Clinics and Conditioning

La Bella Danza Della Difesa – How To Play Smart Defensive Baseball

You may not put “dancing” or “choreography” and “baseball” in the same sentence but I believe they most certainly belong. If you look up the definition of choreography on http://www.dictionary.com, it reads “the arrangement or manipulation of actions leading up to an event.” A choreography of defensive player movements leading up to an event, in this case a positive play defensively (run saved, base runner tagged out, force play, double play, etc.) Players put into motion, with no sound other than the crack of the bat, in a beautiful dance leading up to an event. La bella danza della difesa – The beautiful dance of the defense. Here is what it may look like (please excuse this crude stick figure drawing, my son Griffin was not available to sketch for me.)

I was doodling yesterday afternoon waiting for my son to finish up at Supercuts and I drew out a choreographed sketch of a defensive alignment for a batted ball to the shortstop/3rd base hole. There are no runners on base and there are no outs. The batted ball was hit on the ground and I thought about where each player could assist on the play, regardless of their defensive position. Here is what I came up with.

  • The Left Fielder moves in toward the infield in a support role or becomes the primary fielder if the ball makes it through the infield. A delay in the LF’s dance could cause the runner to advance to second.
  • The Center Fielder takes an angled, back up approach following the lead of the LF. Should the ball travel through the infield and passed the LF, the Center Fielder should be in position to get the baseball. No supporting the LF in this dance may cause a single to become a triple, especially to a fast base runner.
  • The Right Fielder takes a direct line run to provide back up for any throw coming from the 3rd basemen or Shortstop to First Base. An errant throw that is not backed up can result in one or possibly two bases for the opposing team. Better to dance down to 1st base than stand and watch a fast runner circle the bases.
  • The 3rd Baseman shifts quickly to his left, senses he is in better position than the shortshop, communicates this loud and clear to the shortstop, proceeds to field the baseball, halts his momentum, and makes an accurate throw to First Base. One of the coolest dance moves to watch on the defensive side of the game. Should the 3rd Baseman show up late for the dance, the ball will certainly travel through the infield or make for a much more difficult play for the shortstop, who is attempting to field the baseball.
  • The Shortstop shifts quickly to his right,communicates with the 3rd Baseman, and either fields the baseball or quickly dances into a backup role for support. If the Shortstop freezes during this dance and the 3rd baseman slips or doesn’t react, a routine play for the SS will be missed.
  • The 2nd Baseman makes a move over to 2nd base in a support role, in the event of the baseball travelling through the infield and is played by an outfielder. The 2nd baseman is not only a key part of the dance, he may prove to be the leading man in a close play to second involving a base runner looking to stretch a single into a double.
  • The 1st Baseman dances over to the first base bag, taps his foot for the base, positions himself for a throw across the diamond from either the SS or the 3rd Baseman. If the baseball travels through the infield, the 1st baseman can remain at the first base bag as support or can travel with the base runner to back up a throw from the outfield.
  • The Catcher moves from his position behind the plate, down the first base line, and is support for an errant throw from the SS or the 3rd Baseman. If the catcher is late to the dance, and the ball is overthrown, the base runner will certainly try for 1 or 2 bases on the error. Even with all the catcher’s gear on, the catcher must be part of the dance.
  • The Pitcher moves towards the batted ball in an attempt to “snag” it before it gets to his fielders. Once the ball is passed the pitcher and the pitcher’s mound area, the dance must continue for the pitcher in a support role. It could be as a communicator or to back up a throw to second base or as a fielder in a run down situation. OK, you gave up a hit. But that should not excuse you from being part of the dance.

Just some of the elements of choreography – space, time, effort, relationships to others, energy. Fielders know that your space is not limited to the 1 to 2 feet in front of, beside you, behind you. Time is of the essence when a ball is hit and an potential out can be recorded. Effort is the key to a successful defensive strategy. Understand the relationship and abilities of your teammates – can they range to make that play or do you need to take the lead and make the play? Energy on the defensive side of the game means hustle and heart and determination to make a positive play or play an important support role.

Baseball coaches – are you teaching the Beautiful Dances of Baseball to your players? Players dancing together in this particular choreographed piece can be found in your scorebook as 5-3. The performance is so incredible to watch when choreographed expertly. Every player has a role in la bella danza della difesa – the beautiful dance of the defense.

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