As an infielder, you spend hours and hours taking thousands of ground ball repetitions to make it look easy. There is one part of being an infielder that very few people work on, especially at the lower levels of baseball. The very fundamental part of the game that I see get butchered on a daily basis is catching infield fly balls.
Catching a fly ball in the infield is a much tougher task than catching a fly ball in the outfield for the simple fact that infielders rarely attempt to catch fly balls. As a pitcher, anytime you can get a hitter to pop up, you HAVE to record the out defensively. Too many times infielders misjudge the fly ball (usually by underplaying it) and the ball lands behind them.
Here are a few tips to catching infield fly balls:
- As soon as the ball is in the air, sprint and get BEHIND the baseball. This means you need to go farther into the outfield than you think the ball will land. It is much easier to come in on a ball than to try to back peddle because you misjudged it.
- Catch the ball with relaxed arms. Too many coaches preach to catch the ball above your head. Doing this tenses up your arms and your hands. Catching the ball with relaxed arms right around head level will make for a much easier catch.
- Catch the ball however it feels comfortable. This one will rub people the wrong way, but I don’t care if you catch the ball with one hand or two. In my opinion, having the second hand by the glove does not prevent the ball from popping out. The most important thing is to CATCH the baseball. Players catch thousands of baseballs over their career with one hand while playing catch, I don’t understand why they can’t be trusted to do the same during a fly ball. If the ball pops out, it means you didn’t catch the ball in the right spot.
- PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE: The only way to get better at this is to practice catching infield fly balls. This is not the same as going out to the outfield to work because the angle of the ball is much steeper in the infield. The best thing to do is to get a machine that can get the balls way up into the air.
Catching fly balls MUST be a strength of yours as an infielder. There is no better way to look bad than to misjudge an infield fly ball and have it land behind you while you’re falling down trying to catch it!