Infielders and outfielders are just as likely to run into softball fly ball obstacles during a game or even during a practice. Often players will forget to consider the environmental components of the game that can give them trouble. The sun for example is one that is an obvious one, however wind, rain and field conditions can also distract the fielder from catching a fly ball successfully.
Softball Fly Ball Obstacles
Fly Ball In The Sun:
Depending on which way the fielders are facing, the sun can have a blinding effect on the ball. If fielders do not use techniques to sway the outcome in their favor, the outcome can end up being an error or even injury. I have seen a player get hit by the ball and need stitches near her eye because she lost it close to her face. She was ok but it created a fear of the ball that would not have otherwise been there. Not all players are able to use all of the tools but there should be at least one that they can draw on.
Some players can wear sunglasses during a game without them being a distraction or effecting their vision. There are also sunglasses that you can flip up and down so that they can be used only when fielding a ball, and having them up the rest of the time. This can be a good thing and it could also be a distraction. Sunglasses can be a good tool however it is not recommended when the sun is not visible. If it is cloudy, sunglasses can make it harder to see the ball and be more of a hindrance.
If a fielder is going to wear sunglasses, it is recommended that they have a strap on them or that they are tight enough so they will not fall off or move around on the head during the execution.
Use The Glove
The easiest way to shield the eyes from the sun while catching a fly ball is to use the glove. The fielder holds the glove above her head so that she can see the ball either above or below the glove. It is important for the fielder to keep the glove away from her sight-line on path of the ball because it then blocks the ball and it takes time to regain focus before catching it. Some will also use their throwing hand but this will not provide the same amount of coverage or shade.
Use The Angle
With the sun in the fielders eyes, one way to get a better view is to turn the body on a slight angle so that she is not looking directly into the sun. This way the ball will not get lost and the fielder will not get blinded as she watches the ball into the glove. The disadvantage of this technique is that the fielder will likely not be in an ideal position for a throw because she will not be square to the ball. This makes the second hand critical for the most important part of this which is of course keeping the ball in the glove.
If there are two fielders who have equal positioning to catch a fly ball, the first rule would be the order of priority. However if it is a sunny day and one fielder is more likely to be effected by the sun, the one who is least effected should catch the ball. Even if she is not in a good throwing position, this is still the better option because it is better to catch the ball than have it land in front of the fielder because she got blinded. This can be determined prior to going out on the field for the inning as the sun may change during the game.
The first time playing under the lights will be a bit distracting. It can have the same effect as the sun so can be treated similar. The good thing about playing under the lights as opposed to playing in the sun is that the light is not going to move. This makes it easier for the player to prepare and to move into the best position to catch the ball. Sunglasses would not be an option for obvious reasons. The players should go out on the field specifically to toss the ball up or have someone toss them fly balls to see just how they are going to be effected and how they can prepare.
Strong wind can drastically affect the velocity and direction of a ball hit into the air. Fielders should, therefore, always be aware of wind speed and direction. A handful of grass clippings or dust or a ball thrown high into the air will provide this information. The player must then incorporate this knowledge and use it to estimate the balls flight pattern. Periodic checks must be made throughout the game, as wind conditions can change.
When fielding a fly ball or pop up close to the fence, the player should move to the fence quickly, checking the position of the fence by reaching out and touching it to get a good sense of where it is. If there is time, this can be done first then check for the flight of the ball or with experience, the fielder can keep their eye on the ball as they check the fence.
Nothing is worse than going for a fly ball and tripping in a rut or hole that was in the field. It is important for fielders to know the field conditions. Take a stroll around the position area to see how smooth the surface is, or if it is soft sand that will effect the grip of the cleats in moving to a fly ball. For infielders, check to see what kind of lift there might be between the dirt on the infield and the grass on the outfield. Most times there is a noticeable change in the ground level that can cause problems for middle infielders moving back for a fly ball.
Before games and practices, outfielders should walk around the playing area and look for anything that can distract them or have a negative effect. Is there a warning track or any uneven ground that could slow down the movement. How wide is the foul territory and where is the fence if there is one?