Catchers and shortstops are the two primary leaders on the field. They not only handle more plays than any other positions, they also work as on-field coaches. To do this successfully, they must be strong both athletically and emotionally. They must also possess the skills needed to get people to follow their lead. Today we’re taking you through some basic fielder training specific to the position and then we’ll talk about fostering shortstops into the leadership role.
To play shortstop effectively you first must consider the depth of the field. A shortstop will be positioned in different spots, closer or further away from the pitcher, depending on the situation on the field. The diagram below is a quick cheat sheet for properly positioning your players based on situation.
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Once they know where to play in every situation, you need to teach them how to position themselves to be ready when the pitch leaves the glove. What better person to learn ready positioning from than Derek Jeter?
Once you are standing deep enough and in the ready position, you’ll need to know how to move into active play. Here are tips on getting the footwork down to throw from any direction. As a shortstop, you’ll need a 180-degree radius. This video will show you how to accomplish that from head to feet.
Feel like you’ve mastered all these spots? Give a look at the video below. Jed Lowrie takes you through all the positions a shortstop plays most often, starting with ready position and moving you through the bags.
One of the most common plays a shortstop will be involved with is turning the double play. This has two primary components for proper execution, the feet and pivot. This drill is a bit longer but it will take you through the full scope of the process. It’s a great starting tool.
The shortstop will spend a lot of time working closely with the 2nd baseman. Ripken Baseball Academy uses the box drill to help shortstops-in-training properly execute the underhand flip. This is the soft toss to your 2nd baseman for the out.
Every great shortstop will need to learn to sacrifice their body to get to the ball. Diving is tricky business and can really open the body up to injury. Proper execution is crucial. You also don’t want your players risking their bodies regularly for the sake of practice. This drill practices the dive from the knees. It allows the upper body to get used to the sacrifice while also training the lower half how to get up to throwing position.
If you are new to the position and you feel like you might need a bit more training for each situation, take a look at this article. Written for training little leaguers, it goes over the situational responsibilities of a shortstop.
If you are self-training for the position, then you might find it helpful to read the 25 tips included in this article. They cover everything from positioning straight through to communication.
We’re going to take you through three basic drills already covered in the beginner section but these versions are a bit more advanced. They come away from the body mechanics side, assuming you have those now ingrained in your muscle memory, and work to improve your timing, positioning and strength on each play.
This first drill has three parts. It begins with the swivel, teaching guys to pivot their back foot for the throw to 2nd rather than wasting steps. Next up is the flip. This is the toss to the 2nd baseman from close range. It’s a different execution style than above. Finally, they work on training for backhanded catches.
Next up we have two ways to turn the double play. The first video goes over double play basics with Doug Bernier.
As nice as it is to practice the dive from the knees, you will need to work on the full motion from time-to-time. Once you have the upper body automatically dropping into a safe position, give this drill a try. It brings you through the full range of motion for a dive, catch and release to both sides.
Harold Reynolds joined Marcus Semien during a private workout to learn his tips for training and how to prepare mentally for the game.
As we talked about earlier, once a shortstop has the basics down physically, they must also train to be a leader on the field. Jimmy Rollins takes us through some leadership on the diamond tips.
This video is to remind coaches that training people for leadership is sometimes not about what you do but rather, what you let your players do for themselves.
Produced more for business, Derek Jeter talks about his 10 tips for success. Every one of them relates back to his work on the ball field. This could be an especially useful video for coaches to help tie on-field lessons back to everyday needs as players start to become independent decision makers in their personal lives.
A sign of a great leader is their willingness to learn from others. Here Dutch shortstop Didi Gregorius takes a few pointers from Alex Rodriguez.
The most effective move to creating a team atmosphere as a coach is to foster a strong relationship between your catcher and your shortstop. Yes, catchers need to be communicators and the pitching staff is their priority but the catcher and shortstop have a relationship that, when properly working, extends to the whole of the team.
In a well-coordinated organization, players know that catchers handle the battery and infield communication to short and that short takes over from there, spreading direction, information and encouragement through to the outfield.
These two players are the pivotal elements of the team and so a coach should spend a lot of time getting to know how they communicate and teaching them ways to effectively translate that to the field. As we discussed in our catcher training, if your shortstop is not a vocal person, you’ll need to find non-verbal ways for the information to make it to the intended target. Unlike a catcher, shortstops are, often times, surrounded by opposing players. Creating non-verbal ways of communicating with the team will be crucial to your defensive strategy.
More important however will be ensuring that your catcher and shortstop are continually sending the same message. If the catcher thinks the tag is on and your shortstop thinks your letting the runner go, your team’s defensive confidence will suffer. That is far more damaging than any fielding error.