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 Crow Hop
#2 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 or fielding live hitting.
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.
A great drill for catching a ball hit over your head is a drop step. Learn how to do it below.
Drill Practice- Drop Step
#3 Proper Route to the Ball
Taking a good route to the ball helps you work smarter and not harder. When practicing a proper route, you will incorporate a mixture of reading the ball off the bat and having a quick first step. The better these 2 skills are done the easier it is for the outfielder to make the play.
#4 Proper Relay/ Cuttoff
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.
#5 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.
#6 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.
#7 Infield/ Outfield DRILL- Throwing Strikes to the Base
Cutoffs are extremely important! To make it more precise, throwing a strike to the bag is the best chance of not only being quick and accurate but allows the person to tag the runner more efficiently. This increases the chance of actually tagging the runner out on a play from the outfielder. This drill can be done from both sides of the field and works on a lot of skills at once. It involves receiving the ball from the outfielder, good communication, and accurate and precise tags, all while footwork and proper throwing mechanics throughout. This is an absolutely great drill and for a better look watch the video below!
#8 Star Drill
This drill will focus on a good first step as well as many other skills. It’s great for any player and position on the field but especially helpful for outfielders. It allows players to practice their route to the ball, catching and fielding the ball, as well as diving if needed. Find out more below!