This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Baseball-4th Edition by American Sport Education Program.
Catching Throws Drill
Players are divided into two groups; one group lines up in left field, and the other lines up in right field. For each group, a tosser takes a position about 15 feet in front of the line, facing the line. On the coach’s command, the first player in each line steps about 5 feet to the right of the line and assumes the proper catching position (as described in "Catching Throws"). The tosser throws a moderate-speed underhand throw to the player. As the ball is thrown, the tosser calls out a shortened form of one of the basic techniques of good catching-such as "throwing foot," "two hands," or "chest." The tosser makes sure that the player reacts accordingly (for "throwing foot," for example, the player should catch the ball with most of his weight positioned on his throwing-side foot when the ball enters the glove). After the catch, the player should pull the ball out of the glove, get into a good overhand throwing position, and "freeze." The player then gently tosses the ball back to the tosser and hustles to the end of the line as the next player steps out into position. As the players become more proficient, the tossers can move farther back, throw harder, and make the players do things faster. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Fielding Ground Balls
Another type of catching that players must become skilled at is fielding ground balls. Because these are hit balls, they can sometimes be traveling much faster than a thrown ball, so it is even more crucial that good catching techniques are used by fielders; otherwise, the chances of an error are multiplied.
Ready Position Before a ball is pitched, all fielders except the catcher and the pitcher should assume the ready position. In this stance, the player’s feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with the knees bent and the weight over the balls of the feet (see figure 8.13). The player’s head should face the area near home plate. The hands should hang low between the legs, with the glove open wide. From this ready position, the player can get a good jump on the ball and move quickly in the direction it is hit.
Moving to the Ball When a ground ball is hit in a player’s direction, he should move to the ball, keeping his glove-side shoulder to the right of the ball if he is right-handed (or to the left of the ball if he is left-handed). Leading with the glove, the player stays low and gets into a position where his body is in front of the ball. This can be best accomplished by taking a quick crossover step in the direction of the ball (if the ball is hit to the left or right of the fielder). The fielder must then get his body under control when the ball is about 15 feet away so that he can drop into fielding position. To do this, a right-handed fielder takes a step with his throwing-side foot toward the ball and lowers his body into fielding position; when the next step is taken with the glove-side foot, the feet are more than shoulder-width apart, and the ball is centered on the body. This technique is an important key to good fielding. Many fielders drop down too late and don’t have a chance to get into fielding position. Some never drop down at all and try to field the ball on the run.
Players should judge the speed and spin of the ball to determine where they need to move for good fielding position. With practice, players will learn to anticipate where the ball will bounce nearest to them and then move there to catch the ball. It’s best to stay low and catch the ball on a low hop, near the glove, rather than an "in-between hop" a few to several feet in front of the glove because in-between hops are much more difficult to gauge. Therefore, players need to learn to charge the ball-move toward it-to get that low hop. It’s much easier to field a ball when moving toward it than when rocking back on the heels and moving away from it.
Fielding the Ball
After moving to the ball, a player must get into the proper fielding position to field the ground ball. When the player moves his glove-side foot forward to center the body on the ball, the feet should be more than shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointed straight ahead. The throwing-side foot should be aligned slightly behind the glove-side foot so that the toes of the throwing-side foot are even with the instep of the other foot (see figure 8.14). The knees should be bent and the buttocks lowered to knee level. The player’s back should be almost parallel to the ground, and both arms should be outstretched in front of the body. The back of the fielder’s glove should be on the ground with the throwing hand either above it or alongside it. The fielder’s eyes should be focused on the ball. When the ball arrives, the player should watch it into the glove and then trap it with the throwing hand, as shown in figure 8.14. The player then cushions the ball toward his body with "soft" hands, bringing the hands to the belt area (this is called funneling the ball) as he moves into throwing position.
Fielding Ground Balls in the Outfield
Outfielders are your team’s last line of defense, and they must be able to field ground balls that get through the infield. Outfielders can use three fielding techniques to catch a ground ball:
• Block. This technique is used when there are no runners on base, when the ground is very bumpy, or when there’s no chance of throwing a runner out. The outfielder runs to get behind the ball, drops to the throwing-side knee, puts the back of the glove on the ground, and fields the ball between the legs (see figure 8.15a). This is the safest way to field a ground ball to the outfield.
• Scoop. This technique is for a do-or-die situation in which the tying or winning run is attempting to score and the outfielder must make a quick throw to the infield. It’s the riskiest method of fielding an outfield grounder and should be used only in situations where the game will be lost if the fielder doesn’t get the ball in quickly. The outfielder runs at the ball and scoops it up with the glove while on the move. The ball should be fielded to the outside of the glove-side leg just as the glove-side foot hits the ground (see figure 8.15b). The player then crow hops off the throwing-side foot (as shown in figure 8.3 on page 92) to make the throw.
• Infield style. This technique is used when there’s a chance to throw the runner out. The outfielder gets behind the ball and fields it like an infielder, with soft hands. The player must keep the body behind the ball to help block it if it takes a bad hop (see figure 8.15c).
The skip-and-throw technique will help your players get rid of the ball quickly after they’ve fielded it. While cushioning the ball into the glove, as discussed previously, the player lines up the glove-side shoulder and hip with the throwing target (see figure 8.16a). With eyes focused on the target and the glove in the center of the chest, the player skips forward and prepares to throw (see figure 8.16b). As the throwing hand leaves the glove, the arm extends down and back in a comfortable, relaxed position (see figure 8.16c). Pushing off the back leg, the player then throws over the top, moving the throwing shoulder and arm forward quickly. A strong wrist snap at the point of release will result in better accuracy, or if the player is close to the base being thrown to, a snap throw might be used. To follow through on the throw, the player points the throwing-side shoulder toward the target and lifts the back leg off the ground. The player’s momentum should be forward in the direction of the throw (see figure 8.16d).