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July 8, 2014

The View from the Loge Level

Matt Williams Explains the Infield

by Daron Sutton


This past holiday weekend, one would assume, was filled with barbeque, beer, baseball and fireworks. As family and friends gathered, the talk was about life, love, loot, and the Jeff Samardzija deal. Some families with baseball kids spoke of summer as a time of rest, while others shared tales of travel ball, tournaments, and Perfect Game. Meanwhile, Matt Williams concerned himself with his current foe, the Braves, and juggling his now deeper roster. So instead of cornering the Nats’ skipper on subjects of the day-to-day, let’s place the four-time Gold Glove winner in the middle of the Independence Day weekend family gathering and allow him to do some youth coaching, specifically infield instruction. The man who played nearly 16,000 innings on the infield in the big leagues shared with me some of the basics for those youngsters who dream of doing the very same thing.

First up is glove talk. How does one know what to select? What if my player might play both outfield and infield?

“First and foremost, we all see games on television and you see big league players that use their specific glove, a lot of those gloves are made specifically for those guys,” Williams shares. “So first and foremost for a younger player, it doesn't matter if you're playing second base, you can use as big a glove as you want to use. You don't have to use a small glove just because you play second base. That's not a prerequisite. It has to be comfortable on your hand, and you can judge that simply by playing catch. If it feels good when the ball goes into your glove and you catch the ball, if it feels good on your hand and it feels good that you have some confidence that you can catch it, that's the glove for you. It doesn't have to be tan, doesn't have to be black, doesn't have to be big or small, none of that really matters. Generally, the third base glove is a little bigger than the shortstop glove, the shortstop is a little bigger than the second base glove and of course the first baseman's mitt—everybody's seen one of those. All of that being said, it's about comfort and if you can catch the ball with the glove that you like, and that feels good on your hand, then use it.”

Now the pitcher is in the wind-up or stretch, getting the sign and about to deliver the pitch. How do you get yourself prepared physically on the infield?

“There are a couple of things that I like to use,” Williams says. “First, you have to know exactly when the guy's going to throw the ball to home plate. You have to be ready for the ball to be hit. Secondly, and you can do this by yourself or with a friend of yours, everybody has different ways that they approach getting ready for that ball to be thrown through the strike zone and potentially hit to you, but I like to make reference to just (being) out in the backyard with a buddy of yours. If you drew a line on the grass and you said, 'I'm going to race you from here to the far gate,' what would you do? How would you prepare? Whatever your body tells you to do at that moment is your most athletic position because that's the way you're going to beat your buddy to the gate. Some guys have wider stances, some guys stand taller in the infield, some guys hop and move, but it's all about what's comfortable for you. So if you're going to race your buddy to the gate and you get in the stance to do so, that's as far as your feet should be apart when you're playing the infield. That's your most athletic position which will allow you to move in any direction as quick as you possibly can move.”

The ball is hit. What should happen with the footwork?

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Deep Impact: Week 14 (07/08)
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Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (07/08)

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