Playing in the outfield as a baseball player has its perks as well as downsides. Youth baseball players often get bored standing in right field waiting for that rare fly ball to come. But when it comes, the potential to make a great diving catch can make playing outfield the most exciting position in baseball. It’s important to be on top of your game at all times so you can make the most of your opportunities and impress your coach!
From Mike Trout to Yasiel Puig, the MLB is now spilling over with elite, young talent that can catch and patrol the outfield just as well as they can hit. These two-way players make it impossible to be benched and it should be something that all aspiring ballplayers should strive for. Take these certified tips from CoachUp on how you can be a better baseball outfielder:
Stop Picking Flowers!
The worst thing that can happen to an outfielder is not being ready when the ball is hit their way. Therefore, it's important to be mentally prepared at all times. There are many ways an outfielder can ready themselves to spring into action. Interacting with your teammates is a great way to do this. Shouting how many outs there are and where the next play is can help get everyone’s head in the game.
When the pitcher gets ready to deliver, you should get in an athletic stance. You will see the infielders crouch low in anticipation of a ground ball when the pitcher gets set. Since you are further away, crouching like an infielder is unnecessary. However, bending your knees and getting on the balls of your feet is a good step in preparation -- you never know when or where the ball could be hit to you.
Make A Good First Move
The secret to an outfielder making a good play is in their first move when the ball is hit. Your first step should almost always be behind you. This is because it is much easier to make up ground in front of you than it is to chase a ball hit over your head. With practice, you will get better at reading the ball off the bat and your first move will become simply instinctual.
Even then, the ball can do plenty of unpredictable things, varying because of the sun, wind, spin, level of contact, and angle, so you will have to make some very intelligent decisions at an outrageous rate. In most situations, you’ll have just a fraction of a moment to decide what to do, so make the most of it!
Use Your Judgment
As an outfielder, you’re the last line of defense. Therefore, you must use your best judgment when deciding whether to dive for a ball. If that ball gets by you, it certainly means extra bases for the batter. If a ball is hit on either side of you, make sure you do not overrun the ball. If you run directly at a hard hit ball hit to your right or left, it might still get by you. Try to take a diagonal path towards where the ball might end up rather than straight towards it.
Typically speaking, Trout and Puig aren’t just phenomenal athletes, they’re phenomenal thinkers as well. For as many highlight reel plays they make, you hardly see them on the wrong end of an error either. They don’t recklessly chase balls they can’t catch and they’ll be the first ones to back off when there’s little chance of catching it. You have to know when to step on the gas and when to play it safe -- and that, above all, might be the best facet of an effective outfielder.
(Related: Read about making good decisions in the outfield here.)
So, in the end, most outfielders wouldn’t trade full, consistent games without lapses in judgement or poor errors for one highlight catch and neither should you. Big catches might bring you attention and fame for a short period of time, but it’s your dedication to the fundamentals and keeping the game simple that will help you ascend to higher levels of the game.
However, that’s not to say we over here at CoachUp don’t enjoy the magnificent plays either! Make sure you’re constantly on your toes, paying attention, and getting a good first step! That will put you in a great position moving towards any flyball or sharp liner. If you’re still struggling with the fundamentals of the outfield, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers to help you out. They’ll have you chasing down shots like Mike Trout does in no time -- what are you waiting for?
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.