Mahtomedi Youth Baseball Outfield Skills & Drills March 13, 2007 Expectations of Players • Have fun. • Get better. • Be positive toward yourself & teammates. • Hustle. Always jog on/off field & between stations at practice. • Assist with all equipment pick-up. • Be ready to go at beginning of practice. Outfield – Basic Skills • The ability to track the ball. – This is the number one skill and it is a difficult one. – Run to the point where the ball will come down (“tracking”). – Don’t go straight across and then in or back. – If you turn the wrong way going back on a ball, don’t turn back toward the ball to make an adjustment. Turn your back on the ball and without breaking stride make the adjustment (turn your head the other way) and pick the ball up again. – When this type of play occurs, you will have to catch the fly ball backhanded. • The Grip – Hold the ball across the seams when throwing, fingers spread slightly apart and thumb underneath. This provides increased accuracy and carry. – Always use a 4-seam grip. When throwing to a base or home, the backspin created by the overhand grip will put good “skip” on the ball if it hits the ground. Outfield – Basic Skills • Outfield Running Technique – Good running technique will help your outfielders become better at chasing down fly balls. – Consider that the glove should be thought of as a part of the hand and run with a natural pumping motion of the arms. – Put the glove up to catch the ball the last three steps only. – Do not run after a fly ball with the glove up in a premature catch position. This will slow the OF down. – Run on the balls of the feet. If a player runs on his heels the ball will appear to bounce up and down as he runs. Outfield – Basic Skills • Outfielders Fielding Ground Balls on the Run – There is a specific technique for fielding ground balls on the run. – This technique is necessary when there is a do-or-die play or the outfielder is attempting to prevent the base runner from advancing. – The outfielder should field the ball on the outside of his left foot (RH Player). The ball should enter his glove and his left foot should hit the ground at the same time. Using this method he will not have to break stride. • Catch every fly ball above the eyes – Once the ball falls below the head it is harder to follow into the glove. • Never drift to a fly ball – It’s a bad habit and young players should be reminded when they do it. – Run hard and try to catch every ball standing still. Outfield – Basic Skills • Communicate with the other outfielders and infielders. – Learn to communicate without taking your eyes off the ball. – Use your voice loud and clear. • Outfield Mentality – Instill in your outfielders the mentality that everything hit into the air will be caught. – Teach them how to read the ball off the bat – Instill a desire to succeed and giving 100% effort. • “Hit” the Cut-off man (i.e., “through the cut-off) – This skill is often misunderstood. – The goal is to throw to the intended base by throwing the ball low and hard every time, trying to hit the cut-off man in the head or chest. – By throwing hard he will be able to throw THROUGH the cut-off. That is the misunderstood part. All throws should be thrown hard enough to throw THROUGH the cut-off, so that it can travel to the desired base if necessary. Outfield – Communication • Vital part of the game. • Constant talk between outfielders will keep them in the game individually and collectively. It is essential for sound fundamental defensive play. • Outfielders should let each other know: – if they are going to shift – the depth they are going to play – the area where the hitter is most likely to hit – where to throw the ball. • They should constantly remind each other of: – the inning, – the number of outs, – the score – the speed of the base runner(s). Outfield – Communication • Outfielders should help each other by talking. – They should call for the ball loud and clear “got it, got it” or “ball, ball!” – They should call for the ball at the apex of its flight. Calling off too soon is just as bad as not calling at all. • The off fielder should be his fellow OF’s “eyes” as he is making the catch. – See what the runners are doing and tell him- “half way or tagging up.” – Tell him where to throw after the catch, second, third or home (through the cut-off). • Outfielders should understand that the centerfielder has priority over the other two outfielders: If the CF calls, let him take it. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Jump – 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Footwork – 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. – 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Footwork – When the ball is hit directly over your head, you first step will be a deep drop step with your throwing hand side. Note: 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Run Hard – Start running hard to the spot where you have determined the ball is going to land,. 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. • Run on the Balls of your feet, not on your Heels – Run hard and try to keep more on the front part of your feet and the ball will stay steady in your vision. – 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Get Behind The Ball – You will dramatically improve your velocity & 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Circle The Ball – The diagrams show the incorrect angle and proper angle to take when running to the ball. