The Art of Charging a Grounder

This article appeared in the January/February issue of Junior Baseball.

by: Don Marsh

For the youngest of infielders, maybe the hardest thing to do well is learn how to play the ground ball. By that, we don’t mean just using all the tips on setting up for the ball that you may have learned here and elsewhere. In this instance, “play” means knowing when to charge the ball, and when to wait for it to come to you.

The basic idea, no matter how old or experienced a player you are, is to try and catch every ground ball while moving forward. This is always the best way to field a grounder. By coming forward, you’re building momentum for the throw that will follow and you’re also helping to eliminate the bad hop that is almost always waiting behind the next bounce.

Learning how to practice charging the ball is something you can do with a friend, a teammate or even by yourself. The next time you’re on the playground at your school, take a tennis ball or small rubber ball and throw it against the wall of a handball court. As the ball is bouncing back to you, work on moving toward it at the same time. This is a terrific way to learn the timing, rhythm, and footwork of the whole sequence of fielding grounders.

Just remember, balls on blacktop are very different from balls on grass or dirt. On a baseball field, grounders don’t often behave as nicely. So if possible, have your dad or a friend get out on a diamond, or even the grass, and do the same thing. You’ll get hit with more ‘quirky’ bounces that mirror what will happen to you in a game.

The last point: you’re almost always going to get truer bounces off grass than off dirt. Which is a good thing to remember when deciding how deep you should play and how aggressively you should charge the ball. Getting it on the last bounce off the grass is usually a much better thing to do than fielding it off the first bounce of the dirt. Better, but not always possible.

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