Our 2016 series on learning baseball from those who teach it best continues with this week’s feature on being defensively sound…from University of Dayton coach, Tony Vittorio.
Alter High School and Dayton’s own Major League Baseball traveling infielder, Jeff Reboulet, use to work out with our Dayton Flyer Baseball Team before he headed to spring training during my first few years at Dayton.
During those years that he worked out with us, I felt we had pretty good shortstops. But, when he took ground balls with our shortstops, I was questioning if our shortstops were good enough because, for some reason, Jeff made it look so much easier than our shortstops. After a practice, I finally asked him why it looked so easy to him. He answered by saying this, “because early in my baseball days, I learned how to read hops.” Then together, we broke it down to three types of hops – bad hop, good hop, and short hop.
You see, everybody can field the good hops and short hops. The one we have trouble with is the bad hop. All of our infielders know that a good hop and a short hop are easy to field. On these two hops, the ball usually ends up in our glove. The key to the whole process of reading hops is, when we sense a bad hop, our minds immediately tell us to make it a short hop. It is that simple. Where our infielders get into trouble is when they think a bad hop is going to turn into a good hop.
If you have taken ground balls in practice or in a game, you can sense, as you are reading this, the difference between these three types of hops. To make it easier, wouldn’t you feel like when you sense a bad hop that you would feel more comfortable by going and getting the baseball and make it a short hop? I know I would because I am very comfortable fielding a short hop. That ball ends up in my glove. And if it doesn’t, I just made an aggressive mistake instead of a non- aggressive mistake.
Now, the difficult part of this is the infielder has to actually make the decision to make a bad hop into a short hop. Probably the most important aspect of a baseball player going from bad to good, or good to great, is the decisions that he makes while on the field. This is a decision that must be made if one wants to become a good or great infielder. Simple decision, make the bad hops short hops and continue to field the good hops like you can.
Until next time…………
Dayton Flyers Baseball Coach
* Coach Vittorio’s “From The Dugout” post are sponsored in part by the Flyers Class of 2004!