One of the hardest skills to master if you play first base is to scoop up low balls and poor throws. However, if you are going to be a first base player, you need to master this skill so that you have a strong defense. It is essential and not being able to scoop low balls correctly could be the difference between winning and losing a game.
Luckily, there is a certain technique that you can practice and perfect! I’ve used this technique for years and can now react and scoop up balls quickly and efficiently. Here are My Three Main Steps:-
- Be Prepared
- React Fast
- Scoop the Ball
Get ready to master the art of scooping balls in baseball with this quick and easy step-by-step guide.
Table of Contents
What Does a First Base Player Do?
First base may be thought of as an easy position on the baseball field, but in truth, the position has a lot more to it than simply catching throws and hits. You need to be athletic, flexible, and have the ability to react quickly.
Once the ball has been hit by the batter, the first baseman needs to move to the bag and get out of the way of the runner. If there is a runner on first base, then you need to be ready to receive throws from the pitcher to hold the runner and get the sure out. Some players may instinctively want to try to catch early runners out, but in baseball, it is more important to out other players instead of focusing on those in the lead.
Therefore, a good first base player is an integral part of all baseball teams. Learning to scoop properly means your team’s defensive is much stronger and you have more chance of getting the out.
What are the different types of throw that first basemen recieve?
At first base, you receive all kinds of throws. These can be high balls, low throws, or ones that hit the dirt completely. You need to be able to catch all of these types of throw to be a great first baseman.
These balls can be difficult to catch as they travel along the ground. To successfully catch a grounder, you need to move towards the ball as it rolls across the pitch so that you can scoop it up quickly and get an out.
2. Short Hop
This is the most difficult play a first base player faces. It is where the ball is short and gets buried in the ground, meaning you have to dig around in the dirt to pick it up.
3. Chest Throws
As a first baser, you wish that all shots that are thrown or hit towards you would be chest throws. These are balls that reach you at waist or chest height and are the easiest shots to catch.
4. High Throws
These throws reach the first base player at head or shoulder height. They can be difficult to catch if the placement of your feet is wrong, as you need to have a sturdy base to carry the momentum of the ball backward.
How do you scoop a baseball?
1. Be Prepared
In baseball, preparation is key. This means you need to be ready and mentally prepared for all options before the ball has been pitched. By being prepared, when the ball is hit you can quickly react to the direction that the ball is traveling.
Some top tips for being prepared and ready for the hit are:
- Guess where the ball is going: Your guesses may be out, but the more you practice the better your instincts will be at knowing which way the ball will go. Some hitters also direct the ball in a similar fashion every time they play, so if you’ve got a big game ahead do your research and learn common patterns so you can catch the players out early.
- Get in position: When waiting for the ball, you want to stay light on the balls of your feet. Also, keep your base wide and stable with your feet apart and knees bent. Keep your arms relaxed by your sides ready to snap into action straight after the hit.
- Call for the ball: Before the batter hits the ball, call for it to come towards you in your mind. This mentally preps your mind to expect it to come towards you so that you can positively respond.
2. React Fast
One the batter has made the hit, you need to react fast. Because you are already prepared, you should be able to respond to the ball’s movement pretty quickly.
Once you know the direction the ball is moving in, start moving toward the ball. It is important you get in the habit of moving towards the ball as it comes to you but approach it in a controlled manner. This allows you to get your positioning spot on and means you won’t be scooping balls at funny angles. As you get close to the ball, resume the fielding position, and get ready to catch.
3. Scoop the Ball
Next, it’s time for the catch. Once the ball is thrown or hit toward you, it is time to scoop. Here are some things to remember when you’re catching:
- Eyes close to the ball and the glove: The closer your eyes to the ball, the more likely you’ll successfully catch the ball
- Correct glove position: Open your glove early before the ball hits the ground so it’s ready for the catch
- Work up, not down: Have your glove on the ground ready for when the ball hits, and once it’s in your palm bring your hand upward to help carry the momentum
What about fielding grounders?
Fielding grounders are not particularly difficult – you simply step away from first base towards the ball and step back onto the first base to get the out. However, if the ball is hit further away from the base it can make your job more challenging. You’ll need another player to cover the base so that you can get the out.
