Fielding grounders is probably one of the most basic maneuvers in baseball and softball, but is often a hard concept to grasp for beginners. We’re not going to talk about the grounders that rip past you with no time to think or react. Rather, we’ll discuss the more typical type of grounder. Most grounders will come to you at a medium to slow speed, depending on your position. These grounders tend to give you a bit of a reaction time.
Coaches teach four basic things for fielding grounders (these tips are for beginners):
(1) Get in front of the ball and keep the ball in front of you at all times
Too many ground balls are caught off to the side or between the legs. You want to move (not charge) toward the path of the ball to create a barricade. This should be a sideways move (do not turn and run). If possible, you want to wait for the ball to get to you. Charging the ball just creates more opportunities for error unless the ball is a slow roller. Bullets won’t give you much time to charge anyway, but you really don’t want to run forward to chase it down. Why not? Well, because your depth perception is altered when you are running and you run the risk of the ball going right past you. Better to wait a few extra seconds and get a good stance and position than to run and risk missing it. Also, by staying in place, you can make adjustments in the case of an unexpected hop.
(2) Get in Ready position with your body and glove down
Players should be taught to stay low when a grounder is approaching. All too often, a player will remain in a standing position and get down too late to stop the ball. Instead, get yourself into position by shortening your steps and widening your feet. Keep your knees bent and bend a bit at the waist. You should be standing on the balls of your feet so you are ready to go any way as necessary. Put your glove in front of you and open it up so you’re prepared when the ball reaches you. Your bare hand should be in position too (we’ll discuss that in Tip #4).
(3) Use both hands
Your gloved hand will be the main catching implement, but your bare hand will become very important as well. Try to avoid catching the ball with your gloved hand only as this increased your risk of dropping the ball. With your glove on the ground, put the heel of your bare hand on the heel of your gloved hand. Keep your bare hand up so your hands are making a sort of “L” shape. This will keep you ready to secure the ball in your glove and allows you to grab the ball faster to throw to your cutoff man (outfield) or base (infield). See the ball all the way into your glove and don’t anticipate the throw or take your eye off the ball. Keep your head up but look the ball into your glove.