Baseball season is around the corner, and there’s no better time than now to refine your fundamental skills.
For first basemen, catching a routine throw from the infield may seem like one of the most basic skills of the game. However, there’s nothing routine about snagging a one-hop throw or sweeping up a ball in the dirt.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote about New York Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira and his first-base tutorials with the club’s off-season acquisition, super-utility player Kelly Johnson. (The article is for ESPN Insiders only.)
Teixeira is a five-time Gold Glove Award-winner and one of Major League Baseball’s elite defenders at first base.
Olney writes that “Teixeira is extremely knowledgeable about the position and [is] precise” with his footwork and fielding fundamentals.
The fielding work consisted of a Yankees coach “using a fungo bat to smash hard grounders at Teixeira, simulating bad throws to first, with the ball skipping and bouncing and short-hopping,” Olney explains in the article.
Here are four of the coaching points Tex relayed to Johnson:
1. Start with both heels touching the bag as you wait for the throw, “so [you] know where the base is.”
2. Stride toward the ball as it’s thrown, which will enable you to adjust your reach to the ball and catch the hop in an optimal position.
3. Lower your head as the ball travels toward the base, so it’s almost on the same plane as your glove. This will put you in the best position to see the ball into the glove.
4. Field the ball on the fair side of the foul line, to keep out of the way of the baserunner running down the line.