A routine play in a baseball game is supposed to be just that – routine. But the plays that look the toughest can sometimes be the easiest for a fielder to make. Plays that aren’t routine usually mean a player doesn’t have time to think; they only have time to react. Not every attempt at a great play succeeds because a player has to be nearly flawless. However, the lack of thinking time allows the player to rely solely on his athletic ability.
The routine ground balls are practiced everyday by players, so they see hundreds of them every year. They become muscle memory and monotonous with the repetition and re-occurrence of the play, not to mention that most hitters jog to first base when they know they have hit an easy ground ball to a fielder. By having more time to make the play, the fielder also has more time to make an error either fielding or throwing. This doesn’t happen often and becomes less of a factor with the higher level of talent playing.
Announcers often say that fielders make a Web Gems look like a routine play. The reason this happens is that by practicing the routine ground balls on a consistent basis, the fielders have established their fielding range and know exactly what to do on these ground balls. When there is a tougher play that usually involves more movement from the player, those same fundamentals take over but also allow for athletic ability and instinct to take over. Web Gems are also usually more fun to make and get a player excited to make the play.
When you combine the instinct, added emotion, and the established fundamentals, tough plays can easily become just like a routine play. As long as there isn’t a bad hop, most ground balls are the same whether they are hit right at a player or in the hole. Going back to the instinct and reaction time, a player doesn’t have time to think about what he needs to do and just does it. This results in many great plays that have the appearance of being just another ground ball for fielders.
Most of the time when a player makes a Web Gem caliber play, they act nonchalant like it’s something they do every day. Whether this is professionalism or just being modest depends on the player who made the play, but players know what plays they can and should make and which ones they will have a tougher time making. The great players are the ones who expect to make every routine play and usually do. You may think they made a once in a lifetime play, but they probably don’t.