The Baseball Zone Blog

Rick Johnston | Oct 10, 2014 6:00:00 AM

The BIG 5 Areas That High School Infielders Must Work On

The headline may seem simple enough. At the same time it may appear as these are the only areas of defense one should focus on. Well, I really wish it was this simple. Unfortunately playing the infield is more than just five areas,. However, the five areas that I will talk about are really the five main problem areas that the average High School infielder can get away with today, but will cost them dearly at the College level. 

Infielders that make the following five areas an absolute priority in their overall development will find the transition to the next level of defense that much easier.

  1. Playing too deep...

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Topics: infielding, infielding tips, infielding errors, infield play, college baseball, high school baseball, short hops, ground ball pursuit, fielding hops, bad hops

Rick Johnston | Jun 5, 2014 9:59:31 AM

Ground Ball Pursuit...Just How Fast Should An Infielder Move?

Good infielders usually spend an inordinate amount of time working on the fundamentals of how to field a ground ball as far as their physical mechanics, footwork, glove action and making the throw. However, what is often left out is the need to work on developing the feel for how an infielder really needs to approach a ground ball. In other words, just how fast or slow should an infielder approach a ground ball. This is one of the biggest fundamental areas that often gets left out or falls by the way side when working the art of fielding ground balls

Anytime a ground ball is hit, it is generally imperative each infielder moves toward the ball at a controlled rate of speed. This type of movement or momentum achieved by the infielder helps to cut down distance of the play and also assists in the elimination of fielding balls on the bad or middle hop. The middle hop is the tweener, the hop that must be avoided at all costs. The best infielders in the game always seem to get the good hop, they have the uncanny or instinctive ability (or seemingly so - the truth is it is developed via 1000's of reps) to flow with the hop and actually find a way to control the speed of the ball with their movement and make the play seem effortless.

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Topics: infielding, infielding tips, fielding instruction, fielding skills, infielding errors, fielding drills, infielding drills, infield play, short hops, ground ball pursuit, fielding hops, bad hops

Rick Johnston | Apr 14, 2014 6:03:00 PM

26 Points for Excellent Verbal Infield Communication

What does the verbal communication mean in the infield?

Throughout the history of baseball, both verbal and nonverbal signs have been delivered as a form of communication to and from players, coaches and managers from the same team as a way to disguise or hide various types of strategy and intentions. When communication comes from a coach or manager it is usually done in the form of nonverbal signs or a sequence of signs to a hitter, baserunner or the defense. This type of language or form of communication is the most obvious form of interaction that the average fan is able to see when watching on TV. It certainly does not mean the transmission of the sign will be known to the fan, let alone the 

opposition, but it is a well known practice to most who watch the game. This nonverbal system is primary approach that is used most, similar to one learning sign language or reading lips.

There is, however, a very standard form of verbal communication that is used in the infield by each infielder when situations apply in games (and failing to do so is my top pet peeve of infielders). The following is a look at some of the primary verbal cues infielders need to communicate when the communication is necessary.

First Baseman:

1.     Remind the second baseman to talk on ground balls in the 3-4 hole. If the second baseman can make the verbal call immediately, “ball, ball, ball” the first baseman can release back to the base.

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Topics: infielding, infielding tips, team Defence, baseball communication, bunt defense, defensive baseball, infield play, infield communication

Rick Johnston | Jun 18, 2013 9:33:00 AM

12 General Mental Tips for Better Infield Play

Where is YOUR mind in between pitches???

Baseball is without question very much a game of thoughts and has been referred by some as a “thinking man’s game”. Unlike other sports like hockey, basketball or soccer as examples, there is a tremendous amount of downtime in a baseball game. During these downtimes or rest phases of each game, the minds of each player, coach or manager will constantly be shifting and swaying with each pitch, each out and each complete inning played. Players try and out-think other players; pitchers and catchers try to out think hitters; and coaches and managers try to out think opposing coaches and managers. Sometimes, however, infielders (and outfielders) do too much thinking and fail to hone in on simple, yet general mental aspects of infield play...or sometimes let their minds wander to never never land.

The following is a short list of 12 mental considerations for more consistent infield play.

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Topics: baseball instruction, baseball coaching, defence, infielding, infielding tips, team Defence, mental performance, fielding instruction, baseball skills, defensive baseball, infield play

Rick Johnston | May 28, 2013 7:02:00 AM

Practicing the Double Play - How? How Often? How Important Is It?

The Double Play…a different look

The formation of any good team defense is up the middle. The foundation of that defense is usually centered around the combination and teamwork of the middle infielders. When working in harmony together, they will form the backbone of the team defense. That being said, their ability to turn and complete a double play at a key or pivotal moment in a game can possibly signify the difference between a win or a loss in the standings. But how often does this occur? And how much of your valuable practice time should be dedicated to the mastery of turning the double play?

When discussion of double play does come about, it should not come about as a primary defensive skill that needs to be worked on more than simply taking routine balls. I am not saying the double play should not be a part of any team's main daily defensive work - what I am saying is that, as important as the double play is to teams at pivotal points of games, take this as food for thought. In 2012, only 3 MLB teams turned more than 1 double play per game. Just think about that - only 3 teams turned at least 1 double play per game. Wow…who would have thought? Well, then think about it this way, 27 MLB teams turned less than 1 double play per game. 2 of those teams turned just over half a double play per game. It is safe to say that MLB teams, loaded with the best middle infielders in the world, who play on the best fields in the world, on average only turn 1 double play per game. Now, ask yourself this question…how much time should be spent on working on the skill development of double plays? Has it changed yet?

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Topics: baseball instruction, baseball coaching, infielding, infielding tips, fielding instruction, double play

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