Twice is nice: The importance of the double play

There is perhaps no moment in baseball that can alter the course of a game more than a double play. If a team successfully turns one, it could end a ninth-inning rally dead in its tracks. A team that fails to complete a double play leaves at least two men on base, prolonging an inning that could be been over, or at least nearly over.

"Does anything determine wins and losses in close games more than double plays?" asked a recent article in The Detroit Free Press. "Is there a more common root of demise in baseball than the double play that should be turned but isn't, thus prolonging the inning?"

From youth leagues onward, baseball players need to master the turning of a double play, from the pitcher who tries to induce a ground ball to the infielders who must work together to finish the play. Coaches should spend a considerable amount of time teaching proper double play strategies in practice.

One drill involves a coach standing near the pitcher's mound and rolling balls at various speeds and locations toward the shortstop and second baseman. As soon as the ball is released, the player who is not fielding the ball should break toward second base to receive the throw from the teammate. The player who receives the ball should practice removing it from his or her glove smoothly and throwing to first base.

Players may need to reminded that getting the first out is most important – taking more time to ensure one out is made, instead of rushing and failing to record any outs, is much more preferable. A possible double play that is not converted could ruin a pitcher's confidence and lead to a scoring inning.

For advice about double plays and additional drills, coaches should visit YouthBaseballPlans.com. They should also encourage parents to provide their youth athletes with high-quality baseball equipment, such as baseball gloves.

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