T.J. Bruce, Long Beach State infielders coach, provides five tips to help shortstops turn the perfect 6-4-3 double play.
1. Pre-pitch Most shortstops make the mistake of being flat-footed during the hitter's contact period, which creates a bad first step. Don't follow the ball the entire way from the pitcher's hand to the hitter. As a SS, or any infielder, time the pitcher's delivery out of the corner of your eye. Once the pitcher's arm gets to his release point, your eyes should focus on the hitter's point of contact.
2. First Step This needs to be executed one of two ways
A. As an explosive crossover to your right or left
B. As an aggressive step to where you can get a good hop.
A good first step allows the SS to range to his left or right, which can turn a hit into an inning-ending double play.
3. Create a Hop A strong first step will get the SS in position to attack the best hop. There are three hops an infielder can get in baseball: short hop, long hop and in-between hop. To be in the best fielding position for turning two, you need to get a long or short hop. So use your feet to ensure one of these ideals hops.
4. Secure the Catch When attacking the baseball on a routine double play, there is a "settle" period in which an infielder can get his body under control for the best position to get the lead out. Always secure the first out before going after the second. The SS does not have to rush, but he must be precise and quick. Do this, and the double play will take care of itself.
5. Feed to Second Baseman There are different feeds to the 2B:
A. Ball right at you: Stay in athletic position while staying low to ground during feed // Avoid loopy/lofty feed // Feed should be firm and on a straight line, uphill toward 2B's throat area [that way if you miss down, you will hit him in the chest] // Aim feed to first base side of second base bag so 2B can catch ball with momentum toward first
B. Ball to your left: Never shuffle feet while going for ball // Make ball visible to 2B at all times // Aim feed toward back half of second base bag, saving 2B from injury
C. Ball to your right: Hardest double play to turn // Secure catch and get feed in general vicinity of second base bag, putting pressure on 2B to turn two // Focus on getting lead out
2B Coaching Points for a 6-4-3:
Approach to Bag When approaching the bag, a 2B needs to keep shoulders squared to where the ball will be coming from. Keep glove hand and throwing hand palms pointed toward SS to give him a target. Keep your feet moving by shuffling up and down, and avoid being flatfooted. Place left foot on middle or back part of bag to allow you to perform multiple pivots [contingent on where the ball is thrown]. The right foot will go in the direction to where the ball is thrown, causing a crossover effect.
Catching the Ball The 2B's glove should be turned 45 degrees, which creates a redirection with the exchange. Never squeeze your glove to stop the ball; just redirect the ball on the exchange, go from glove straight to your ear. When receiving the feed, if it's thrown at or above the waist, your glove and throwing hand need to be thumb-to-thumb; if feed is below waist, keep glove and throwing hand pinky-to-pinky. Always bend at the knees, not at the waist, to receive a low toss.
Footwork Catch the ball while simultaneously getting your right foot to the ground—creating a tap-dance effect. When racing to the bag, maintain body control; and when planting your left foot to throw, gain ground to shorten the distance of the throw. Place left foot so your hips are slightly open, allowing body to clear front hip; and bring right foot over left foot to follow through in throw to first base. During follow through, left leg needs to be slightly bent just in case runners slide into leg.
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