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Turn Your Back – 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Inside Turn – 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. Outfield Skills – Fly balls • Playing the Fly Ball in the Sun – The Jump • It's important to get a good jump on the ball and quickly anticipate where 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. – Listen • If you lose 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 you are 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. Outfield Skills – Ground balls • Approach – No one on base, except batter – How you field a ground ball will often be dictated by the situation and where you are in relation to the ball. – With nobody on base, and the ball hit near you, your goal is to make sure you keep the ball in front of you and field it cleanly to keep the base runner from advancing to second. – Kneel down on throwing hand knee. Able to protect ball from going past. – Field ball. – Hop step, step and throw to intended base (or cut- off’s head position): RH: Right foot step, left foot step and throw. LH: Left foot step, right foot step and throw. Outfield Skills – Ground balls • Approach – Runners on base – Run Hard - Charging • If you have a chance to throw a runner out, you will want to field the ball off your glove hand side. • The speed at which you charge the ground ball will also be determined by the situation. • If you have time to field it like an infielder you will want to approach the ball under control and get yourself in position to catch it. • Even if the situation dictates that you rush to get the ball you will need to break down and get under control before you get to the ball. This will allow you to set yourself up to make a good throw which will more than make up for the time you used in slowing down. – Circle the Ball • If you have time, make sure you try to circle the ball and keep it in front of you. • 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 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. Outfield Skills – Ground balls • Backhand And Forehand – Even with the goal of trying to circle and get in front of the ball, there will be times when you will need to catch a grounder going hard to each side. Practice catching ground balls both on your forehand side and backhand side. When catching these ground balls try to keep low to the ground and your glove near the ground. Remember it's easier to raise your glove to the ball then it is to drop your glove to the ball. – Backhand – Forehand Outfield Skills – Line Drives • Line drives can be difficult to field b/c of the direction and spin on ball. Ball will often sink, take off, move up or sail as it travels to the OF. • A general rule: Balls hit to the opposite field (e.g., LH hitter to left field or RH hitter to left field): Ball will have a tendency to drift to the fall line & sink slightly. Outfield – Tips • New field – When playing at an unfamiliar diamond for the first time it is a good idea to walk the entire outfield looking for things that might affect ground balls, holes or other potential surprises. Arrive early and do this before your stretch, form run and throw routine. • Any which way the wind blows – Before the first pitch of every inning simply pick a few blades of grass and throw them into the air. – This will help you judge wind direction and may help you get a break on fly balls. • Outfield Mentality – Everything hit into the air will be caught. – Read the ball off the bat – Work hard to succeed and give 100% effort. Outfield Skills – Cut-offs • Here are a few rules of thumb to allow your team to get more out of these very important plays: – Throw THROUGH the cut-off man to the intended base, chest to head high. – Allow the ball to travel to its intended target and only cut the ball off if it is off-line. – If you will practice this way your players’ arm strength will improve and you will be able to make plays that have real meaning in games. – DO NOT throw over the cut-off man’s head. – The cut-off man is responsible for positioning himself between the outfielder’s throw and the base. That’s it. It’s his job to be in the right place. No one gives him directions. – The cut-off man must move his feet before the ball arrives. He positions himself by aligning his shoulders to the target and moving his feet (a step of two toward the target) to gain momentum for the throw. Outfield Skills – Cut-offs • Here are a few rules of thumb to allow your team to get more out of these very important plays: – If the ball is offline and the cut-off man has to field it, the correct call by the catcher if there is to be a play at the plate is, “Relay, Relay”; not cut four. – The cut-off man should set up approximately 60 feet from home plate. He can use the rubber to help him gauge the distance. An on-line head-high throw from the outfielder will take an easily fielded, one- hop bounce to the catcher. (On throws from direct center field the first baseman should set up behind the mound.) Outfield Skills – Cut-offs • THROWING THE BALL TO THE INFIELD • Here are the details an outfielder should keep in mind when he throws the baseball back to the infield: – Rule #1 - THROW THROUGH THE cut-off MAN. – Rule #2 - SEE RULE # 1 – Need to get rid of the ball as soon as possible. Don’t hold the ball for any reason. – Throw the ball overhand. • Slinging the ball causes accuracy problems. No side arming. • When throwing to a base or home, the backspin created by the overhand grip will put good “skip” on the ball if it hits the ground. – Hold the ball across the seams when throwing, fingers spread slightly apart and thumb underneath. This provides increased accuracy and carry. (4-seam grip.) – Keep the throws down. All throws should be chest or head high. – Throw through the cut-off man. – Develop arm strength by throwing long in practice. – Practice good arm care. Outfield Drill #1 – Toe-running drill Purpose: To teach outfielders to keep their heads level when running for fly balls. • Players line up outside the right field line facing the infield. • First players assumes “Ready, set” position. • Coach yells “go” & first player sprints to right by starting with a crossover step. • Coach throws short fly to player. Upon catching with proper technique, players flicks ball back to line and immediately sprints back to left with a crossover step. • Coach throws again, player catches ball, flicks it back to line and sprints to right. Coaching points: Players must run on their toes, not their heels. Players should pick a point head high & concentrate on that point before looking for ball. Players should turn their heads only to look for ball, not their entire bodies. Outfield Drill #2 – OF Ground Ball/ Fly ball drill Purpose: To work on OF fundamentals • Three players: OF, cut-off & catcher for coach • A coach could hit from 1B to an OF in right-center with cut-off to the OF side of coach (not far from OF for short throws) & another coach could hit from 3B to an OF in left-center with cut-off to the OF side of coach. Catcher is next to coach. Keeps six players busy. • Coach hits variety of ground balls and fly balls to single player in OF continuously. After 15 – 20 balls, rotate positions. Coaching points: Emphasize the different fundamentals. Work in situations (e.g., “0 outs, no runners on”, “1 out, runner in scoring position”, etc.) and discuss different approaches. Outfield Drill #3 – Balls over head • Ball over right shoulder: – Throw ball over right shoulder. – Pivot on right foot and sprint to spot where ball will come down. – Glove position: RH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of left eye. LH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of right eye. • Ball over left shoulder: – Throw ball over left shoulder. – Pivot on left foot and sprint to spot where ball will come down. – Glove position: RH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of left eye. LH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of right eye. • Ball directly behind fielder: – Throw ball directly behind fielder. – Pivot on throwing hand foot (RH = Right foot/LH = Left foot) and sprint to spot where ball will come down. – Glove position: RH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of left eye. LH: Bend glove hand wrist and place glove outside of right eye. Outfield Drill #4 – Charging Balls Purpose: To learn how to charging ground balls • Coach fungoes ground balls directly in front of the outfielders. • OF should be deep enough so they have to sprint in to make the play. • Field the ball outside the glove-side foot. • Throw through the cut-off man to intended base. Outfield Drill #5 – Line Drive Communication Purpose: To learn how to catch line drives & back up • Form two lines one hundred feet apart on the outside of the two outfielders. • A player from each line steps toward middle (~ 100’ apart) • Coach throws or fungoes line drives at or between the two outfielders. • One calls for the ball and the other backs him up and tells him where to throw the ball – 2B or 3B. • Jog back to opposite line. • Next pair of players head out to middle. Outfield Drill #6 – Chest over ball Purpose: To learn how to play a ball that has stopped rolling along the fence. • Players form one line near the fence with one player serving as the cut-off. • Coach rolls ball to fence. • Player sprints to ball. • Players fields ball with bare hand and instead of reaching for ball, they get their chest over the ball. • Next, they push the ball into the ground before picking it up (to start momentum), step to the inside & throw to a cut-off man. • Player jogs back to line. Outfield Drill #7 – Sun Drill Purpose: To learn how to play a fly ball in the sun. • Players form one line facing the sun • Coach begins drill by throwing short tosses to players facing sun, emphasizing use of glove to shield eyes from the sun. Players should look under their glove (by wrist), rather than over the glove to see the ball the entire way. • Once technique is comfortable, coach can hit balls into the sun. Outfield Drill #8 – Setting up throws Purpose: To practice setting up throws • Players form one line facing the coach. • First player steps out and gets into “Ready, set” position. • Coach lobs a fly ball. • Player gets behind the ball, moves forward to it and catches it above their eyes over their throwing shoulder. • Throw through cut-off to intended base. Ensure proper throwing technique. Outfield Drill #8 – Lay out Drill Purpose: To practice laying out for catches • Players form one line facing the coach. • Players line up in line facing coach with enough room to dive to the left and right and kneel. • Coach throws balls left and right and fall enough in front, so player must lay out to catch it. • Emphasis is on smoothly laying out for ball to avoid injury and to keep ball in glove. Outfield Drill #9 – One Hop Drill Purpose: To practice throwing balls that bounce straight. • Have outfielders stand 150-200’ apart from each other and make one-hop throws to each other. • Consider using ball with band of black tape. • Check for 4-seam grip and the way the ball bounces after it contacts the ground. It should bounce straight ahead and not move left or right. • Work on throwing accuracy as well. Outfield Drill #10 – Fence Drill (U12 and higher) Purpose: To practice playing balls at the fence • Players form single line. • Throw fly balls over the outfielders’ heads, so they must get to the fence to make the play. • Player must take one quick look and then feel for the fence with their throwing hand. • Need to know how many steps on warning track from grass to fence (make mental note before game). References • Website: www.baseball-excellence.com • Videos: Kaizen Drills by Tom McLamore email@example.com • Mark Johnson, Jack Leggett, Pat McMahon, 2001. BASEBALL Skills & Drills. • Dr. Bragg Stockton, 2002. Coaching Baseball Skills & Drills (3rd Edition).