One of the toughest things to do as an infielder is reading hops correctly. Especially when you have to play on certain amateur fields that are uneven or not maintained greatly, it is even tougher to read the hops.
There are three types of hops:
- The long hop
- The short hop
- The in-between hop
As an infielder, you always strive to get either the long hop or the short hop because they are easier to handle.
When a ground ball is hit at you, you have two choices:
Play the ball, or let the ball play you.
Some infielders prefer to stay back on balls, while others prefer to attack them.
Both can be successful, as long as they are reading the hops.
Many infielders see the ball, and they attack it without a plan and get whatever hop they get when they get to the ball.
This will lead to inconsistency fielding routine groundballs however, and our job as an infielder is to be as consistent as possible.
Learning how to get the correct hop:
Knowing what hops you want, and knowing how to get those hops are two completely different things.
Knowing how to get the right hop is a skill that must be practiced and maintained.
The best place to learn how to get a hop is on concrete or turf.
Have someone stand approximately 15 yards away and have him or her throw the ball so it will bounce 2-3 times before it gets to you.
Decide beforehand whether you are going to attack the short hop or the long hop.
Do a round where you are getting only short hops, then a round of getting only long hops. This will force you over time to learn when to lay back, when to attack, and when to pick the hop you want.
Once you have that down, take it to when you are getting ground balls on the field.
On some balls, you do not have the choice of long hop or short hop, but you always have to work to get one or the other.
General rules to live by:
If a ball comes off the bat, straight down, and bounces upward then ATTACK.
Hard two hoppers will have topspin, which will cause them to shoot, or take off. You want to either get the short hop on the 2nd bounce, or if not possible, lay back far enough to get the big hop.