Updated: Jan 30
The best baseball infield drill to increase defensive range is the side to side ground ball drill. The side to side ground ball drill works on an infielder’s lateral quickness, agility, stopping and starting ability, and making difficult backhand and forehand plays on ground balls. In baseball, the ball is rarely hit right at you so being able to move explosively in any direction, to not only field the ball but to also make a quick accurate throw is important.
Be sure to watch the video because I am going to be competing in a side to side ground ball challenge where If I fail I will have to lay on my stomach and get to my feet without the use of my arms while getting relentlessly pegged with tennis balls.
To set up for the drill you will need four cones, six balls, and a coach, partner, parent, or wall. Place two cones three feet apart making one “net”, walk 6 paces in a straight line where the other two cones can be placed three feet apart making the second “net”, and finally place the six balls in a pile for your coach, partner, or parent, 8 walking paces forwards starting from exactly between the two “nets”. The setup of the two cone “nets” and pile of balls will make a large triangle. If you are using a wall as your “partner”, then tape a square target on the wall 10 walking paces forwards from exactly between the two cone ‘nets”.
The side-to-side ground ball drill consists of the coach, parent, or partner rolling six balls side to side as the player tries to be a goalie by doing whatever it takes to stop the ball from going into the cone “nets”. The player can use their hands, feet, knees, and body to field, dive, slide, and block the ball. The drill begins with the player starting in between the two nets and reacting in whichever direction the coach rolls the first ball. Once the player does field or block the ball, they need to immediately get up and make a strong accurate throw to a target, teammate, or the coach (if they have a glove). As soon as the player releases their thrown ball, or if they miss the ball, the next ball should immediately be rolled towards the opposite net so that the player has to sprint the opposite direction to field ball. If you are using the wall as your “partner”, start directly inside one of the cone “nets”, throw the ball at the taped square on the wall, and immediately sprint to go field the ball as it bounces towards the opposite net. The wall version is more difficult as you will have less time to react and an accurate throw is required in order to be able to repeatedly field balls back and forth.
As a coach, parent, or partner, if you are rolling the balls, challenge the player by rolling the ball with some pace on it (while adjusting for the age and stage of the player of course). The player should be sprinting back attempting to make forehand and backhand plays. As coaches, we should help players to learn and understand how to extend their range so that, through practice, they can start to make game like plays under pressure.