The most neglected part of coaching at the amateur level is routine.
Even the most skilled infielders at any level will lose focus, concentration, and rhythm due to lack of routine.
Some players may have a routine, though they are not even aware of it. If you want the same results every time, why not do the same preparation for each pitch.
It is hard to see the game on television as an art. The players are nothing but performers, demonstrating their art on each pitch.
The most visible routines you can see from watching the game on television are at the plate.
Notice every big league hitter will have his own routine before he steps in the box and between each pitch.
Whether it is tap left cleat, right cleat, look at barrel, deep breath in/out, tap plate, point bat at pitcher or whatever it may be, if you watch closely you will notice it is the same every single pitch.
If you were to go to a big league game and do nothing but keep your eyes on one specific infielder you would notice him doing the exact same thing before each pitch, and possibly even after.
As an infielder, think of it as a two step process, “getting into the pitch” and “getting out of the pitch.”
One of the biggest problems we have as infielders is getting out of the last pitch. That is why so many coaches stress playing the game “one pitch at a time.”
This is why some players can make an error in the 1st inning, and make 5 plays later in that game without an error, and others compound their error with another error or mental lapse.
The game of baseball is meant to be played at a very leisurely pace, so you should keep your mind at an easy pace as well. You do not need to be dialed in while on defense several minutes at a time each inning.
Rather you need to be dialed in for about a half second, for each pitch.
For example: Pitcher pitches ball, you stand up, relax, kick the dirt around, look at a girl in the stands, see the pitcher about to start the windup out of corner of your eye, and BANG…right back into the next pitch.
Routine varies from middle to corner infielders, but one constant is that everyone must be in a low, athletic position as the ball enters the hitting zone.
Corner infielders have a lot less reaction time, so they need to be in their starting position on time and ready to move quicker than a middle guy.
Most big leaguers will have a slight creep (a right, left) step, then followed by a small hop as the ball is about to enter the hitting zone.
It is important to time the hop correctly. You do not want to still be in the air and coming down while the ball is coming off the bat, yet you do not want to be flat or at a stand still either.
Middle infield is easier to have a pre-pitch routine simply because you have a lot more time to react.
Middle infielders can also vary more in what they like to do as a pre-pitch routine.
Personally, when I see the pitcher beginning windup, I like to tap my glove with my hand (to initiate it is time to go and I am back in mentally), I like then to creep left right left.
Some middle guys prefer to hop, and that is great as well. One problem you can get into either way is not getting both feet down and squared up at the right time.
After the pitch is delivered, if the ball was not put in play, I always kick right, kick left, stretch neck out right, strech neck out left, breathe and pick something out to look at to ensure my mental focus is taking a break as well.
A routine is a small part of infield play, but if you have one it will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your game. Especially if you’re the type of infielder that can make play after play, especially in practice, but when playing, the game speeds up on you.
It takes no real effort, but just a little bit of concentration and awareness.