Outfield - Approach
Success in the outfield comes from repetition. It takes time and practice to become a great defensive outfielder. Try and make practice as fun as possible. Challenge yourself and your friends to make the plays during practice and in your spare time that you dream about making in a game.
Some spectacular plays can be made in the outfield, prepare yourself to make those plays.
Keeping yourself prepared in the outfield can be difficult at times. It takes focus to be a good outfielder. There may be a number of innings where you don't get a chance to touch the ball. One way to keep focused is to come up with a routine that you can use when playing. The routine keeps your mind from wandering and keeps you alert and ready. Below are the parts of a sample routine.
- Visualization - imagine yourself making all kinds of plays in the game today. From an over the shoulder catch to throwing a runner out at the plate. See the pitch, the hit, your reaction, your success. Expect that you will have the opportunity to make those plays today.
- Check the field - are there any problem areas? Is there a warning track? How much space is there in foul territory?
- Who's coming up next inning and what have they done so far?
- What's the score of the game? What inning? -- Translates into how agressive you will be in certain situations.
Before Each Batter
- What's the situation? Outs, runners on base, score.
- Who's the hitter? What's he done in the past?
Before Each Pitch
- What's the count
- What might the other team attempt? Steal, hit and run, bunt.
- Where do I need to be in each situation?
Come up with your own routine. Something that keeps your mind working and focused during the game. Chances to make a play might not happen every inning, but when the chance comes, you want to be ready.
Youth Coaching Advice
Depending on the age of the kids, you may be able to teach them part of a routine. Each year, they will be able to grasp a little bit more. By teaching them a routine at any position you are helping them understand the game of baseball. Start the kids off by backing up. Kids love to run and by having them back up on each play, they get to run and make a decision about where they should be. Even if they don't going to the right spot they are still running around and trying to respond to the play. That's certainly an improvement over standing still and looking at the clouds or building a mound of dirt with their shoes.
Start in an athletic position. Many times, outfielders stand up or rest their upper body weight on their knees while the pitcher delivers the pitch. These outfielders are not ready to get a good jump on the ball. Prepare yourself in much the same way as you would if you were playing in the infield. The main difference is you don't need to be as close to the ground. Bend your knees, keep your feet shoulder width apart, bend your arms, and place them in front of you.
As the pitcher throws the ball, get yourself ready to move. To do this, put your weight on the balls of you feet. This allows you to push off quickly in any direction. To get from the athletic to the ready position, use some sort of movement. Take a slight hop to put yourself in this position, or take slight steps forward transferring your weight from side to side. Whatever way you choose, time it so you distribute your weight evenly and are on the balls of your feet when the pitch crosses the plate.
The picture on the right demonstrates a shuffle forward to get into position. Notice that the hands are not on the knees in the ready position. You don't need to have your hands out in front as far as they are demonstrated in the picture, but they need to be in a position that enables you to move quickly.