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May 13, 2016

Chapter 5: Second Base; 6 Elements to Master for Success at 2B

May 13, 2016

The second baseman on any team, whether in Major League Baseball or in Little League, needs to be a dependable and reliable member of the infield. It is important to remember when coaching this position to stress fundamentals and smart positional play.

Here are 6 elements of the position for your youngsters to master for long term success fielding the 2B position:

  1. Ready Infield Stance
  2. Receiving & Throwing
  3. Covering 1B on Bunting Situations
  4. Turning a Double Play
  5. Cutoff Man Duties
  6. Training

1) Ready Infield Stance

Just like with any infielder, being ready to field your position is vital for success and error free play. A second baseman should be ready to go in any direction before the pitch is even thrown. Make sure you instruct your second basemen to keep their knees bent, their weight on the balls of their feet and their heads up. They should have their glove low to the ground and ready to trap any ground ball with their throwing hand. Make sure that your Little Leaguer is not standing too upright, or they will have limited mobility.

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A good way to enforce correct positioning is to incorporate infield positioning into your stretching routine at the beginning of practice. Player's should practice being ready to field a ground ball for about the length of time of one pitch, around 10 to 20 seconds, then stand for five seconds. Repeating this process 10 to 15 times during stretching time will commit the routine to muscle memory, allowing your player to find this position without ever having to think about it.

Once a game begins, the second baseman should be told to line up in generally the same spot every play except in double play or late game infield-in situations. They should be halfway between where the first baseman is situated and the second base bag. If there is a double play opportunity or he is responsible for holding a runner on base, you should train your second baseman to line up five steps off of the bag and slightly behind the base path on his side of the infield.

2) Receiving & Throwing

An essential skill for any infielder to learn is how to receive a ground ball. If your second basemen are trained to be in proper position to field a ball, the catching and throwing process should naturally follow. Make sure that your players get plenty of practice fielding ground balls so that they will feel comfortable with the five step process of:

  1. Looking the ball into the glove
  2. Trapping it with their throwing hand
  3. Raising the ball to their chest while transferring the grip to the right hand
  4. Pivoting and locating the first baseman's glove
  5. Striding directly towards the target and making an accurate throw

Another aspect of throwing the ball that should be stressed is when the second baseman has the opportunity to field the ball during a double play opportunity. You should let them know that an underhanded toss to the shortstop may sometimes be easier to catch and transfer than a hard throw when there is little distance to cover. They should toss the ball to the shortstop's chest to allow for an easy catch and release that will give his defensive partner an opportunity to turn a clean double play without having to reach for the ball.

3) Covering First Base in Bunting Situations

In the event of a bunt to the right side of the infield, the second baseman must cover first base. It will be the shortstop's duty to see that second base is taken covered. This will require quick reflexes and knowledge of the situation. It is vital that your infielders know when a bunt is possible, and it should be the shortstop's duty to yell loud enough for the second baseman to hear that a bunt is on.

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In order to get an out at first base and prevent your second baseman from being stepped on or end up in the baserunner's path, you must emphasize that their left foot needs to be pressed up against the side of the bag and not on the top. This will allow them to stretch towards the play if the first baseman or catcher throws the ball to first for the sacrifice out.

4) Turning a Double Play

A double play situation can be dangerous for a second baseman because they are going in blind to most of the action. It is essential to simulate double-play scenarios often in practice for player safety and helping your infield turn these game changing plays successfully.

If you have taught your second baseman to place themselves five steps off of the bag, they should be in good position to move and get to the bag in time to receive a throw on a ground ball from the left side of the infield. He should take a quick, arced route to the back corner of the bag. This will put him out of the base runners path and should keep him in a position to field a throw without a collision. The second baseman should plant his left foot on the back of the bag and step towards the throw with his right foot. This will allow your second baseman to catch the ball and force out the runner all in one simple step.

The next step is to throw on to first base for the second out. If you have taught your Little League second basemen the proper approach to the bag and good receiving technique, the throw should flow out of the back end of this process. They have already caught the ball, forced out the runner, and their momentum is taking them through the base and away from the base runner's slide. The next step is to shuffle-plant their right foot at a 90 degree angle towards first base, turn their hips to locate the first baseman's target and make a strong throw to get the trailing runner.

5) Cutoff Man Duties

Even though a good portion of the cutoff responsibilities are relegated to the shortstop, it is important for the second baseman to know when he is responsible and where he should be if a ball is hit to the outfield.

On any single to center or left field, the second baseman needs to cover second base in case the runner makes an attempt to stretch a base hit into a double. If the ball is well struck to right field, however, the second baseman should position himself halfway between where the ball is fielded and second base.

Should there be a long drive to the gap or down the line, a two man relay might be necessary. If the ball is deep to right, the second baseman should go deep onto the outfield grass to be the first man in the relay, leaving enough distance between himself and the shortstop, or first baseman on a ball struck down the line, to make a hard and accurate throw to the second cutoff man.

6) Training

There are many different training drills to help a Little League second baseman become better and more comfortable at fielding the position. One great part of baseball is that many of the important skills are valuable to learn for all position players. This will allow a coach to break down his practice in a manner where every player is receiving valuable instruction time. All players at a young age should practice fielding and throwing the ball around the infield. One incredibly practical drill that helps players stay focused and ready for anything on the infield is known as the pickle drill. A lot of times, you will see young ball players play this at home, before and after practice and whenever there are not enough participants to simulate a real baseball environment.

The drill is easy to set up. You designate one player as a baserunner, and have two even lines of fielders on one base and another line of players on a base 90 feet away. The object is simple; the fielders must tag the runner out before he reaches either base. The key is that only the player with the ball can leave his base to chase the runner down. Once a player has thrown the ball, he must hustle back to the end of the opposing line and wait for his turn to come around again, or until the base runner has reached a base safely. There are numerous ways to turn this into a game or an exciting routine that will help your fielders learn how to make quick and accurate throws on the run.

As always, keep your practices as enjoyable as possible. Playing a game such as baseball should never be a chore; it should be fun for players, coaches and parents alike.

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