Intro, Positioning & Activity


Outfielding is an important part of the game that is often ignored at the youth levels but can bear the most fruit for young players. Inside this chapter, a series of developmental explanations and drills are presented to make the outfield a priority in this program.

Outfield seems to be the least developed position in youth baseball but becomes a more important defensive position as young players progress. Many of the best high school and college athletes end up as the “last line of defense” for teams in the outfield, in spite of the position being largely ignored at the youth levels. While athleticism is important for outfielders, learning the proper techniques and methods of outfield play are incredibly important and can give teams a decided advantage of their competition.

Positioning and Activity

The first element outfielders must learn is their positioning on the field and to be active on the field. As a general rule, our outfielders know to position themselves in the “pull-side gap” or for the “opposite field fade.” Most likely, the typical high school hitter is going to drive the ball to their pull gap (LF for the right-handed hitter, RF for the left-handed hitter) or just miss, hitting a fading ball to their opposite field side (RF for the right-handed hitter, LF for the left-handed hitter). To align the outfielder in the pull side gap, the outfielder lines himself up using the bases:  1B and 2B for the LF, and 2B and 3B for the RF. To align the outfielder for the opposite field fade, the outfielder again uses the bases: 2B and 3B for the LF, and 1B and 2B for the RF. These alignments simplify the positioning for the fielder, takes away a large percentage of typical balls hit, all while allowing the coach to make simple adjustments on opposing hitters.

The signs for those adjustments between the coach and the outfielder are as follows. When the coach desires the outfielder to move back, he will raise both arms to the sky. When the coach desires the outfielder to move in, both arms will point to the ground. In a situation where the coach wants the outfielder to throw to 2B no matter what, he will tap head. When the coach wants to make sure the team doesn’t give up any doubles, he will signal to the outfielders with an arm wave behind head. To move an outfielder from side to side, he will simply point in that direction. Finally, a coach might say “play him like a righty” or “play him like a lefty” to move the outfielder into a traditional position against a hitter with less-than-traditional tendencies.

As a segue between positioning and activity, outfielders should be moving to position themselves appropriately based on the count. When the hitter is even in the count, the outfielder should be straight up in the typical position. The outfielder should then cheat to the pull-side when the pitcher is behind, and position themselves to defend the opposite field when the pitcher is ahead. This, again, will put the outfielder in position to take away a large percentage of the typical balls that are hit.

Outfielders should consider activity the most important part of their game. They should always be moving, never falling into the habit of being a spectator on the field. To help with proper footwork, the outfielder must prepare himself on every play appropriately. This should generally be a right-left-ready position rhythm before every pitch. Using the same rhythm before every pitch will make the outfielder more cognizant of his feet and help to prevent him from taking any false steps in the process of tracking down the baseball.

Every outfielder has a style of setting up for every pitch. Some outfielders prefer to be bent over with their hands on their knees, while others stand up as they become ready. The basic rule is to make sure that they are on the balls of their feet and can run from their position. Getting to full speed in three or four strides, with a quick jump, is where an outfielder needs to be from his position. An outfielder, from his stance, should be able to run and react in all four directions; forward, backward, left, and right. Balance and setting up properly will allow and outfielder to react and run to balls that are hit.

As every pitch is being delivered, the outfielder should move forward into his position. This gets him ready to react and he anticipates the ball will be hit to him. After every pitch, the OF should back away from where he started and work his way forward as the pitch is being delivered. The outfielder’s focus as he moves forward should be on the strike zone or hitter’s bat. He wants to get the best possible jump and needs to concentrate in the hitter’s zone. The best way to develop this habit is developed through batting practice – do not miss that opportunity to improve.
Outfielders should back up bases and get involved in every defensive situation. This constant movement will allow the outfielder to get great jumps and read balls more immediately when they make activity a habit. It will encourage the movement necessary to read the ball based on the location of the pitch, as well as the batter’s stance and swing.

While being in constant movement is important, another element that should be stressed in all drills is running with appropriate form. Outfielders must run with excellent running form while chasing down balls in the outfield. Many times, young outfielders will run with the glove arm extended which will force them to be slower while chasing the ball. Outfielders must run with both arms using the proper running dynamics instead of reaching out with their glove too early.
To again encourage this activity, our program puts the outfielder on the opposite end of a double-cut scenario right in the middle of the defense. The Team Defense section of the book includes diagrams of what outfielders should do in a “Middle Ball” (ball hit to one of the gaps) or “Corner Ball” (ball hit into one of the corners of the outfield) situations. Both give outfielders the opportunity to cover a base and get involved in a potential backdoor or rundown situation. By encouraging this level of activity, our players build the habit of activity.

