The Softball outfield play handout is a download that you can print or email to your players on the team that are the last line of defense. It includes basic and easy to understand information on all aspects of the positions from fielding to coverage.
Softball Outfield Play Handout
The three outfielders cover more total area than the six infielders cover. Any ball that gets out to you could mean extra bases or runs for your opponent. In addition to playing any balls that get past the infield, outfielders must also back up any plays on the infield by being prepared for a bad throw and covering unattended bases.
Outfielders don’t bend the knees or lower the body as much as infielders, because you will likely have to straighten and sprint when the ball is hit. You would hold yourself straighter and not as low down to the ground. You should position yourself so that they can see as much of the infield as possible, including the pitcher and the batter. When you play outfield, you will find that you need to adjust your position slightly to avoid having your view blocked by a team mate.
How far out you stand will depend on what is going on in the game, who’s hitting, and so on. Sometimes the catcher will direct you in for a weaker hitter, or out for a stronger one. Another factor is the game situation such as how many runners are on base, how many are out and whether the hitter is right or left handed. It will also depend on who is pitching.
Getting The Ball
Remember to get the ball in quickly. Throw the ball to the farthest team mate you can quickly and accurately reach. When you have a long distance to cover with the ball, one high arcing throw attempted from the outfield to home for anywhere will be slower and less accurate than a relay by a couple of fast, straight throws between players. Never throw the ball behind a base runner. Always a base ahead unless otherwise instructed.
- Keep the fly ball in front of you because it is easier to run in toward it then back for the ball
- take a step back first if you are unsure how far it will go
- Check the wind as it can affect the direction of the fly ball. Move out if it is blowing toward you from the infield and step forward if it is blowing from behind you.
- Be aware of the sun, where sunglasses to shade your eyes or use your glove to block the sun
Catching Fly Balls
Judging a fly ball becomes easier with practice and experience. In time, you will be able to judge fairly well where the ball will land as soon as it is hit. And, if you move to that place fast enough, you will even have time to compensate for wind, ball spin or misjudgment.
Generally, players will sift positions on the field according to the hitters strengths, weaknesses and what kind of balls they tend to hit. Whether they are right or left handed hitters comes next as a consideration. When a left handed hitter steps up to the plate, the fielders should shift toward right field and first base, since lefties tend to hit to the right of second. For a right handed hitter, move the other way, toward left field and third base. This will also depend on the speed of your pitcher because if she is fast, the batter will have a more difficult time pulling the ball.
There are also tactical situations to take into account. For example, if one run will win the game for your opponents, and there is a runner on third with one out or none out, move in towards the infield. The potential problem with this is that the batter may hit an easy single through the drawn in field or over the outfielders head and the run will score to win the game. This is the trade off for stopping the run from scoring as a long fly ball will score the run anyways as she tags up and scores.
Outfielder positioning is complicated and changes with every batter. Do not hug the fence or you will not be able to get the short fly balls or get to grounders quickly enough. As you move to the ball, think about positioning yourself so you can catch the ball at about shoulder level with elbows and wrists relaxed. Not only does this position help you to catch the ball more easily but it also leaves you in good position to throw quickly. You also can use your glove to shield the sun from your eyes if necessary. Your glove fingers should be on a slight angle toward your throwing hand and your other hand ready to secure the ball as it hits the glove.
As always, try to be in front of the ball. In reality, for fly balls, this will mean being under and just behind the ball, still, make sure not to let it fall behind you. For fly balls to your right or left, use the crossover or drop step in the direction of the ball. If you can plan it so that you take your last step or two as you catch the ball, you can continue, in fluid motion to throw. This takes practice though.
Remember to block the ball at all costs. For a grounder to the outfield, with runners on base, you need to get the ball quickly into throwing position. there are a few was to do it, you can use the run through or do or die fielding or you can charge the ball, field it and transition to throwing quickly. With no one on base, the safest bet is to make sure you present the greatest surface area to stop the ball when there will be no further play, your body.
Be aware that you can get outs at the closest base if you assume every ground ball is coming to you so that you are fielding it as close to the infield as possible. You need to get a jump on the ball as soon as it is hit to do that.
When you are sure that the fly ball is yours, shout your name to let the other fielders know you got it. Do not leave the ball up for grabs. Be brief. Shout your message clearly in one or two words. After the catch is made, listen for the next instructions from the catcher “relay!” or “home!”.
Many times, the outfielder nearest you will depend on you for backup. Also, Infielders will rely on you depending on the play.
In right field, you will back the second base player. You will also back up plays at first. Be there to catch a ball that gets past first or second.
Over in left field, you will be called on to back up plays behind third base, or back up the shortstop.
Center fielders will back up plays behind second and the shortstop as well as behind left and right field if a ball gets past them.
- catching fly balls is only a tiny part of becoming a good fielder
- marks of a quality outfielder are
- how quickly you can judge a fly ball and “get a jump on it”
- how much ground you can cover
- how well you can go back for a drive
- how well you can field base hits
- how well you throw
- how well you back up other fielders in game situations
- outfielders must be alert to field conditions at various parks and environmental conditions on different days
- speed and reaction time is important as you are the last line of defense
- outfielders should be ready to move into action on every pitch
- you should always be ready to go (in athletic position)
- once in motion, you should run on the balls of your feet to help keep your eyes from jarring with each stride
- you should catch with two hands if possible in position for the quickest transition to throw
- always assume the ground ball will get through the infield, even if it is right at the infielder
- sprint towards the ground ball in front of you as soon as it is hit
- on every play an outfielder must be moving somewhere either to make a play or back up another fielder
- outfielders should be active participants rather than spectators
- learn the art of communicating while playing this great game
- enjoy the position