They say baseball is an unpredictable game. Actually, one of my all time favorite coaches said, “Baseball is an uncontrollable game.” That means you need to be ready to play. You have heard of the athletic or ready position. In Arizona we call it the “Gun Fighter”, but did you know there are two different positions depending upon your position? Probably not. So let’s go through them.
What is the Gun Fighter?
I first heard about the Gun Fighter 12 years ago when the Diamondbacks released their DVD – Learn to Play the DBacks Way. The Gun Fighter is an athletic stance, feet slightly shoulder width apart, chest leaned forward a little, hands wide and slightly out front, like a gun fighter ready for a show down.
A player in the gun fighter position should be ready to “Jump” out of this position. The players weight should be on the balls of their feet. You see this position all the time with linebackers in football, or basketball players defending the net while they wait for an opponent to dribble down the court. The athletic position is the ideal human position for action.
What Makes Baseball Different?
Baseball has a different rythm than other sports for two reasons. First, the ball is not perfectly round. It has seams. These uneven threads can cause the ball to behave badly when it shows up. Secondly, the person who hit the ball does not want you to be able to field it.
This means you are trying to predict the path of a poorly behaved, unpredictable object. Therefore, you want quick movement, but also want to keep your head still. Sounds impossible right? Well… almost.
Infield Gun Fighter
It is much easier to project where a ball will go if your head is relatively still. By relatively, I mean, “not bouncing up and down”. So the key here is to keep your head level. So ask yourself where is the ball most likely to be? On the infield, the baseball is likely to be on the ground. As a result, you want your head close to the ground. So the ideal setup for an infielder is a low gunfighter. We want our head down, where we expect the ball to be, and we want to stay low.
Many young kids make the mistake of standing up as soon as a baseball is hit to them on the infield. Or they setup high and try to drop down. Both have the problem of cuasing the head to bob up and down making the baseball harder to read. Kids need to develop the skill of starting low and staying low. This makes it easier for their eyes to track the ball and thus predict where it might end up.
Outfield Gun Fighter
In contrast, where do we expect the ball in the outfield? Typically up! Outfielders are looking for fly balls. That puts us in a tall gunfighter position. And the same rule applies.
Like infielders, we want to keep the head level, so the first steps have to be ones that keep the head from moving. The often talk about “swinging the gate open”, the visual image is powerfuil because we don’t see doors “shrink” when they turn. We want the same from the outfield, a pivot like turn that keeps the head level.
Next time you are at practice, try it. Focus on teaching your kids the two kinds of ready positions. Work with the outfielders on keeping tall with their heads up. They should be able to turn and run with a level head. Infielders need to stay down. They need to step open without bobing their head.
If you can keep your eyes on the ball, and your head level, you put yourself in the best possible position to field it cleanly. Clean fielding will cuts down on errors.