RHH - Pull Side Gap, Oppo Fade.png
LHH - Pull Side Gap, Oppo Fade.png


Another important habit for outfielders is communication. Outfielders should be talking constantly - to their fellow outfielders and to their teammates. They should tell their fellow outfielders regarding their positioning and to the infielders regarding their depth. On balls in the air that are not to them, outfielders should tell their fellow outfielders whether they should go “back” or “in” on the ball. When the ball is hit to them, they should make the proper call for the ball. An OF will call “I Got It” to differentiate from the infielder’s call of “Ball,” and to announce his priority in the situation (see Priority Chart at the top of the next page).

When a fellow outfielder prepares to throw, the outfielder should relay what base he should throw to based on the calls being made in the infield and say “throw it through him” to remind his teammates to throw a shot through the cut, not a high arching throw over the cut.

Even before the play, outfielders should be communicating about what a hitter might look to do in a given situation, what the current situation is (count, score, etc.), where the ball should go, and what the weather elements are (wind, rain, sun, etc.). Outfielders must work as one three-person unit and be in constant communication with each other.

Communication must be practiced in order to become a habit. It must become part of every drill an outfielder does and there are a number of drills that can encourage communication such as the “In Between” drill with a fungo or machine, Communication Corner, live reps, Cuts and Relays, as well as any scrimmage situation, including the Doghouse Scrimmage.

OF Priority Chart.jpg


An outfielder must also display excellent footwork. Footwork is the difference between a player making a catch and the ball falling for a hit. Much of the pre-play footwork is addressed above and is just as important as the in-play footwork. The outfielder must learn the appropriate footwork in approaching the baseball in the air, on the ground, and through the throwing technique, including a crow hop. Appropriate footwork begins with an excellent ready position, one that is balanced and ready to react in any direction. The footwork diagram at the end of the chapter gives an explanation of ready position and proper drop steps.

Whether the ball is in the air or on the ground, the outfielder should seek to get his glove foot forward upon the catch. This will ensure the player will have optimum momentum moving through the ball on the crow hop used to get the ball back into the infield. The crow hop happens through the process of the catch. As the ball enters the glove with the glove foot forward, the arm-side foot  kicks or drives through the middle axis to gain ground and momentum to the target. In order to gain appropriate velocity on the ball, the outfielder should keep his hips fairly square to the target by driving the arm side foot straight to the target to create more torque in the upper body for the throwing motion. See the Crow Hop movie on the next page for examples of the crow hop.

The crow hop footwork for a right-handed outfielder is: 

  • All of the weight should be on his front left foot at the point of the catch.
  • The back right foot then comes forward and the glove, with the ball, goes to the right side.
  • Once the right foot is planted, the ball and glove separate, with the ball being held down and at the side as the front side is driving towards his target.
  • The outfielder transfers his weight from the right foot to the left foot, and the ball is released out in front as the left foot touches down.
  • The arm of the outfielder should end up outside the left knee.

There are many angles an outfielder could find himself chasing down the baseball in the outfield. From an excellent ready position, the outfielder must learn how to drive his foot in the appropriate direction to open and direct his hips in the direction of the baseball. This first step is key as it helps the outfielder gain ground immediately in the desired direction. Moving the foot first, especially when executing the drop step, is vital when chasing down flyballs, especially those that are more challenging in nature. See the Drop Step movie gain an understanding of how an outfielder should use his foot with an appropriate first step.

In teaching excellent footwork for outfielders, use both the Box Drill and the Line Drill to gain the appropriate muscle memory for outfield footwork (see the Box Drill movie).

Flyball Fundamentals

Once the player understands the proper footwork, the outfielder can move into learning the proper fundamentals to use when catching a flyball.

When catching a flyball, all players should work to get behind the baseball in the air so they can be moving forward on the catch instead of fading backwards. This requires an element of athleticism and hustle, and it is vital in catching balls in the air. Also vital is the understanding of the four basic types of balls in the air - a line drive, a simple pop-up, a ball squared up and over the outfield’s perimeter, and a flare - a ball that is dying quickly. A good outfielder will react appropriately to each of these types, especially when given many practice opportunities at each type. Finally, catching the ball in a strong position - the wrist stacked on top of the elbow, the hand moving to cradle the ball backwards and not bat the ball forward, and bringing the arm-side hand to cover the catch and be prepared for a quick transfer - is an important element to teach all players.

When teaching the proper flyball fundamentals, starting players with catching tennis balls with their bare hands can really build the appropriate skill and movement. Tennis balls and barehands can teach the players that proper positioning faster than the glove in many cases. In addition, whether with tennis balls or baseballs and a glove, using slow motion or freeze techniques can enhance the teaching. A freeze technique essentially asks the player to hold his position upon the catch so he can see and feel the proper positions. The presence of tennis balls forces the player to feel the proper fundamentals in catching the flyball.

