Outfield Play - Introductory Video
When the ball is hit, get a good jump. A good jump depends on your reaction time, which can improve through repetition. Watch the ball all the way to the plate; both the location of the pitch and your knowledge of a particular hitter helps you anticipate where the ball may go and give you a chance for a better jump.
It's difficult if not impossible to get a good jump without good footwork.
When the ball is hit to your side, your first move will be a crossover step.
When the ball is hit over your head to the side your first step will be a drop step, followed by a crossover.
Drop Step Drill
If you overrun the ball you can stop and take an inside step back to the direction you came from. You should face the ball as you change directions.
When the ball is hit directly over your head, you first step will be a deep drop step with your throwing hand side.
The reason to drop with your throwing hand is if you need to switch sides as your running back on the ball it's much easier to switch from your throwing hand side to your glove hand side and make the catch then the other way around.
One of the most difficult fly balls to judge is the ball hit directly at you. If you don't immediately recognize whether the ball is going over your head or going to drop in front of you, freeze. The worst thing you can do is guess. Simply freeze, try to determine where the ball is and listen. The other outfielder may be able to see the trajectory better than you and yell at you to go in or go back.
Once you have determined approximately where the ball is going to land, start running hard to that spot. This will give you time to make adjustments if you misjudged the ball. If you coast toward the ball and you find out the ball is going to land farther away than anticipated, you may not have time to get to that spot.
Don't Run On Your Heels
If you run on your heels toward a fly ball, you will notice that the ball is bouncing. This often happens when you coast toward the ball. Run hard and try to keep more on the front part of your feet and the ball will stay steady in your vision.
You will dramatically improve your velocity and the time required to throw the ball if you get behind the ball as it comes down and start moving in the direction of your target as you catch the ball.
Circle The Ball
Sometimes you have to sprint as fast as you can just to have an opportunity to catch a ball. Other times the ball will be hit high enough that you will have extra time to get yourself in a good position to get behind the ball. One technique that will help you get in position is to circle the ball. With a ball hit to your side it's risky to try and take a direct angle to cut it off. If you miss judge the distance and speed at all, the ball may get by you. By taking an angle that is deeper you can circle behind the ball and catch it moving forward with the ball in front of you. While it might take slightly longer to get to the ball, you will be in a better position to not only catch it but make an accurate throw. The diagrams below show the incorrect angle and proper angle to take when running to the ball.
When dropping back on a ball hit directly over your head, it's important that you drop to your throwing hand side. If you drop straight back on your glove hand side, turning your back on a ball on the other side will require you to make a backhanded catch. This is a more difficult play. By dropping back on your throwing hand side, you are in position to turn your back quickly to the ball if it's curving toward the line. This is common for a right-handed right fielder or a left-handed left fielder. The turn should be made as quickly as possible.
Although it's a skill that isn't used very often it is one that takes a lot of practice to become good at. Of course a spectacular catch might be your reward.
The inside turn is used when you are going after a fly ball at an angle and you need to change directions. You will plant and push off with your outside leg and open up with your trailing leg in order to change directions. The advantage to the inside turn is that you can keep your eye on the ball the entire time.
Playing the Fly Ball in the Sun
One of the most difficult plays in baseball is the fly ball or line drive that is hit directly into the sun.
It's important to get a good jump on the ball and quickly anticipate where you think it will land. Often the ball is lost soon after being hit, which means your first analysis of where the ball is going to land is essential.
Once you have lost the ball in the sun, continue in the direction of where you believe it will land. Listen for other outfielders to tell you if you're going in the wrong direction.
Shielding Your Eyes
When you turn to find the ball, either while running or after reaching the spot you think it will land, use your glove to shield the sun from your eyes. It's important that you don't stare into the sun directly. If running at an angle that makes it difficult to get the glove up, use your throwing hand to shield the sun.
Fly Ball Above the Sun
As your running, if the ball is above the sun, shield your eyes by looking over the top of your glove towards the ball.
Fly Ball in the Sun
Once the ball has dropped into the sun, switch to shielding your eyes with the bottom of your glove. You will be looking under your glove for the ball to drop out of the sun. Many players make the mistake of continuing to look over the top of the glove for the ball. This is incorrect since the ball, as it is coming down, will be visible first below the glove. If you look over the top of the glove, you may never see it.