TRACKING FLY BALLS
TRACKING FLY BALLS
Good outfield play is essential for a winning team. A team should develop the mentality that every ball hit in the air is going to be caught. At the youth and occasionally high school levels good outfield play is often sporadic because of the lack of teaching, repetitions, and motivation.
One of the most important skills an outfielder must posses is tracking a fly ball. Tracking the ball simply means taking the most direct route to where the ball will land.
It is very common for inexperienced outfielders to take the wrong route to a fly ball. This may be one of the reasons youth players don’t like to play the outfield. They are out there all alone and not only are any mistakes very conspicuous; they are often costly as well. Every “zig-zagged” step (route) an outfielder takes to the ball is equal to the “direct” steps a base runner(s) takes to the next base. That’s a lot of pressure.
Most teams do not hit enough fly ball fungoes to their outfielders and this is one of the essential ingredients for gaining ‘tracking’ experience.
The following are some extra tips and drills for you to use to help players develop this critical skill.
- Make sure your outfielders are running on the balls of their feet. If they run on their heels the ball will appear to “bounce” and they will not track it well. Daily Form Running helps players with their running technique.
- Teach them that the glove is considered as part of their hand. They pump their arms and do not hold the glove out in front of them as they run. (This restricts the body and slows you down) Put the glove up the last three steps only.
- Getting a good ‘jump’ on the ball- this is where a player must concentrate. To get a good jump he must be moving at the swing of the bat. Look for a late reaction from a player. Many times they don’t move toward the ball until it is already in the air and sometimes by them. Kids must learn to concentrate on the strike zone. Have them play a game in their heads. They should pretend that the hitter is a fungo coach and every pitched ball is a fungo that is going to be hit at them. (“The game is played one pitch at a time.”)
- Teach them to watch the action of the hitter’s bat. This is a good teaching tool. Have your players stand in front of home plate on the infield. Take a position in the RH batter’s box.
- ‘Hit’ an imaginary ball up the middle. Have your kids concentrate on the action of the bat. Ask them where the ‘ball’ went. They will tell you, up the middle.
- Next pull an imaginary pitch. Your kids will tell you that you hit the ball to left field.
- Lastly, hit an outside pitch to the opposite field. Your players will know where the ball went.
By watching the action of the bat and reading the hitter’s body, players can learn to get a good jump on the ball.
- Do not allow back pedaling. Teach the drop step, instead. Have your players drop the leg closest to the side the ball is on. If the ball is hit to their left, drop step with the left leg, turn and go to the ball.
- Hit deep and high fly balls. Have the outfielders turn and run to the spot where they think the ball will land. Don’t look up until they get there; just turn and run to the spot.
- Teach your players shagging in the outfield during Batting Practice to “Break” on all fly balls. They should concentrate on the hitting zone, watch the ball off the bat and “break” two or three steps in the direction of the flight of the ball. Establishing this routine during your daily BP will begin to develop your players’ ability to track the ball.
- On the big fields, it is also important for the outfielder to understand and read the spin (or slice/hook) of the ball. Example: A center fielder needs to know that a line drive directly between him and the right fielder will be slicing toward the right fielder off the bat of a right handed batter, and toward him off the bat of a left handed batter.
Coaches and parents can teach so many things in a short period of time (and space) if they will just be creative. These include:
- Charge and catch line drives.
- Communicate with the infielders and other outfielders.
- Head first diving catches (lay out)
- One handed catches.
- Get under and catch ball with throwing momentum to the appropriate base. (Eliminate drifting)
- Using the glove to shade the sun
- Locate the “white dot” to catch a high fly ball at night on a poorly lit field.
Besides outfield fungoes these drills from our Coaches Practice Planner will help develop tracking skills and outfield play in general.
Throwing to Bases
Fungoes- to get maximum benefit players form a line.
Layout Drill From a kneeling position underhand balls to the player’s left and right.