In an important playoff game, the Oakland Athletics trail the New York Yankees, 1-0, but in the bottom of the seventh, the A's looked like they had all the momentum after a hit was launched to right field -- but then, it happened. It, of course, is now etched in baseball lore as "the flip," a clever throw that prevented an almost certain game-tying run.
Shortstop Derek Jeter, the man behind the flip, had a knack for this sort of play, but don't think for a second this was luck. Infielders train relentlessly for these moments, and agility ladder drills are a mainstay of their routines so that they can react instantaneously under pressure.
Train for Agility
An agility ladder is comprised of plastic and/or rope that's rolled out on a flat surface. The goal is to perform increasingly challenging movements without touching the rungs of the ladder. Particular emphasis is placed on improving agility, balance, and coordination. Movements include high-knee running, sideways shuffles, crossovers, and forward and lateral hopscotch.
These exercises aren't just for top-level athletes, either. Ladder training is great for anyone who wants to increase their speed and agility. To get faster and improve your footwork, you can perform a variety of agility ladder drills anywhere you can lay out a ladder, whether in a gym, your basement, or your backyard.
Add a Little Chaos
Becoming a pro ballplayer takes more than elite footwork. As evidenced by Jeter's famous flip, you also need to be skilled at handling the ball, and that requires hand-eye coordination. Chaos ladder drill catches are a popular routine that implements hand-eye training with agility ladder drills.
A chaos ball is a textured ball that bounces erratically because of its irregular shape and dimensions. During chaos ladder drill catches, you first perform an agility ladder drill and then sprint to a cone and touch the ground. Afterward, you turn around and catch a chaos ball thrown to you by a training partner.
Whereas the agility ladder drill promotes footwork, balance, and coordination, the chaos ball catch is meant to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time. KBands Training, the creator of the chaos ball, provides an excellent demonstration and instructional guide on how to perform these exercises.
An infielder has to quickly determine the trajectory of a ball following a hit and react accordingly in order to field the ball himself or move in position to assist his teammate. With agility ladder drills and chaos ladder drill catches, you can train like a pro infielder and develop the same athleticism that lets the top ballplayers perform these actions with exquisite speed and precision. And who knows? Maybe one day you can pull off your own version of the flip.