Wednesday Web Gem Tips – Fielding fundamentals to get you on ESPN
Major League Confession
After having played professional baseball for 12 years, with some of those in the major leagues, you would think I could judge a fly ball – not, or at least, not when in the outfield. I could see a ball come off the bat from the second base position and know where the ball would land, but when seeing the ball off the bat while standing in the outfield, I was amazingly clueless. Judging a fly ball is one of those things that looks so easy to do, but nothing is further from the truth. It takes a great deal of practice as everything in baseball, to judge fly balls.
Why it is so difficult? First, it is not as easy as hitting groundballs to players because it takes a real knack for hitting fly balls, which many coaches do not have. Second, players tire quickly from chasing after fly balls. Third, catching fly balls off a tossed up ball is just not realistic, as fielding ground balls off a bat are. It is easy to hit groundballs that simulate game type balls, but throwing a ball up and hitting a fly ball is just not the same as having a ball come off the bat from a pitched ball.
With that in mind, coaches should have any player who plays outfield on the team, set up in the outfield during batting practice and play balls off the bat as in a game. Furthermore, coaches should set just the regular three players in the outfield and no more. Having outfielders play balls, using communication between them, once again, as in a game is one of the only ways to get realistic experience at judging fly balls.
It may be a little inconvenient because coaches will have to delay slightly between pitches to allow players to make the catch before the next pitch, but it is well worth it to give outfielders the necessary experience.