Softball infielders have the same responsibilities as their baseball counterparts, such as handling ground balls, trying to turn double plays or catching the ball in the air whenever possible. Even if you know the proper mechanics for your position, however, plays may occur so quickly that you can’t stop to think about what you should do. Frequent drilling provides the muscle memory to help you accomplish these tasks without pausing to consider your technique.
Beginner’s Ground Ball Drill
Roll grounders to infielders to get them comfortable with the basic mechanics before you start hitting ground balls at them. Line up the infielders at the desired spot on the diamond -- the usual second base position may be a good place to start because they’ll have a short throw to first. Roll a grounder to each infielder, who handles the ball in her glove and throws to a first baseman. Each fielding player then returns to the end of the line. Roll the first ground balls directly to each fielder. On subsequent grounders, roll the balls to the glove side, or the backhand side, or force the fielders to charge short grounders. You can also move the fielders to different positions, or have them throw to different bases.
You can begin teaching infielders how to handle a grounder on the backhand side without using a ball. Have the infielders assume a ready stance, then have them reach toward their backhand side while simultaneously stepping in the same direction with their glove-side legs. A right-handed fielder, for example, reaches her glove down and to the right for the imaginary grounder, and also crosses her left leg in front of her right to step toward the ball. When the fielders are comfortable with the basic motion have them take another step with the throwing-side leg -- the right leg, for right-handers -- while their body rises into a throwing position. With the throwing-side leg planted, they’re now in position to throw the ball. You can also perform the drill by rolling or hitting grounders to each infielder’s backhand side.
Double Play Drill
Outs aren’t easy to come by in softball, so it’s important to convert a high percentage of your double play opportunities. To help teach second basemen and shortstops the mechanics of throwing and catching double play feeds, arrange the players in two lines with each line facing the other. The front players in each line move forward, with one player tossing the ball to the other. The thrower runs to the end of the other line, while the receiver continues forward and the player who was behind the original thrower moves up to catch the ball. The players continue the pattern, weaving back and forth. They can begin with short underhand tosses, then progress to longer overhand throws. All throws should be chest-high and should be caught with two hands.
Quick, accurate relay throws can cut down baserunners and help keep opponents off the scoreboard. To practice catching relays from the outfield and throwing quickly to the appropriate base, line up a group of players in the outfield grass, just past the infield. The players will face the outfield, catch a throw, then turn and throw to the designated base. A right-handed infielder should catch the ball near her left shoulder, if possible. As she catches the ball, she begins stepping back toward the target with her left leg. Once she secures possession of the ball she’s in position to throw.
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