When learning how to play baseball, fielding a ground ball is one of the first things that is taught. Knowing how to field ground balls is vital to any player who wants to make the starting lineup, but often the fundamentals are overlooked. What are the fundamentals of fielding a ground ball?
The fundamentals of fielding a ground ball include starting in the ready position, assessing the hit, getting in front of the ball, taking quick steps, keeping your glove down, using two hands to field, and making the throw.
Knowing the fundamentals of fielding a ground ball isn’t just reserved for beginners; major league players practice their fielding fundamentals on a daily basis. It’s important to revisit the fundamentals to reduce the chances of errors during a game and to keep your skills sharp. Let’s go over the 7 fundamentals of fielding a ground ball. At the end of this article, we’ll also cover some additional ways that outfielders can field a ground ball.
This article is one part of a guide on baseball fundamentals. Read my complete guide on breaking down every baseball fundamental for every position.
7 Fundamentals Of Fielding A Ground Ball
When younger players are just starting out, the physical fundamentals of fielding a ground ball are the most crucial to nail down. Without knowing and practicing the proper fundamentals, kids are unsure what to do when a ground ball is hit their way.
A player with good fundamentals has a much better opportunity to make a play, get the out, and reduce the chance of injury from not knowing how to properly field a ball. So let’s go over what each of those fundamentals entails.
1) Start in the Ready Position
Whenever a pitcher is about to deliver a pitch, all players must get ready for the batter to make contact with the ball. The ready position allows players to be in the best possible position to make a play.
To get in the ready position, lean slightly forward so your shoulders are over your toes, have a slight bend in both of your knees, and keep your hips back.
2) Assess The Hit
Some ground balls come nice and easy and some you’ll need to hustle after. Some ground balls bounce hard off the ground, and if you move forward, the ball will fly over your head. Some will be weak ground balls and you’ll need to sprint forward. Fielding a ground ball is a fast calculation that takes a whole lot of practice to master.
But as you get older and gain more experience, an accurate assessment of a ground ball is more a matter of paying attention and keeping your head in the game. Eventually, reading the ball off of the bat will become second nature. That is, so long as you practice regularly, take the drills seriously, and hustle like you mean it.
3) Get in Front of the Ball
The concept is simple, but it’s not always easy: get in front of the ball and stay low.
Instead, people try to field a ball sideways, between the legs, lean over, or catch it as they run past. Not getting in front of the ball is a recipe for errors. Hustle, get in front of the ball, and stay low.
This is also easier said than done. Many times players have some fear about getting in front of the baseball. Learn about 4 tricks to overcome the fear of catching a baseball.
4) Take Small and Quick Steps
Some players may have long legs, but using “fancy feet” by taking small and quick steps can help a player adjust on a dime. Long strides mean a player commits to one direction, but the ball may not go in that direction due to an uneven diamond, the spin from the hit, or an odd angle thanks to the ball’s seam hitting the ground just right.
5) Keep Your Glove Down
You need to be in charge, not the ball. If you’ve got your glove down, you can always get to the ball, even if the ball goes high. It’s much easier to bring the glove up to field a ground ball than it is to bring the glove down to field a ground ball.
If you are up and the ball goes low, you can easily lose it between your legs as you drop your glove. So take charge and keep that glove low.
6) Use Two Hands When Fielding
Always use two hands when fielding a ground ball. In fact, you should also use two hands when catching a fly ball.
Using two hands means having your glove scoop the ball, but then having your other hand nearby so you can cover up the glove as soon as the ball enters your glove.
The ball comes, funnel it up into your chest with two hands, and then…next step.
7) Make The Throw
Once you’ve fielded the ball and it’s funneled up into your chest, throw it to the appropriate base.
Always be aware of the situation so you know which base to throw to. For example, if there are no base runners on and you field a ground ball in the infield, the throw will go to first base.
Making an accurate throw is crucial for all fielders so make sure you also practice the 3 fundamentals of throwing a baseball.
3 Ways to Field a Ground Ball in the Outfield
While the fundamentals of fielding a ground ball are the same for every position, outfielders have 3 additional ways they can field a ground ball. Each way depends upon the situation of the game. What are the 3 ways to field a ground ball in the outfield?
The 3 ways to field a ground ball in the outfield include placing one knee on the ground, fielding a ground ball like an infielder, and fielding a ground ball while moving. Fielding a ground ball while moving is generally considered the riskiest way to field a ground ball in the outfield.
Let’s go over what each of those methods entails.
1) One Knee on the Ground
When there is nobody on base and there is no risk that the base runner will be trying to advance towards second base, an outfielder should place one knee on the ground when fielding a ground ball.
Fielding a ground ball with one knee on the ground allows outfielders to cleanly field the ball while also making themselves into a barrier in case the ball misses the outfielder’s glove.
As an outfielder, it’s a terrible feeling knowing that you missed a ground ball and base runners are advancing because the ball went by you. It’s much better to let the ball hit you and prevent that runner from advancing. The ground ball has already had a long way to travel so if it does hit you, it won’t hurt (or you’ll feel it for a few seconds).
2) Fielding a Ground Ball Like an Infielder
When no one is on base and there is a little bit of a risk that the base runner will advance to second base, outfielders can field the ball like an infielder. This allows outfielders to quickly and cleanly field the ball and then get the ball into the infield as quickly as possible.
3) Fielding a Ground Ball While Moving
The riskiest way, and sometimes most rewarding way, to field a ground ball in the outfield is while on the run. Outfielders would field a ball this way when they have a chance to throw out a base runner, especially when the base runner is advancing home.
For an outfielder to field a ball while on the move, they’ll want to make sure they field the ball by the leg that is on their glove side. For example, a right-handed outfielder should scoop the ball with their glove just outside of their left foot.
Being in this position allows an outfielder to quickly jump into their crow hop after fielding the ground ball.
Fielding a ground ball is a habit that becomes fairly natural with practice. The biggest problem with players as they advance through the ranks is keeping their glove down as the ball approaches. As long as players consistently practice and hustle, they will be a solid defensive player in no time.