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Learning to judge a fly ball

Ken Krause

May 7, 2008
Mundelein, IL
I can't believe I've never done a post on playing the outfield before. But apparently I haven't because I had to create a new category for this one. What really surprises me about that is that I love outfielders. As a slow pitch player I always enjoyed the outfield myself. But stranger things have happened, I guess.

In any case, one of the challenges of training outfielders is there's just no substitute for experience. You can short toss by hand to work on the catching techniques, but judging a fly ball off a bat is a skill unto itself. It's not something you can really drill, per se. You just have to do it enough to get the feel for it. Some players never do get it.

There is one trick you can try if your outfielders are close, but tend to let the ball get just over their heads. Tell them to go back farther than they think they should. It sounds simple -- almost too simple -- but it definitely works.

It all has to do with consistency and making adjustments. Players who are consistently allowing the ball to go just over their heads haven't quite calibrated their brains to judge the exact trajectory of an incoming ball. They think they're under it, but instead they're just ahead of where it will land. Having them move a little further back than they think they should helps them make the adjustment, and starts to train their brains on where they should be rather than where they think they should be.

That, and a few thousand fly balls hit from the plate to the outfield, ought to do it!

Aug 4, 2008
Here is a drill that works and is easy and you can hit alot of balls. Bucket of tennis balls and a racquet.... Hit them underhand and you can always hit a good pop up that seems to float in the wind, so hard to catch and easier to hit outfeld flys. Anyone can do it and you don't have to worry about trying to hit a ball on a bat.
May 25, 2008
Pickerington Ohio
Ken, You are right, I tell my outfielders to either get two steps deeper than they feel they need to be or when they are judging the ball to get deep enough to have the feeling the ball is going to land in front of their feet. For whatever reason almost every girl I have coached in the outfield, if they are where they think they need to be to catch a fly ball, they have to reach up over their head or back pedal at the last minute to make the catch.

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