Outfielders can practice catching a flyball many ways and the following drills are some of our favorites. All of these drills are active and keeps standing during practice to a minimum. The Line Drill, whether executed with tennis balls or baseballs, is an excellent drill for basic groundball and flyball fundamentals (see Line Drill movie).

Tip: Judging the depth and movement of a line drive is difficult. When getting a read on a line drive, use the bill of your cap as a guideline. Generally, a line drive that is below or even with the bill of your cap can be attacked by coming in on the ball. If the line drive forces you to move the bill of your cap up and goes over the bill of your cap, heading back on the ball is advisable.

Fielding All Angles

The Pitchfork is one of our favorite drills and will be discussed more in depth in this section. The ability to field each prong of the pitchfork is important for the outfielder. An outfielder must be able to field a flyball going backwards or forwards at any angle, which makes the pitchfork a simple way of grading players on their ability to field balls going different directions. The drill is highlighted in Movie 1.5 for players going backwards. The drill can be flipped by moving the line farther away from the coach so the players are moving towards the coach. The coach can again opt to use tennis balls or baseballs to work on proper catching technique.

The Alley Drill is a simple, active, and fun drill for outfielders and requires the outfielder to cover some space. Divide the outfielders into two groups - one to the thrower’s left and one to the right - and about 30-40 feet from the thrower. The thrower starts with two balls in his hand, tells the first outfielder to go (either side), throws the first ball easy and more shallow to force an over-the-shoulder catch, and upon the catch of the first ball, tells the outfielder to accelerate and throws the ball on the same path but considerably farther, forcing a more difficult catch (see the Pitchfork movie). After completing one player on the first side, flip to the line on the other side to complete the same sequence.

Catching flyballs can always be practiced using a man hitting a fungo or off of a machine as well. Live scrimmaging, especially the Doghouse Scrimmage, forces proper fundamentals in pressure situations.

Range and Movement


Each of the drills also begins to work the outfielder on his range. Range applies to both balls on the ground and balls in the air for all defensive players. An outfielder must be willing to cut balls off in the gap by exercising excellent angles, footwork and hustle, while also being able to chase down balls over his head. He must also show a desire to not let any ball get by him or drop in front of him. Again the Line Drill, this time with range and a spin throw, along with the Pitchfork, Alleys, and Live work will help the outfielder develop these skills. During the Team Defense section, the Cuts and Relays drill will help develop range in outfielders as well.


An outfielder will display certain movements that indicate excellent outfielding. He will take his eyes off the ball to get to a certain spot to chase down a flyball. More area in the outfield can be covered, and catches made, when an outfielder runs for three or four strides and looks away for the ball. He will track the baseball exceptionally well by looking into the hitting area to get good jumps. A good outfielder will anticipate and move before anyone in the ball park sees that the ball is hit to him. He will creating a mental image of the trajectory of the ball is crucial for developing this skill. An outfielder can exercise the spin move to catch and get rid of the ball quickly. When chasing the ball, either in the air or on the ground, he will run with the glove in and close to his body and not out, displaying proper running form. An outfielder runs and doesn’t drift to get to the ball and shows good feel around the walls to make catches. All of these elements require a ton of practice but can be developed in all outfielders through the drill series recommended.

There are three phases of movement during a play for outfielders: Pre-pitch, Pitch, and Post-pitch. Pre-pitch movements indicate the player is adjusting to these five categories: the elements (wind, weather, etc.), his alignment, what he anticipates the batter will do at this point, what the outfielder will do if the ball is hit to him, and factoring the score of the game at the moment into the equation. By adjusting to these things, the outfielder will show a level of readiness in his movements. During the pitch, an outfielder will move into an athletic or ready position and follow the ball from the pitcher into the hitting zone. These movements will indicate that the outfielder is expecting the ball on every play. Post-pitch, the outfielder will adjust all of the items from the pre-pitch and talk to the other outfielders about the necessary adjustments. As a dramatic example of the kind of movement and engagement that should happen between all players, including outfielders on every play, watch this commercial from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Fielding Groundballs

Next, an outfielder will understand groundball situations - he will know when to go to a knee in conservative situations and when he is forced to make a “do or die” play. There are six different types of groundball situations that an outfielder needs to execute: (1) routine groundball with no runners on base, (2) routine groundball with runners on, (3) groundball to the left, (4) groundball to the right, (5) groundball base hit with a runner on second base, and (6) groundball single – possible double. In all situations, cutting down the distance is vital as the outfielder should be shortening the distance between his starting position and where the baseball first touches the ground.

Cutting down the distance on a groundball leads to many positive things for the defense. First, cutting down the distance allows the outfielder to decide the hop on which he plays the ball – the ball will not play him. Second, cutting down the distance forcing runners to stop and not take the extra base. Third, it helps the outfielder gain momentum toward the infield on the throw. Fourth, it shortens the distance of the throw. Finally, it forces the third base coach to hold more runners from scoring. Aggressive outfielders run to groundballs and change the game for the team.

