Advanced Outfield Skills and Position Specific Skills
Now that the outfield unit has been identified and players have been assigned specific outfield positions, players can practice more advanced skills and also basic position specific skills in the assigned positions.
#1 Reading the Ball Off the Bat
The ability to quickly read the ball off the bat to determine where the ball is going to get a good “jump” on it is a skill that can only be learned by watching live batting vs live pitching.
A rule of thumb is if the ball makes your head look up, you’ll need to come in. Games are obviously the best way to learn this skill but also during batting practice.
Batting practice shouldn’t be a time for outfielders to be lazy and just stand there. Outfielders should be treating batting practice like a game.
I, unfortunately, have been witness to batting practices in which outfielders were allowed to stand flat footed with their hands in their pockets. This is how players develop bad habits and worse yet don’t develop at all.
#2 Proper Relay
When teaching outfielders the proper way to relay the ball into the infield, it is important to stress the importance of accuracy and quickness. After an outfielder makes a play, the next important step is to get the ball back into the infield.
The outfielder will first determine where the throw is going- the cutoff man, to a base, or to the plate which is one of the more difficult but exciting plays in any level of baseball. Once the target is decided upon, an accurate throw becomes essential to the success of getting the ball back to the infield.
It is important for the throw to not only be online with the target but also for it to not have too much arc on it. A throw with too much arc maybe online and may even reach the target but it will not get there as fast. A better throw would be one that hops twice but is a line drive that travels faster than the throw with too much arc.
#3 Throwing Out A Tagging Up Runner
Outfielders should practice how to attempt to throw out a tagging up runner because this is a play that can be more difficult for a youngster.
If we revisit the concept of making a play before worrying about getting the ball back into the infield then the young outfielder can begin to understand how to properly execute this play. The outfielder must focus on first making the catch and at the same time resist the urge to take their eye off the ball prematurely in an attempt to rush into setting up for the throw.
After the catch, the outfielder must practice a quick release and an accurate throw for this play to be executed properly during a game.
#4 Backing Up Fellow Outfielders & Infielders
Outfielders should be taught the importance of responsibilities that they will have even when the ball is not hit to them. Backing up fellow outfielders and infielders will help minimize the damage that an outfield error or wild infield throw can cause.
This goes back to what was discussed earlier about not allowing outfielders to be lazy during practice. Always remember that bad practice habits will become bad game habits. Outfielders should also be taught the importance of defending the gaps.
During practice, balls should be purposely hit into the gaps during full team defensive drills so outfielders can get used to moving on these balls. The outfielder must be taught that they may not be able to stop a gap hit but it is their job to make an attempt.
#5 Right fielder Throw Runner Out At First Base
You rarely see this play at the upper levels but it even happens on occasion in the Major Leagues. If a right fielder is well positioned and can cleanly field the ball coming in on it, he may have a play at first base. Make sure your first baseman knows to cover first on hard hits, especially if he is the cutoff man usually on those plays.
At younger levels, you can position your right fielder as a deep second baseman, challenging the batter to beat you over his head. With the length of outfield grass most times of the year, balls rarely get very deep on opposite field hits anyways.