The outfield is covered by three players, the center fielder, right fielder, and left fielder. These players are responsible for catching fly balls, running down hits to the outfield, and getting the ball back to the infield as quickly as possible.
Outfielders need to be fast and have a strong arm. Typically center fielders need the most speed and right fielders need the strongest arm (so they can make the throw to third base). Of course, outfielders need to be able to consistently catch fly balls on the run.
Catching a Fly Ball in the Outfield
When the pitch is thrown, the outfielder should be in the ready position. As soon as the ball is hit, the player should run at full speed to where the ball is going. Don’t try to time it so you arrive with the ball, try to beat the ball to the spot. This will give you more time to make adjustments and set up for the catch.
Set up for the catch a bit behind where the ball is coming down. Catch the ball while stepping forward toward the infield. This will give you momentum to make a strong and quick throw.
Where to Throw the Ball
Once you have the ball in the outfield, it is important not to hold it or try to run it back in. You need to throw it to the cutoff player immediately!
Always have a plan of where you need to throw the ball before the pitch is thrown. Here are some ideas on where to throw depending on the base runners:
- No base runner or man on third: Throw the ball to the cutoff player at second base. This will either be the second baseman or the shortstop.
- Man on First: Throw the ball to the cutoff player for third base (generally the shortstop). If there is also a player on third, you still throw the ball to third in order to keep the runner from first advancing to third.
- Man on Second, two men on base, or bases loaded: Throw the ball to the cutoff covering the infield. This is generally the pitcher. You need to keep the player on second from scoring.
A good way to stay in the game and to show your coach you are hustling is to back up plays whenever possible. Center fielders can charge towards second to back up throws there. Likewise, right fielders can back up first base and left fielders can back up third. In youth baseball backing up can be important as errant throws are common and hustle by the outfielders can save bases and runs.