Coaching Infield Mindsets and Skills surpasses the teaching of the physical skills of the game. When you think about it, you can physically demonstrate how to field a ball, turn a double play, make a proper tag, but at some point the player must take the responsibility and practice, practice, and practice until he reaches peak performance. However, you can see the visual improvement. Not so with mental comprehension.
Coaching the mental side of playing the infield is every bit as difficult, if not more so, than teaching physical skills. Baseball, by the very nature of the game, is known as a “Thinking Man’s Game,” because unlike most major sports, such as hockey, basketball or soccer which maintains a near continuous action, while baseball has a tremendous amount of downtime for players.
Infield Mindsets - Swipe Tag Is A Physical Skill
This downtime, waiting between innings, waiting to bat, waiting for the umpire, waiting, waiting, waiting, should not be wasted. In higher or older levels of baseball, coaches are changing strategies with each pitch, each out and each inning, while players try to out think their opponent, catcher and pitcher vs. the hitter and etc.
Sometimes this constant thinking will lead to burn out, over thinking or believe it or not, a wandering mind when the girl in the bleachers suddenly means more than the hitter.
Where is YOUR mind in between pitches?
This is what a coach must teach and I’m going to give you an outline of basics which can serve as a teaching guide. This is not all inclusive and feel free to add or delete as you see fit, but it’s a great place to start teaching mental preparedness in order to create more consistent infield play.
#1. Hit the ball to me:
If you actually want every ball to be hit to you, you can’t help but expect the ball, and you will always be in a position to make a play or know
where to go if the ball is not hit to you, as there are never spectators on the playing field.
Infield Mindsets - I Want The Ball !
#2. Pre-pitch movements must be consistent:
Let’s say during the game your pitcher happens to throw 90 total pitches. That means each infielder must get to their ready position 90 times, the same amount as the pitches. The moment you take a pitch off, not completely bend over or not follow the ball all the way to the plate,will be the time when the ball is hit to you.
#3. Play defense in real time:
What the heck is real time? Real time is the present, this very one pitch. Baseball is game where boredom can quickly set in, especially if your pitcher is a very slow worker or is enduring a wild streak. Learn to play defense in real time, don’t think about the next pitch, it is one pitch at a time. Stay on the balls of your feet, not back on your heels and know what you’ll do with the ball if it’s hit to you.
#4. Stay in a good mental zone:
Control the controllable and forget the uncontrollable. Don’t allow yourself to get caught thinking of how your last at bat went or where you didn’t go, but should have, on the previous play. Those plays are all History, unchangeable and the sooner you hit the delete button and move on, the better.
#5. Use the time between pitches to re-focus:
This may occur a thousand times during the season, but refocusing is required on every pitch. Is it not normal to re-focus between each pitch while hitting? Why should fielding be any different? This is the time to prepare, plan and position yourself to play.
#6. Know the speed of the runners:
This will help you gauge your amount of available time on each play, knowing if you must rush a throw to beat a speedy runner, or take a crow hop for the more accurate throw for a slower runner.
Infield Mindsets - Don't Compound Errors
#7. Don’t give up on booted ball:
Many infielders give up on the play once they have booted the ball, but You never know what could transpire because of the boot. Maybe a lead runner made a wide turn anticipating advancing to the next base and the infielder can recover and make a back door throw for an out. Learn “Don't give Up“, as this is a mental skill! It’s also a mental skill to not attempt to throw the ball for the out if it’s impossible to beat the runner. Know when to stuff it.
#8. Remember the hitters' tendencies:
Maintain a mental notebook, a physical one in the dugout if possible, on hitters with certain tendencies and position yourself accordingly. Know if
the hitter likes to hit to the opposite field or is a strict pull hitter. Does he like dropping down a bunt at least once every game? Do they spray the ball? Slap it? etc... Knowing these traits will enhance your chances of being properly positioned and making the play.
#9. Limit compounding errors:
Related to not giving up on a booted ball, when an infielder makes a fielding error, then he hurries up and tries to recover, only to make an errant throw over the first baseman’s head, and now has two errors on one play and a runner in scoring position. A player must practice and perfect the mental skill of being able to forget the immediate past in the middle of a physical movement. In other words he must be able to Stop in mid-action of throwing the ball because of the previous muff incurred a second ago.
Infield Mindsets - Keep Ball In The Infield
#10. Automatically dive on all balls with a runner on second base:
It’s sometimes natural for a player to decide subconsciously not dive for a ground ball when realizing he’ll never be able to catch, retrieve and throw the ball in order to get the batter out. However, with a runner on second base stopping the ball from going into the outfield most likely will stop that runner from scoring.
Better yet, often times the third base coach will assume the ball is going through to the outfield and will proceed to send the runner on to home in order to score. However, if the infielder dives, knocks the ball down and recovers, it’s possible to throw the runner out at plate. Be mentally prepared to do this when the situation presents itself.
#11. Know the base stealers:
Knowing who likes to steal bases will affect your positioning as well as your infield team’s defensive positioning. It could alter who covers a base and who changes responsibilities. It’s always a good idea to remind your teammates that certain guys like to run and to hold their positions as long possible in the event the ball is hit to a vacated spot on the infield.
#12. Never stop communicating:
Get in the habit of letting your infield teammates know where you are positioned; how you will be moving with the count; and where to make throws. True, experience and playing together will teach each player to know what the other will do in a particular situation, but it never hurts tobe reminded.
Utilize these 12 mental tips and help create infield mindsets of how to take control of their responsibilities and thoughts, which will become second nature and improve the level of play on the infield.Infield Mindsets to Infield