How to Field a Baseball

Everyone loves offense, but pitching and defense win games.  These pro tips for how to field a baseball will help you win games.  This is Part 1 of How to Field a Baseball.  Don’t miss part 2, which is proper mechanics for fielding a ground ball.

how to field a baseball; fielding tips from the pros

About the Author:  “If you hit it to him [Doug Bernier, NY Yankees shortstop], you’re out. That’s the bottom line. He’s really consistent and he has range and he can do some things.” – Joe Girardi, Manager for the New York Yankees.  Image by Joe Territo

Tip #1: The Secret is to Use Your Feet

Many smooth fielders look like they have soft hands, but it is actually their feet that allow their hands to work so freely. In other words, FOOTWORK COUNTS! The better your footwork, the easier your glove work becomes and the smoother it looks. Once you stop your feet, your risk of letting the baseball dictate what is going to happen skyrockets. When your feet shut down, your hands follow, and your body tends to get stiff. So keeping your feet moving is a huge key. This is something I will explain in more detail in the following articles on fielding.

Tip #2: Position your Glove for Maximum Benefit

Another MUST for fielding ground balls is to take your glove hand and push the heel of your wrist toward the baseball (see pictures below). Ideally you want it more perpendicular than parallel to the ground. This allows you to use all of your glove. It will also prevent balls that take a little hop from rolling up your arm. This is something many infielders don’t get taught but helps a lot when the baseball takes a late tricky hops. To illustrate, this glove position (below) is NOT ideal, because doesn’t make full use of the glove’s surface area:

how to field a baseball - wrong way view 1

Wrong

How to field a baseball - This is what NOT to do, view 2

Wrong

This position (below) is much better because it lets you use the entire surface area of the glove, and it doesn’t allow balls that take late hops roll up your arm.  You’d be surprised how many fielders overlook this important detail.

How to field a ground ball in baseball - correct, view 1

Correct

Proper mechanics of how to field a baseball - correct, view 2

Correct

A good drill that incorporates proper glove position and moving your feet.  Start with your arm and glove exactly how you want to field the baseball.  Now when a ground ball is hit, move your feet ONLY and don’t move your hand or glove.  Use your feet to get the baseball.  Pre set your glove and field with your feet.  If you can get good at this drill you will make fielding a lot easier.

While we’re at it, here are a few more defensive tips for how to field a baseball.  Each of these tips will be talked about in more detail, in some of the following defensive articles.

  • Keep it natural

    When fielding a ground ball, do not make your glovehand cross your body. It is NOT ideal to catch the baseball in the center of your body or to your right side, but rather more to the side of your glove hand.  In other words, the ball, your glove, and your left pectoral should be in a straight line. This allows your glove to work more freely in front of you, since it doesn’t have to slide across your body. When the left hand is trying to work on the right side of the body, people tend to get tense. This is when mistakes happen.

  • Keep your hands extended

    This is for two reasons: (a) the ball and glove are always in your line of vision (!!!!); and (b) on a bad hop, you still have room to bring your glove into your body to make the play.

  • Relax your glove hand
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    Relax your glove hand while fielding a ball. All of your reflexes are quicker when you are relaxed. Also, the ball seems to stick in your glove easier without tensing up and fighting it.

  • Start low

    With a short hop from a throw or a hard hit ball, start with your glove on the ground and work up to field this ball. These are very difficult plays, but it is easier and quicker to move up than down.

  • Attack

    Attack with your glove but most importantly with your mentality.  It is necessary to have an aggressive (but under control) attitude when approaching a ground ball.  A quality infielder dictates how he is going to field the ground ball.  A below average infielder lets the ball dictate how he is going to field the ball.

  • Stay balanced

    When the ball is secure in your glove, bring it to your chest. Keeping the ball in the middle of your body helps keep you balanced and in a strong position to throw.

  • Left arm as your guide

    After your glove is at your chest, get your shoulders turned to the base you are throwing to. Use your left shoulder and elbow, as your guide, keeping them in line with the base you are throwing to.

  • A Four Seam Grip is a must for an infielder

    Every time you throw a baseball, get a four-seam grip on the ball. This means your index and middle finger are across the horseshoe. No matter where on the ball your fingers are, you are never more than a quarter-turn of the ball away from getting that ideal 4-seam grip. This may seem difficult, but all infielders do this. This grip keeps the ball flying straight and with the proper backspin, and will help your throws to be more accurate. If you only get a two-seam, one-seam, or no seam grip, the ball will most likely sink, run, or dive. So work on getting a four-seam grip every time.

Click here to get these tips in a printable cheatsheet.

More about How to Field a Baseball:

These articles apply for all infielders. The mechanics of how to field a baseball are the same everywhere on the infield. Sometimes footwork may be slightly modified depending on where you are throwing the ball. But a ground ball is the same at first base as it is at shortstop.

Note: Keep in mind that these instructions are written for the right handed infielder. If you are left handed, you should do it the opposite way.

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger's AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

6 Comments

  1. Very useful article. I too am a big fan of getting the 4-seam grip on the baseball. It takes a little practice because there isn’t much time. It’s identical to a 4-seam fast ball that pitchers throw = straight and fast. Unlike the finesse fast balls that pitchers throw that have more movement. We certainly don’t want a throw “sailing” to a first baseman and fooling him, just like it would fool a hitter. Good job!

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