One of the biggest reasons for messing up a play is rushing the play. There's a certain tempo that every fielder, regardless of the position, must get in the grove with. A tempo that allows a decision planned for, out of many "anticipated" possible plays, then possession of the ball cleanly, a reasonable platform to either throw from, or cover a bag, or to back up, then execute. Again, a tempo of expectation, action, results.
Pressure, being one of the culprits that causes a fielder to rush his tempo, can be one of the toughest things to get a handle on. In the professional game, this IS the craftsman's expertise that makes him a professional. The professionals can make it look easy - because this is their livelihood. Like a bricklayer who constructs a wall that's neat and clean, straight as an arrow, crisp corners, and the same amount of mortar mix between every brick. This stuff doesn't happen over night either. Constant practice to hone one's ability to act without hesitation and precise.
Now for amateurs, this is a tall order. Don't get too upset if things go south - and they will, more often than not. But there is a drill that every club that I was ever with did, to develop that tempo that I remarked about heretofore. That drill is pictured below.
There's noting like pressure to see what a man is really made of. And there's no better pressure cooker in baseball than there is with base-runners-on. So, let every fielder take a shot at covering second base in addition to the pitching and being a catcher, with a base runner on second, then here's how this drill unfolds:
1. the base runner on second takes a 13 foot lead off the bag
2. as soon as the pitcher starts his delivery motion from the stretch (set) the runner takes off
3. the pitcher delivers to the backstop
4. the backstop gets possession then rifles the ball to second
5. the runner from second rounds third and heads for home
6. the second baseman throws the ball back to the backstop
7. the baseball and the base runner should arrive at home plate at about the same time.
Here's what's going on:
1. with a ten foot lead off second base, the base runner has less than 90 feet to make it to third - oh, in about 3.5 to 4.0 seconds
2. once the base runner rounds third he should make it to home plate in about 4.5 to 5.5 seconds
3. the total elapsed time that the base runner is on the base paths is about 8.0 to 9.5 seconds
4. in highly competitive amateur baseball, if everyone does their job with deliberate control of the ball
- pitcher to backstop
- backstop to second base
- second base back to the backstop
all of that ball handling should be under 9.5 seconds or so.
In dominant clubs, the base runner rarely beats the ball to home plate. Other amateur clubs the base runner beats the ball by a .05 to a full 1.5 seconds.
Now before anyone gets real cocky with themselves, the base runner has to be someone that can really fly on the base path. Also as mentioned earlier, everyone takes their turn as a pitcher, a catcher (not down the position), and finally second base, then as a base runner.