Think the Game

Looking for the Next Play

The Situation:
The bases are loaded with 1 out in the bottom of the 1st inning in a playoff game. It’s a hot, dry day and the pitcher is in trouble. The offense is already leading 2-0 and threatening to blow the game wide open in their first at bat. There’s a 2-2 count on the batter as he awaits the game’s most important pitch.
The Play:
The pitcher delivers a fastball in on the hands and the batter gets jammed, flaring the ball over the shortstops head in the 5-6 hole. The shortstop goes back on the ball and is able to make the back handed catch relatively easily on a jog.
The Outcome:
After catching the ball, the shortstop takes a few steps towards the line, ball in glove, rounding off his route before circling back towards the infield. He gets the ball back to the pitcher and the runners stay put. There are 2 outs with the bases still loaded.
What Went Wrong:
Sometimes mistakes are not reflected in the outcome of a play. In this play, no one advances or capitalizes on a small mistake that could have proven costly. Do you know what mistake we are taking about?
The mistake here is that the shortstop nonchalantly catches the ball without preparing for the next possible play. Had the runner decided to tag up from third, the play would have been more difficult for the shortstop to make because his momentum was still going away from home plate, where the throw would have had to go. Instead of assuming the runner from third was not going to tag and rounding off his route, the shortstop should have made the play assuming the runner would tag. He should have caught the ball, gotten his feet underneath him and his momentum towards home as quickly as possible, and put himself in a position to throw the ball home. Making the throw like that would be much easier than rushing to get the ball out of his glove and throwing on the run with his momentum going towards the foul line than home plate.
On both sides of the ball, it’s essential to anticipate and prepare for the next play, however unlikely it may be to occur. Even though this minor mistake wasn’t costly, the shortstop could have been caught off guard and in a poor position to make the next play. Not only are these the small details that will help you win games, they are also the small details that will help you get recruited. Think the game and show coaches you care about doing even the smallest details right.