Backhands When Fielding Ground Balls
There are two different kinds of backhand plays while fielding ground balls.
Backhand through the ball with your glove hand foot open a little bit.
Backhand deep in the hole with your throwing hand foot crossed over, receiving the ball. We call these backhand plays having your feet split.
The ball will dictate whether you can play through the ball or if you have to range a lot you will end up doing the backhand with your feet split.
I will explain each one with the same starting point.
1. First you will start with you PRE PITCH MOVEMENT
a. You can take a few small steps as the pitcher is lifting his leg to throw and are trying to time your balance and body square to the plate when the ball crosses the hitting zone…
b. You can do a little bounce towards the plate when the pitcher releases the ball and again trying to time your land when the ball is crossing the hitting zone.
c. You can jump with your momentum going towards the plate trying to time your land as the ball is passing the hitting area.(Dustin Pedroia)
While you do this movement you should land in the athletic position with your head and chest over your toes.
2. Once you get your land with great balance in the athletic position to explode towards the ball being hit, you will determine speed, hops, and direction of the ball.
a. path is the first thing you will evaluate. Once you decide that it is a backhand play, now you have to determine the speed to know what angle to take towards the ball. After you identify the speed, you will know whether you can play through the backhand or have to range deep in the hole to backhand with a split. Now that you have the direction and speed of the ground ball you will decide what hop you are going to get.
i. Hops – Short Hop, Long Hop(Ball Coming Up) or In Between Hop. Once you decide what hop your going to get you will make the action that demands you to do to field the ball with smoothness and quickness. Short hop you will pick through the ball. Long hop or ball coming up you will give with the ball. The in-between hop is the toughest one, and we do not necessarily want this hop, but when you do get it, you will more times than not give with it.
3. While fielding backhands there is a specific mechanic to do each one with your glove arm.
a. Fielding the backhand that you can play through will demand that you have a slight bend in your elbow and try to lead with your elbow through the ground ball like a hinge. Having your elbow lead while your taking your glove arm through will give you the most room in your glove for the ball to go into. Remember while you are doing the backhand through the ball, that means your feet are also moving through it as well.
b. Fielding the backhand that you have to range deep in the hole for with your feet split will be a bit different mechanic then the backhand that you play through. Once you get to the ball with your feet split you will have your glove arm straight for the most part because you are ranging so much that you will have to reach to get the ball which means your arm will be straight. On these backhands you are moving away from the first base so you will naturally as soon as you field the ball, you will have to either plant right away and throw or you will jump to stop your momentum and throw. The hop will dictate whether you pick through or give with the ball as your reaching to get the ball. We use the term (Derek Jeter play because he was so known for the backhand jump and throw). Now Manny Machado does this play at third base quite a bit as well.
4. Backhanding ground balls is all about your angles and technique. This is why a lot of coaches don’t necessarily like players to do it because the player doesn’t understand the technique and they want the player to square it up. Your angles are exactly the same as if you were going to get around the ball and field in front of you like a regular ground ball or forehand.
5. Having the Libke Pro Fielder will make it very easy for you to learn the technique of what your glove arm is supposed to do and give you the most opportunity to catch the ball. The angle of your glove hand will be in the right position which provides you with the most room for the ball to go in.
Backhanding is an art, and you have to learn how to do it. Being taught right and taking a ton of reps will allow you to react better in a game and let it happen.