Fielding fly balls can be the most fun skill when the fielder is successful especially on a difficult catch. There are many factors that will determine the flight of the ball such as the speed of the ball, the spin on the ball which comes from the angle and spin on the pitch and where the bat hits the ball. It will also depend on the positioning of the feet of the batter, where she makes contact with the ball in relation to the plate, where her hands are on the bat and of course her general batting mechanics.
This gives a fielder many things to consider as the ball is coming at them or after the ball has been hit in the air. For beginners putting together all of the cues can be very difficult which is where gaining experience comes in. Spending extra time with the coach and taking fly ball after fly ball, will allow her to gain some confidence and can be done using progressive methods that will minimize the fear of getting hurt. If a player gets hit in the face or hurts her fingers as the ball hits them first coming down to her glove, it can prevent her from being relaxed and persistent in going for the ball and having success.
Here are some ideas for beginners:
- start with indoor balls
- toss the balls rather than hit them to the fielder for more control
- have players wear a face mask
- gradually make the fly balls longer
- move the fielders side to side with tossed balls
- eventually move to a hit ball
- then it is practice practice practice
One of the best tools in fielding fly balls in less than ideal conditions is experience. With this experience comes confidence to be successful under conditions such as wind, sun, lights and meaningful game situations. This is why so much practice is necessary to give players that confidence.
Outfielders Fielding Fly Balls
While the outfielder is waiting for the pitcher to throw the ball, she should be looking at the batter and her position at the plate. If the batter takes a few practice swings at the plate, this can give the outfielders important information on the potential direction of the ball. The angle of the bat when it comes through the strike zone will tell the outfielder what direction the ball is likely to go. If she is back in the batters box, the ball will likely go more to left field if the batter is right handed and to right field if she is left handed. If her front foot is closer to the plate than her back foot, she is likely trying to delay her contact on the ball. Depending on her previous at bats, this might be because she keeps fouling the ball off so it might go more up the middle or opposite field.
Tracking and Getting to the Ball
The main reason that we want fielders to be on the balls of their feet with the glove slightly forward, is so that they can move quickly in any direction. As soon as there is contact on the bat, the outfielder should be going somewhere. Either to catch the ball or to back up a fielder. If they are going to catch a ball, they need to loudly call for the ball and run full speed with arm pumping as if running the bases. Running with the glove up to catch the ball will slow the fielder down and lessen the ability to make adjustments of the glove when she gets to her destination to catch the ball. It is critical that the fielder keep her eyes on the ball as she is arriving at her spot. It is very difficult to regain vision on the ball once the eyes have focused on something else.
The best time to tell where the ball is going to come down is by when the ball reaches its peak in the air, or the apex. The fielder needs to get to where she is going to field the ball as quickly as possible while keeping her eyes on the ball. Preferably before the ball comes down so that she can get into the best fielding position. This would be a balanced position with knees slightly bent and the glove side foot slightly forward to make the transition to throwing easier. If she is not sure exactly where the ball will land, it is better to be slightly behind it than too far ahead because it is much easier to move forward than backwards.
Pop Ups For Infielders
If at all possible catch the ball with both hands, at about the shoulder height on the throwing side to facilitate the throwing transition. When the ball is in the glove, The fielder cushions the ball and uses the throwing hand to help keep it in the glove by pushing the glove closed. If another throw is necessary, the throwing hand grips the ball in the glove as the transition to throwing is made. If there is time. The fielder can set up underneath the ball in the most efficient position to make a throw if she knows where it will be.