Skip to main content


The easiest ball to catch is one that has spent at least half a second in the air. Gentle tosses to players twenty feet away are about as easy as it gets. The player has time to put the hands in position and has time to calculate where the ball will be as it approaches. Your players should already be able to put their hands in the way of a ball in the air. Thus, I will only address techniques for catching a ball that is going to strike the hand (and/or glove if any).

The bare hand can catch a thrown or batted ball without being broken or severed from the arm. It will not have the skin torn off by the force of the ball striking it. The modern player is convinced that catching a ball with the bare hand is terribly painful and downright dangerous. But catching a ball with the bare hand is the basis of catching a ball with the glove. The glove doesn’t catch the ball. Without the hand the glove cannot catch anything. The glove makes it easier to catch the ball, sometimes. It also can reduce the sting from the impact of the ball.

If you have a towel hanging on a clothesline and throw a ball so it hits the towel you will see the towel wrap itself around the ball. It wraps around the ball because it is limp, loose, and flexible. The hand should be relaxed when the ball arrives. It will wrap around the ball when the ball arrives if it is relaxed. This is sometimes called “soft hands.” This is how the hand catches the ball.

The hand must be open with fingers extended perpendicular to the line of flight of the ball. If the hand is closed in a fist or the fingers are pointed at the ball the ball can injure the hand.

The ball should strike the knuckle at the base of the index finger since that is very near the “center of strength” of the hand. The fingers (including the thumb) wrap around the ball very easily and the ball has considerable hand strength resisting bouncing out of the hand in any direction. A ball that strikes in the middle of the palm cannot be held as securely.

When using two hands to catch the ball the ball at shoulder height or above, the hands should form a “basket” of fingers with thumbs overlapping. The ball is caught in the bottom of the basket. That is where the fingers of the two hands overlap.

When the ball is below the shoulders, the little fingers of the hands are placed side by side with the thumbs out. The ball should strike the base of the little fingers. In both cases, the fingers are perpendicular to the line of flight of the ball.

When a glove is used, the gloved hand should act as if it were the only hand making the catch while the bare hand should act as if it were making a two hand catch. This has several desirable consequences. The bare hand is there to help keep the ball from bouncing out of the glove. If the ball misses the glove and strikes the bare hand it has a chance to catch the ball. Since the fielder is probably going to want to throw the ball somewhere right after catching it, the bare hand will be quickest and surest in getting the ball into throwing position if it is close to the ball when the ball is caught in the glove. Finally, the player is more likely to move to get their body in line with the ball if they are using both hands.

Most young players will use both hands when catching bare handed. They will use only one hand when wearing a glove. They will reach for the ball only with the gloved hand. Since they do not like to use bare hands, during practice you can require them to catch the next ball bare handed if they do not use two hands when wearing the glove.

The use of catcher’s mitt and first baseman’s mitt are covered in the sections on those positions.

The most common way to store a glove when not being used is to leave it folded flat or closed. Therefore it will try to stay closed during play as well. The fielder will have to open the gloved hand fully as they catch the ball. While waiting for the ball to come their way they should open the glove using both hands. This pushes the fold open by pressing down toward the palm of the glove from the top of the fold. Usually the fold is at the index finger side of the webbing. This should make the glove very wide. Be sure they are not pushing down on the finger tips and curling the glove into a fist.

When the glove is that open it gives a big target for the ball to hit. The glove will direct almost any ball that hits it into the webbing if the fingers of the glove are perpendicular to the line of flight of the ball. This is especially important for infielders.

The fingers of the glove should be pointed away from the ball. If they are not, the fielder is presenting a small target to the ball and running a significant risk of the ball glancing off the heel of the glove. You will often see infielders with the back of the glove almost on the ground “getting low” to catch a grounder. If the glove is to touch the ground it should be with the finger tips. The bare hand must be pointed away from the ball. Serious finger injuries can result from having the ball hit the end of the finger. It can “jam” the finger causing knuckle injuries and can rip off the fingernail. Perhaps the worst injury is for the ball to force its way between two fingers splitting them apart down into the palm. The ball that hits the finger from the side will bend it back but is unlikely to cause an injury.

On a ball above the player’s head, the player should see the ball over the glove fingertips. This protects the face and puts the glove close to where it will catch the ball.


Grounders keep changing direction. That is what makes them hard to catch. Hitting the ground makes them change direction. Therefore one wants to have as long as possible after the ball hits the ground before catching the ball. The only exception to this general rule is on a slowly moving ball that must be caught and thrown as quickly as possible to have any chance of putting out the runner.The fielder wants to catch the ball while it is on its way down from a bounce. The fielder will have to calculate where the ball will be hitting next and position themselves well back from that spot. If the ball will hit the ground near enough to the fielder they can catch it as it hits the ground or a few inches later. The ball will not be able to miss the glove even on a “bad hop” if the glove is that close to where the ball hits the ground.

Ideally the ball will enter the glove (with the bare hand right next to the glove) just as the fielder’s left foot (for a right handed thrower) strikes the ground. As the ball is raised to throwing position the right foot hits the ground. Then the stride and throw have the fielder in balance.

Comments are closed.