This is either the job of the player on second base or the pitcher, depending on where on the pitch the ball is hit. However, the scooping technique of the first baser should stay the same. That is, move in a controlled fashion towards the ball, scoop from low to high, and get the ball back to first base as soon as possible.
What are some drills for scooping?
This is all easy to explain, but when it comes to successfully putting all of these tips and techniques into play it can be difficult. That’s why I’ve put together some scooping drills that will help you have a good defense when playing.
1. Scoop Drill 1
This scoop drill can be done solo, so you can use this drill to perfect your scooping at home by yourself.
Equipment & Setup
To do this scoop drill, all you need is:
- A fielding glove
- A baseball
- A wall
Get ready to start the drill by standing opposite the wall with the ball in your hand and your glove on.
How to do This Scoop Drill?
To practice this drill, get into position as if you were standing with one foot on the bag. Then, throw the baseball at the wall and have it bounce back towards you and practice catching the ball in your field glove.
In the game, scooping can be hard and is a skill that most young first base players struggle with. The usual culprit for a missed ball is that players struggle to get their gloves round quick enough. Therefore, try using this drill but only using a backhand scoop to catch the ball. This can be used to perfect your backhand technique so that you don’t miss awkward throws again.
2. Scoop Drill 2
This drill is great for younger players that need to learn how to better use their glove to successfully scoop up a ball.
Equipment & Setup
To practice this drill you need to have plastic milk bottles with the bottom of the jug and one-half cut out. The milk bottle should be a similar shape to the baseball glove and resemble a scoop.
Other than this the only equipment you need is a ball.
How to do This Scoop Drill?
Throw the balls at the players and players and get them to catch the ball using the milk bottle. Younger players find the milk bottle much easier to move and visualize than when using the fielding glove.
Go through the different positions the scoop needs to be in for all different types of throws, including grounders, throws at waist height, and high tosses. When then using the glove, the better positioning and understanding of which way the glove should face in certain circumstances make it easier for players to catch.
What fielding glove should I use?
The fielding glove you use as a baseball player also directly impacts how well you can scoop a baseball at first base. Therefore, finding the correct glove for you is essential in learning how to scoop well. Find the right glove and it could be with you for a lifetime of baseball!
There are several considerations you need to take into account when buying a glove as a first base player.
The Shape of the Glove
As a first baseman, your glove should have no fingers and instead have a continuous edge like a mitten. This makes it much easier to scoop up balls as the ball cannot escape your grip by traveling between your fingers. The lack of fingers is what makes the glove look and act like a scoop and is essential in picking up poorly thrown shots quickly.
The Width of the Glove
When playing at first base, you want to have a glove that is as wide as possible. This will help bring consistency to all your catches and make it easier to scoop up bad throws. The wider the glove, the more likely it is that you’ll successfully make a catch.
The Web of the Glove
The deeper the web, the better for first base players. When you scoop a ball, your arm moves up pretty quickly afterwards which, if the gloves webbing is not deep enough, can cause the ball to slip from your grip. A glove that has a deep web helps with better control and reduces the chance of you losing the ball after you’ve scooped it up.
What common mistakes do first basemen make?
Despite all these tips, you will still make mistakes when learning how to scoop a baseball. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by first players. Try to avoid making these mistakes and your play will improve dramatically.
- Stretching too soon: It is good to be prepared, but don’t make a move too early. Wait to see the ball come off the bat before moving. It is much harder to move from one stretched position to another, than it is to move from a relaxed to a stretched posion.
- Anchoring your foot in the wrong place: Your foot needs to be on top of the bag in the right spot. This can add a crucial few inches to your reach, that you might need! Where your foot should be depends on which way the ball goes, so adapt to the game around you and choose the spot that gives you the most reach.
- Turning your glove too late: Your glove should be ready and facing the ball before it hits the ground and not spun around at the last minute.
Final Thoughts on Scooping at First Base
Scooping difficult throws is a challenging skill to master, and even top-level baseball players miss some shots. That is always going to happen no matter how talented you are. No player is perfect!
However, practice these drills and put the technique into practice when you’re playing. If you are still struggling to scoop up grounders and poor shots, try changing the glove you use. Your glove is, essentially, the shape of your scoop. Make sure you have the correct glove for the position you’re playing to improve your technique.