Francisco Lindor might be most spectacular defender in baseball.
Not only did the 23-year-old Cleveland Indians shortstop win a Gold Glove award last season, he also captured the Platinum Glove, a fan-voted award given to the best overall defender in the American and National Leagues.
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The way Lindor plays defense, you might think he was gifted with ESP. His anticipation and instincts allow him to make difficult plays look routine and nearly impossible plays look only mildly challenging.
How did his glove get so good? It all began when Lindor was a 6-year-old kid in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.
Lindor’s father, Miguel, would stand halfway up a steep hill that ran alongside the Lindor household, armed with a bat and a set of yellow rubber balls. Frankie stood at the bottom of the hill with his glove.
Miguel would hit grounders downhill toward his son. The balls had heat on them to begin with, but when you factor in the angle of the hill, Miguel might as well have been launching missiles at young Francisco. Lindor did his best to field every single ball, knowing that if one got by him, he would have to make a 200-yard trek into the bushes behind him to retrieve it.
“They’d skip pretty fast,” Lindor told Indians.com last March. “I just had to attack the ball and get that good hop. Once it went up, I’d charge the ball.”
Avoiding a venture into the thick bushes was an extra incentive. “I never wanted to go chase the ball and hide in the bushes. I was scared of the bushes. I didn’t know what was in there, so I had to do whatever it took to make sure I read the bat the right way, read the hop of the ball and try to catch it, keep it in front of me at least,” Lindor told ESPN. “There’s a lot of people that helped me throughout my career. I can’t forget about them, but my pops is unbelievable. Most of the things I know, I owe to him.”
The drill might sound scary, but the use of rubber balls ensured Lindor wouldn’t get seriously injured. If you’d like to try it yourself, make sure you do the same.
The instincts, hand-eye coordination and fearlessness Lindor built at the bottom of that hill are big reasons why he’s able to make plays like this in the big leagues:
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