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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tips for diving after ground balls

Being a defensive minded baseball person by nature, I love watching highlights of great defensive plays by infielders.  For me, a player diving for a ball and getting up to throw a strike to first base is better than watching a batter hit a game winning home run. 

Although some of these Major League infielders have extraordinary physical abilities that cannot be taught, there are some technical aspects of making a play like this that can be learned.  The key of course is make time to practice them.  Some might argue that practicing “Web Gems” is fluff and a waste of time.  I disagree.  It not only adds some spice to the monotony of practice but may even lead to an unbelievable play to save a  game!
When practicing your diving, work on including the following: 

Dive with both arms out.  If you dive with only your glove arm extended, it will be very hard to get up after the catch.  Having both arms outstretched on the dive allows you to push up with both arms instead of just one.

Twins shortstop JJ Hardy dives with both arms out.
(Photo by Mike Carlson, AP)
Angle towards the outfield.  When you dive, try to get into the habit of diving slightly towards the outfield.  This allows you a little more time to reach ground balls because the ball is traveling a few feet farther before you touch it.

Bring your feet to your hands.  After catching and landing with both arms outstretched, plant your hands on the ground and bring your feet up to where your hands are.  Your momentum on the dive should allow this to happen fairly easily.  What players don’t want to do is try to do a pushup with their arms.  That will require a player to stop his momentum before doing the pushup to get up.  Use your momentum on the dive to your advantage.

Land wide.  When you bring your feet to your hands, be sure to land with your feet wide – slightly more than shoulder width.  This will immediately put your body in a strong base which is better suited for a long, strong throw.

Land with your front side facing your target.  This takes some body control but try to land not only with your feet wide but turn your body as you are coming up to enable your front side to point to the target when you land.  This is not always possible depending on where the ball is hit but it can be a big help in saving time before throwing.

One hop the throw. Especially on long throws, don’t be shy about throwing a one hop throw to first base.  A low, line-drive throw that bounces once will usually get to first base more quickly than a big, slow arcing one.

This clip shows all the above tips in action except the one hop throw.  Keep pausing it to see each step of the process.


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