Baseball Magazine

The Slow Roller (Part 1)

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
One of the toughest things an infielder has to do is field and throw on the run.  This usually occurs on slow rollers, swinging bunts, sac bunts, and base hit bunts.  The player has to charge, field the ball (or barehand it), and normally throw off the opposite foot.  It requires a tremendous amount of agility, skill, arm strength, and footwork.  I referred to this play when I wrote about what infield drill I would do during high school tryouts if I only had time for one drill.  Click HERE to go back to that post.  In that article, I mainly talked about the reasons why I would choose that drill.  Today I list and explain the mechanics of doing it correctly.  Part 2 will be tomorrow and will offer some tips on practicing this play.
The Mechanics

The slow roller (Part 1)

Attack the ball ...

Explode to and through the ball. An infielder who slows down or hesitates when approaching this kind of ground ball will never consistently make the play.  Slow down even a little and the runner is safe.  Infielders need to attack this play at full speed and continue that speed through the entire play.  This can be tough since fielders are taught to slow down to gather their weight and properly set their feet on normal ground balls.  They can't do that on slow rollers.
Use two hands.  Time is precious on this play and not keeping both hands close adds more time to the catching and throwing process.  The only exception would be if the fielder bare-hands the ball.
Left foot forward.  This is probably the most important mechanic of this play - assuming the fielder is right handed.  The fielder ALWAYS has his left foot forward when he catches the ball.  If not, more steps will be needed to make the throw which adds more time.
Timing.  Not only does the fielder have the left foot forward on this play, ideally he'll want to time it so the left foot lands on the ground at the same time the ball touches the glove.  This improves the flow of the footwork, the catch, the transition to the throwing hand, and the throw.

The slow roller (Part 1)

Two hands, left foot forward
on the catch ...

To the hip.  No matter how high or low off the ground the ball is caught, the fielder should take the ball out of his glove and bring it straight to his right hip.  This will allow the fielder to create a small enough circle in the throwing motion to get rid of the ball quickly but also have a big enough circle to get some power on his throw.  Too small of an arm circle cuts down on arm strength.  Too big of a circle adds time.
Throw on the next step.  Fielders who make this play consistently do so because after timing and catching the ball with the left foot forward as mentioned above, they throw off the very next step which would be when their right foot lands.  This requires some pretty quick hands in order to get the ball/arm in the proper throwing position when the right foot lands on the very next step.  Any delay and the fielder will be required to take additional steps.  "Catch with your left, throw off your right."

The slow roller (Part 1)

... and throw off your right.

Aim to the left.  On most slow rollers, the fielder is traveling quickly in the direction of home plate and does not have the luxury of shifting his momentum towards first base on the throw or after it.  Because of this, many throws go "up the line" or tail away from the first baseman in the direction of home plate.  To account for this, any time a fielder is moving in the direction of home plate and has to throw to first base, he should aim a few feet to the left of the first baseman (the thrower's left).  The throw will then tail back to the bag and become an accurate throw.
Arm angles.  To be good on this play, a fielder must be able to throw using different arm angles.  The general rule is "throw it at the same height" which means whatever height at which you catch the ball is the height at which you release the ball.  A ball caught at ground level requires a very low release point.  A high chopper caught at head level might require an over the top or three-quarter arm angle.  Catching a ball low and then bringing the ball all the way up to an overhand throw takes too long.  "Throw it at the same height" to save time.
The bare hand.  On very slow rollers and/or when fast runners are involved, fielders sometimes are better off just using their bare hand to field the ball and then throw.  Using the glove to field is safer but it does require a little more time.  When the bare hand play is warranted, the fielder needs to make sure his bare hand gets under the ball so that the ball rolls into his hand.  To help even further, a fielder should practice bare handing it by only using his index and middle finger.  When the ball rolls into these two fingers, he will already have the proper two-finger grip on the ball and will not need to change the grip while in the process of throwing.
Obviously, there are quite a few finer points involved in this play.  However, once players learn them they will normally see some very quick improvements when performing this kind of play.
Tomorrow:  Part 2 - Tips for practicing the slow roller.

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