Derek Jeter in the most
difficult play in baseball -
the slow roller.
This play is what separates the men from the boys. It's a play that involves a fielder charging a slowly hit ball where he must field and throw on the run. So why would I pick this drill? Because it allows the coach to see all of the following in just a few reps:
Aggressiveness to the ball. To make this play, you have to fly through the ball. Any tentativeness on this play and the runner is safe.
Quickness. Quick first steps, quickness to the ball, quick footwork, and quick hands all have to be there for the runner to be out.
Balance. Charging, fielding, and throwing aggressively requires balance especially since the fielder will be throwing off the other foot.
Agility and athleticism. This play involves difficult body movements that are not typical on most ground balls.
Arm strength. Slow rollers require some arm strength because the fielder is usually not moving towards his target before throwing. His momentum is usually traveling towards home plate and has to use just his arm strength to get the ball to first base.
Partly due to his ability to make
this play, Scott Rolen is the best
defensive third baseman ever
in my opinion.
Throwing technique. Good infielders are able to use any arm angle to throw. From right over the top to almost touching the ground with their knuckles. Variations of this drill allow coaches to see if the player can throw from multiple angles.
Softness of hands. This play involves some finesse glove work in a short period of time. Players who have softer hands usually fare better. Having "soft hands" means balls rarely bounce out of a player's glove. Think of catching an egg. If you keep your hands still when you catch the egg, the egg will break. If you have "soft hands" and can give a little after catching the egg, the egg will not break. The same principle applies to catching a baseball whether it's thrown or hit at you.
Quick release. The ability to catch and throw quickly is what will allow a player to keep moving up the ladder in terms of their defense. As kids get older, the game gets faster. Catching and getting rid of it quickly is a must. A quick release can also offset problems with arm strength. It is usually better to have a very quick release and an average arm instead of a great arm that takes forever to throw.
Thankfully I will be able to do many drills with all the players trying out but if I had to pick one, the slow roller would be it for infielders.
How about you?