baseball Players

By Dick Birmingham

Many coaches attempt to teach fielding to players by first hitting them ground balls. You cannot teach fielding and hit ground balls at the same time! In fact, the bat is the last item a coach should use in teaching the correct fundamentals of fielding.

There are many things involved in teaching good fielding techniques. Three very important areas that coaches should try to emphasize to players include: the glove, the ready position, and the fielding position.

The Glove

Like any job, fielding is easier when you have the right tool to use and when that tool is properly maintained. It has been my experience that many players, for various reasons, try to use gloves that are too big for them.

If you, the coach, have influence over the gloves your players buy, help them select a glove that is right for their size, age, and position. For example, if you have a young player who plays only the infield, he should not use a long-fingered pitcher-outfield glove. If you coach 8 and 9 year olds, they should not use gloves designed for 13-14 year olds.

How to break in the glove is also very important. Help your players break in their glove so that they form a wide-open pocket. This can be achieved by working the four fingers of the glove forward as opposed to creasing the glove so that the thumb is against the fingers. Breaking in the glove the wrong way will give it a flat appearance with a very small opening (players should never sit or kneel on their gloves!). By applying a small amount of glove oil or shaving cream which contains lanolin in the pocket area of the glove, the glove will become more flexible and will help to develop the proper shape of the pocket.

The Ready Position

It is very important that players develop a good ready position if they are going to be able to react quickly to the ball coming off the bat. Many times young players assume what they think is a good ready position when in fact, they are working against themselves.

A good ready position has been described by some as controlled imbalance.
This description suggests that a player should be in the ready position only during the time it takes for the pitch to travel from the pitcher's hand to the hitting zone. Players should be taught to step into their ready position as the pitcher reaches the pivot position.

In a proper ready position, the toes should he pointed straight ahead, the feet should be approximately shoulder width apart, and the pivot foot should be slightly behind the striding foot (the pivot foot is the glove hand foot). If you drew a line from the right toe of a right handed infielder to his left foot, it should align with the instep. The knees should be flexed, the hips lowered, shoulders squared, head and eyes facing the hitting zone, and the hands in front of the body.

The Fielding Position

The key to a good fielding position is balance. To achieve this balance, a player must form a wide base. That is to say, his feet should be at least shoulder width apart with the knees bent and the back straight. The hands should be well out in front of the body with the back of the glove near the ground. The throwing hand should be above the glove or to the side of the glove. As a player moves forward to field a ground ball, his forward momentum should change to a downward momentum to field the ball and then back to a forward momentum as he prepares to throw.

Repetition is very important in teaching young players good habits. Fielding drills should be designed to help condition players so that they execute the same fundamentals over and over again. As a coach, help players develop good fielding habits and you will win more games and develop your players.

For more baseball fielding tips and baseball fielding drills visit the Dick Birmingham Sports Championship Baseball Drill Book at

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick