outfielder tips

5 Helpful Tips For Becoming An Elite Outfielder

outfielder

As a baseball outfielder, your ability to catch fly balls, throw accurately, and cover ground efficiently is crucial. Outfielders are vital components of any team’s defense, which is why honing your skills can make a significant impact on your game. In this article, we will provide valuable tips to elevate your outfield performance, from improving footwork and catching techniques to refining your mental game and practicing effectively.

Remember that excelling as an outfielder requires dedication, attention to detail, and hard work. By incorporating these essential outfield tips into your training regimen, you will be well-equipped to make game-changing plays and contribute to your team’s success on the field.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn essential footwork and catching techniques to improve as an outfielder
  • Mental preparation and practice drills can help you take your game to the next level
  • Utilize conditioning exercises to increase speed and stamina in the outfield

What Is The Proper Way To Catch A Fly Ball?

1. Where should I focus my eyes?

Let’s get started with the basics of catching a fly ball in the outfield. Before anything is hit your way, the pitcher has to deliver the pitch. Young players tend to follow the pitcher’s arm path to try and pick up the ball. Then their eyes shift to the plate where the hitter makes contact. So for every pitch, the outfielder’s eyes are moving from the mound to home plate to the batted ball.

One tip is to focus your eyes directly on the hitting zone. When the pitcher is getting ready and starting his windup, get set in your position and focus on the batter. By doing this, you’ll have a better chance of getting good reads on the ball, which is an essential first step in catching a fly ball.

2. Proper Footwork and Body Positioning

To move quickly and avoid wasted movements, make sure your footwork and body positioning are correct. Be in a low, athletic position with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. When moving to catch a fly ball, open your hips completely and move purposefully in the direction of the ball.

A correct first step will enable you to get excellent jumps on the ball. It will also help you get to balls that other outfielders may not reach because of the wrong technique. 

3. Reach The Spot First

Think of it as a race between you and the ball. Your goal is to get to the spot where you think the ball will end up before it gets there. This will give you enough time not only to settle in and make the catch, but it will also give you good momentum and get you in a position to make a strong throw to the infield.

Even if it’s a routine fly ball, many players will casually jog to the spot to make the catch, but it leaves them in a terrible position to make a quick and accurate throw.

This is important, especially when runners are on base. Any decent runner will notice the path the outfielder takes to the ball and how they set up to make the catch. A second or two could be the difference between a successful tag-up or an out. Even if runners are not on base, do it correctly to build good habits. 

4. Momentum

The next outfielder tip is about momentum. Work on generating momentum toward your target while catching the ball. Avoid catching the ball flat-footed, as this will waste time and put you in a poor throwing position. Instead, aim to catch the ball while moving forward, making it easier to maintain momentum for a strong and quick throw.

Oftentimes, outfielders may slightly misjudge how hard the ball was hit and if they are camped out under the spot where they think it will land, they may start to backpedal to compensate for the misread. This usually means trouble, resulting in a difficult catch or dropped balls.  

As an outfielder, you will not always be able to get behind the ball before you make the catch and create some momentum for your throw. There will be diving catches, over-the-shoulder catches, or hits that drop that you still need to stop before the ball rolls to the fence.

5. Catch The Ball On Your Throwing Side

Catch the ball on your throwing side to easily transition into a throwing position. Doing so will allow for a smoother and quicker throw back into the infield. Practice this technique to make it a natural part of your outfield play.


Additional Outfielder Tips

Physical Conditioning

To enhance your performance as an outfielder, focus on physical conditioning, such as strength, speed, and endurance. Concentrate on lower and upper body strength training exercises, like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Speed can be worked on through agility drills, sprinting, and plyometric training.

To boost your endurance, add cardiovascular exercises like running and swimming to your routine. Prioritizing physical conditioning will allow you to play at peak levels for extended periods.

Mental Preparation

Mental preparation is also essential for outfielders. Stay focused and alert on the field, always ready to respond to changing situations. Good communication with your teammates helps you understand their strategies and anticipate the ball’s trajectory. Develop your ability to predict plays and position yourself to make successful actions. A sharp mental state will enable you to make quick decisions during the game.

Practice Drills

Practice makes perfect, and this is especially true for outfielders. Outfielders should practice specific drills to improve their skills, such as catching fly balls, making accurate throws, and improving their footwork. Repetition is the key to mastering a skill, so you should practice these drills regularly.

The Crow Hop / Pro Step

Now that you’re in position and gaining momentum, what’s the best way to throw the ball in?

I played left field for years, and the way I was taught was by crow hopping. Some outfielders only need to crow hop once to generate a strong throw, but I’ve seen many use two. Anything more, and you are holding the ball too long, and runners have most likely advanced. 

The other way is called the pro step. The pro step is almost identical to the standard crow hop, but you step behind your front leg instead. Try either of these outfielder drills and your throws will be much stronger. Check out the video below. 

Crow Hop
Pro Step

What are some common outfielder drills for improvement?

Here are some popular outfielder drills to help you improve your skills:

  • Fly Ball Drills: Practice catching fly balls from various trajectories and distances to improve your tracking and reaction time.
  • Crow Hop and Throwing Drills: Work on your crow hop technique to generate more power and accuracy in your throws.
  • Ground Ball Drills: Field ground balls hit to your left, right, and center to develop quick footwork and smooth transitions to your throwing stance.
  • Communication Drills: Practice calling for the ball and communicating with your fellow outfielders to improve on-field coordination

How To Block The Sun When Catching A Fly Ball

As a baseball outfielder, one of the most important things you can do is learn how to block the sun. If the sun is shining bright during one of your games, it can make it difficult to make even the most routine catch. 

Here are 4 outfielder tips to help keep the sun out of their eyes:

  • Use your glove: Your glove can protect you from getting hit in the head with the fly ball and serve as a shield from the sun. Many outfield gloves feature H-Web or Trapeze webbing patterns, allowing you to track the ball through the openings while blocking the sun. This is one of the simplest and most effective methods.
  • Wear a hat: Wearing a hat provides another way to keep the sun out of your eyes. During a game, the baseball cap is standard in your uniform, ensuring you are already equipped.
  • Utilize sunglasses: Sunglasses effectively reduce the sun’s glare and offer protection from harmful UV rays. While selecting sunglasses, prioritize choosing those that sit comfortably on your face and don’t restrict your field of vision while you play.
  • Apply eye black: Eye black helps decrease glare and, when combined with your glove, hat, and sunglasses, significantly assists in your battle against the sun.

Final Thoughts On How To Become An Elite Outfielder

By following the given strategies, you can enhance your outfielder abilities in baseball. Focus on the hitting zone rather than the pitcher and aim to eliminate wasted movements. Make sure to reach the spot first and position yourself behind the ball, creating momentum for a strong, accurate throw to the infield.

Catch the ball on your throwing side, allowing for quicker throws. Utilize techniques such as the crow hop or pro step to increase your throw’s strength. Remember, practice is essential in improving your skills. Stay persistent, and ultimately, you’ll become the best outfielder you can be.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.
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