PART 1: Making the play on a “slow-roller” progression.
One of the toughest plays for an infielder to make is picking up a slow roller, because the ball is not hit very hard. The slow roller is a “do-or-die” play at first where you will field the ball on the run and throw off one foot, generally with a low arm angle. When there is any pace on the ball at all, it's a safer play to reach down with the glove rather than trying to barehand the ball.
For right-handed players, some are flexible enough to gather it inside their left foot with two hands, which makes for a little bit quicker exchange. Others prefer to come in with their left foot forward and gather the ball one-handed outside their foot. Either way will work, depending on your comfort level. Of course, for left-handed players, the foot positioning is reversed.
A drill progression to work on this play is to start with just the ball in the glove and your left foot forward. Bend down and simulate fielding the ball on the outside of your left foot with just your glove hand. Then, take a step with your right foot and transfer the ball to your throwing hand. At the same time, balance on the right foot, which is the foot you will want to throw from on this quick play. Repeat the drill by starting with the ball on the inside of the left foot with two hands, simulating fielding the ball and then stepping onto the right foot and balancing in position to make the throw. Depending on which way feels more comfortable, you should continue to work on that technique.
Once your comfort level has been determined, the next thing is to make the drill more game-like. Start with the ball in your glove again and from there you should simulate the last couple steps going down like you are making the play off the left. Then, balance on your right after you make the exchange and are ready to throw. It's not an easy thing to balance on that right leg while being ready to throw, so it’s important to work on this with multiple repetitions.
Be sure to also watch our video on how to properly exchange the ball from your glove to your throwing hand in order to complete this play.
Next, you’ll want to add in the throw. At this point, have the ball in your glove and walk through the drill. After the exchange, you’ll want to create only one step while throwing off the right foot.
Accuracy of the throw is important. You would rather want to take extra steps and make a good throw than rush to get rid of the ball in one step and be inaccurate with your delivery to first base. Knowing the throw is going to tail and sink a little bit to the first baseman, you need to adjust where you start your throws.
Lastly, your coach or teammate should roll the ball to you while you run through the drill full speed, then make a throw to first base. It’s important that you progress into the full-speed drill once you have created a comfort level with the ball already in your glove. The more game-like you work your frills, the more prepared you’ll be to make the play when it counts.