Middle Infield - Turning a Double Play
The middle infield can play a huge factor in the overall success of the team. The more the middle infielders communicate with each other, the more effective the duo will be. Turning double plays not only requires effective communication but proper footwork and techniques as well. The following information contains the main keys for the positioning, footwork and feeds for double plays for both the shortstop and the second baseman:
- In a double-play situation, both the shortstop and second baseman should move in two-to-three steps and over towards the bag two-to-four steps. This cuts down on the distance needed to cover second base.
Approaching the Bag
There are several factors involved in turning a double play at second base, and all are equally important. In order to successfully turn a double play, the middle infielder must take the proper approach to the base. Here's how:
- Get to the bag as quickly as possible, placing the left foot on the bag.
- Set a good target for the thrower with both hands out and thumbs together, nearly touching.
- Bend at the knees in a good, athletic position while facing the thrower.
- Relax your hands, keeping them soft to receive the ball. Do not reach for the ball; it will come to you. Always anticipate a bad throw. Don't start moving until the throw is in the air.
Double Play Turn - Second Baseman
There are several ways to complete the turn at second base. Below are two good, general examples that one can use to complete a double play:
- Straddle the bag: Used mostly on close plays at second base or with a fast runner at the plate. The second baseman gets to the bag and straddles the base between his feet. As he catches the ball, he quickly resets his feet in the same location and makes the throw to first base. When using this turn, the second baseman should be prepared to jump over the sliding runner.
- Across the bag: This is a common way to teach the turn at second base. As the ball is hit, the second baseman gets to the bag quickly and places his left foot on the bag. As the throw comes in from third base or the shortstop, the second baseman steps to the ball with his right foot. If the throw is at his chest, the second baseman comes across the bag. If the throw is to his right, the player's right foot steps toward the ball and plants before he throws to first. If the throw is to the second baseman's left, he should step to the ball and across the bag with his right foot. This approach allows the player to avoid the runner sliding into second base.
Double Play Turn - Shortstop
Once the ball is on its way, the shortstop begins moving.
- Throw from second baseman: The shortstop drags or steps with his right foot across the outside corner of the bag, clears enough room between him and the runner, plants and throws.
- Throw from first base: If the shortstop receives the throw from the first baseman inside the baseline, the shortstop tags the inside of the bag with his left foot, plants with his right foot and throws. If it comes from outside the line, drag with the right foot. It is helpful to yell "Inside!" or "Outside!" to let the first baseman know where to throw the ball.
- Shortstop takes it himself: If the shortstop fields the ball close enough to second base, it may be more efficient to turn the double play himself. To do this, he simply steps with his left foot on the bag mid-throw, making sure to alert his second baseman of his solo intention. The shortstop's left foot will hit the bag just before releasing the ball, which is much quicker than swiping the right foot across the bag and then throwing.
- Avoiding the runner: The shortstop should clear enough room between him and the bag, so the runner cannot reach him. After swiping the bag with the right foot, the shortstop can move far from the bag or stay close, depending on the proximity of the runner.
Double Play Feed to Second Base
Shortstop - There are several possible ways to throw to second base:
- Under-hand: It is important to be firm with this throw to second base. The shortstop should get enough behind the throw, such that the ball moves on a line to the second baseman's chest. The key is to follow-through on your throw. The shortstop should only use this throw when close enough to the bag or when moving towards the bag to field a ground ball.
- Over-hand: The throw should always be on a line to the second baseman's chest. Use this throw when fielding a ball that is too far away to under-hand on a line, or on any ball that takes you away from second base. Two ways exist to make this throw:
- Drop to a knee: Field the ball with the left foot slightly pointing to the bag. Drop to your right knee and make the throw to the second baseman. Do not stand up and throw.
- Step back: Field the ball normally. Step back with your left foot and throw to second base. This can be a side-arm throw, as well.
Second Base - There are three possible ways to throw to second base:
- Under-hand: Use this throw when moving towards the bag or when close to the bag. Field the ball and under-hand it to the bag, with your left leg stepping forward, following your throw and your left arm swinging up behind you. Maintain a stiff wrist, and do not let the ball spin off the fingers. Throw to the front half of the bag at the shortstop's chest, so the shortstop can come through the bag.
- Over-hand: This is the most difficult throw for a second baseman. Always make sure of one out. Field the ball and rotate onto the balls of your feet, bringing your left knee down to the ground and pointing your torso to second base. Throw over-hand to the shortstop's chest, leading him slightly.
- Side flip: This is a quick flip to the shortstop, used when an under-hand throw would be too slow or when the ball is fielded in the baseline. Field the ball, and with your palm facing down, release the ball at the end of a lateral arm motion.
On some occasions with a runner on first, the out may be made at first base prior to the ball being delivered to second. In such cases, the force out at second base is no longer in order, requiring a tag of the runner to get the out.