When looking at a baseball field, the outfield is the area with the three bases, and the vast green space behind the bases. Players in the outfield are playing defence, hoping to catch fly balls, guarding the bases, preventing the batting team from scoring runs, and getting them to three outs as quickly as possible.
The Outfield is divided into three sections:
- Left field – The area to the left of the batter when facing the pitcher’s mound.
- Right field – The area to the right of the batter when facing the pitcher’s mound.
- Center field – The heart of the outfield. Center fielders are often considered the team’s defensive captains as they have the most ground to defend.
Skills Required for the Outfield
Outfielders throw balls across the outfield and are constantly sprinting, diving and leaping to make impressive catches.
In order to be a strong outfielder, a player needs speed, agility, a strong throwing arm, good hand-eye coordination, understanding of ball flight patterns, defensive instincts, quick reflexes and awareness…all at the same time!
Speed and Agility
Outfielders need to cover a large amount of ground, making speed and agility crucial. Speed is needed to get to the ball and cover the gaps as quickly as possible, while agility helps outfielders change directions swiftly.
As soon as the ball is hit, the outfielder should sprint to where the ball is going. The best way to catch a fly ball is to arrive before the ball does, so that the outfielder can prepare and adjust their positioning, rather than trying to catch the ball while still in motion.
Also, to prepare to throw the ball after the catch is made, an outfielder should try to stand a little bit behind where the ball is dropping. Then, while catching the ball, the outfielder can step forward and gain momentum to make a strong throw across the field.
Strong Throwing Arm
Outfielders often need to make long and accurate throws to their teammates. This is essential as it prevents baserunners from advancing and scoring.
Game changing plays happen in a matter of seconds. Having a strong arm so an outfielder can throw the ball far and accurately is critical to their defensive game.
Defensive Instincts & Awareness
The strongest outfielders have defensive instincts and high overall game awareness.
They need to determine the ball’s direction, speed, and distance instinctively and quickly in order to successfully make the catch.
Also, awareness of the overall game allows outfielders to make strategic decisions on when to throw and where to throw. The number of outs, the current score, and the baserunner’s speed and tendencies all influence the outfielder’s next play.
Communication is also important so two outfielders do not collide when trying to catch the same fly ball!