Playing in an outfield position requires patience and concentration combined with sharp reactions and technique. Good instincts are also key for outfielders when it comes to decision-making at crucial times.
All in all, it’s a tricky place to be on the baseball field. For people who have only ever watched baseball and never played, outfielders might not seem too important, or perceived as not really having too much to do, but this is completely wrong.
A good outfielder has to be constantly thinking one move ahead in order to fully anticipate and act when they’re called upon.
Every outfielder needs a toolbox of skills and more advanced players will no doubt have a few tricks up their sleeve and buried in their gloves to help them navigate the game. Outside of the training regimes, fielding drills, fungo bats, and everything else ‘training’ and there is a list of core tips, techniques, and strategies outfielders can use to gain an edge and really step up their fielding game during a competitive game…
Baseball Outfield Tip #1: Back Up The Infield
Whenever a ball is played, outfielders must have an active role – even if they don’t end up physically playing the ball, they need to be on hand to back up the infield and be alert to any mistakes or missed catches.
You can almost guarantee that the moment an outfielder stops concentrating and fails to back up the infield will be the same moment that a rogue ball gets through the infield so it’s crucial that outfielders are always alert.
Baseball Outfield Tip #2: Communicate With The Infield
As an outfielder it’s easy to fall into the trap of spectating and letting the infield dictate the action.
Don’t be afraid to take ownership of a defensive play from the outfield. If you’ve got a clear sight of a ball and a vision of how it can be played, let the infield know by shouting them off it and playing it your way.
Baseball Outfield Tip #3: Stand Your Ground & Don’t Move Too Fast
Outfielding is all about anticipation.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as an outfielder is to jump the gun too early. Line drives moving at speed are always going to have a little bit of spin or curve on them and ground balls will always hop.
That’s why it’s crucial to not only train for this unpredictability in training using a rebounder net for example but in a game take a moment to judge the path of the ball before committing to it.
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that you stand there forever watching the ball, that would be ridiculous – this is a tiny fragment of time we’re talking about. Going too early can mean missing the ball altogether, so read the ball and then decide your best course of action.
Baseball Outfield Tip #4: Know The Field
Every time you play a match on a new field be sure to inspect it and ask yourself a few questions.
- Is the grass short or long? This will dictate the speed of a ground ball.
- Is the surface smooth or rutted? A bumpier ground with holes and craters will mean that you can expect the ball to jump a bit more making its path harder to track.
- What is the outfield fence like? If the fence has some funky angles, the rebound will be difficult to anticipate.
- Knowing all of these things before the game will give you a slight edge.
Baseball Outfield Tip #5: Block The Sun
As an outfielder, there’s nothing worse than having the sun in your eyes.
Even on a cloudy day, the brightness can be overwhelming when trying to keep your eye on a fly ball. Use your glove to try and block out the sun when going for catches. Outfielders should also tweak their position where possible to place themselves at an angle where the sun is behind them. This brings us nicely onto the next tip…
Baseball Outfield Tip #6: Invest In A Good Pair of Sunglasses
Having a quality pair of shades is advantageous for any outfielder. Not only are they going to increase your ability to see and catch balls, but they’re also going to provide protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. I’ve gone into great detail here on the best sunglasses for youth and adult players – be sure to check it out.
It doesn’t have to be a bright, super sunny day to wear them either. Sunglasses with polarized lenses will come in handy in all weather conditions giving outfielders a great advantage.
Baseball Outfield Tip #7: Catch Away From The Body
This one probably goes without saying but always try to receive the ball away from your body.
Baseballs are hard things (especially weighted ones if you’re training…) and human bodies are made of pretty soft stuff, so do everything you can to avoid getting struck by a ball – trust me, it hurts like hell. Even a softball traveling at speed can leave you stinging.
Most importantly, never catch a ball directly in front of your face – catch with your arm outstretched and trust your glove.