In a conservative situation, the outfielder can field the ball like an infielder or even go down on a knee to make sure he fields the ball cleanly. By practicing fielding the ball conservatively during the 100’ drills, outfielders should build the proper skill of fielding the groundball when under no threat of the baserunner advancing. For example, when there are no runners on base, a runner only on first and a ball hit through the infield, or the ball is hit sharply enough with a runner at first that the runner will only be able to advance one base. The outfielder should attack the ball with a good angle and make the body “big,” covering the space between the legs with his glove. This keeps the ball from getting by the outfielder and allowing extra bases. After securing the ball, push up from knee to crow hop and make a strong accurate throw back to the cut-off man.

In a “do or die” situation, the outfielder executes a more intricate set of movements while under pressure. The outfielder runs into a lunge position with his throwing leg back and his glove leg forward. He moves his glove outside of his front foot and reaches for the ball past his toes. As he fields the ball, he goes right into a crow hop, transferring the ball into his throwing motion so he can deliver the ball when he lands on his crow hop. This technique is highlighted in multiple videos, including the Line Drill, and explained below. A “do or die” situation occurs when a runner is trying to advance from first to third base, or from second to home.

An outfielder must also recognize the proper angles to take on groundballs to his left and/or right so he can slide effortlessly to cut off balls in the gap. He will be able to field a groundball well on the run by fielding the ball on the outside of his glove foot when working through the baseball on the ground. An outfielder knows how to create a good angle to the ball and through the ball so he can be behind the ball to line up an excellent throw.

Arm Strength and Accuracy

Excellent throwing ability is a cornerstone for most outfielders. We will target good athletes and players with good arms to develop outfield skills. An outfielder must exhibit arm strength and accuracy to be effective. To be strong and accurate, a player must have good arm action from a sound arm slot while also being able to run his hips through the throw to create forward momentum. Most importantly, an outfielder will learn how to throw the ball hard through his cutoff men, never sailing the ball to the target. Long Toss is an incredibly important element of any outfielder’s game and development. Outfielders should play long toss of 100-120 feet every day to keep their arms stretched. The 100’ Drills in the next movie highlight the different game-condition throws outfielders can make every day so they can use their feet, body and hands all in rhythm. This movie, as well as the movie from Louisville, highlights a set of drills done at 100 feet and in that can, even should, be done on a daily basis upon getting to 100 feet during warming up the arm. The drills work the players through very simple footwork elements that will allow the outfielder to gain comfort in executing the proper movements consistently.

When throwing the baseball, an outfielder should have a four-seam grip every time he throws the ball. This grip makes the ball have more carry to the target and will be a straight throw. The arm angle should be at ¾ to over the head. The outfielder’s feet and your lower half should take pressure off of the arm when using proper mechanics. Proper extension and release will ensure that the last thing to touch the seams of the baseball upon releasing the baseball should be your fingertips.

Quickness and Baseball IQ

Quickness and Smarts

Finally, an outfielder must be quick and smart. His catch-to-release time must be excellent through great fundamentals and can be strong while being exceptionally quick. An outfielder knows the appropriate base to which to deliver the baseball - he wants the ball and the coach wants him to have the ball because he maintains composure when the ball is in his hand. He knows a ball in the outfield is useless for the defense and his job is to get it into the 90-foot diamond quickly. He knows the situation at all times, he knows when catching a foul ball is wise and when letting it fall to the ground with a tagging runner is better. An outfielder instills confidence in his teammates when the ball is hit to the outfield. A simple drill would be to give situations using an iPad graphic and present the players with a scenario.

Being a smart outfielder requires knowledge of all of the many situations with which he could be presented on the field. Here are a number of situations that, if mastered, can allow an outfielder to help his team gain a distinct advantage.

Keeping the Double Play In Order – Keeping the double play in order should be an outfielder’s first thought before he reacts on plays. This means hitting the cutoff man, keeping the ball at head level and throwing the ball to second base, if ever in doubt. A team can stay out of big innings by keeping a hitter on first base. As a general rule, if a ball is hit to an outfielder’s left or right, his chances of getting a baserunner with average speed is poor. Therefore, the throw should go to second base. Anytime an outfielder can carry his momentum forward to the plate on a ground ball, his chances increase on throwing out a runner at home.

No Doubles – The rule in this situation is an outfielder plays deep enough to catch any ball that will reach the fence. The outfielder should be able to get to these balls easily, and not on the run. Also, any ground ball should be able to be cutoff and keep the hitter on first base. This is also a no dive situation.

Centerfielder – The centerfielder must be the quarterback of the outfield. They need to take control of the outfield and direct adjustments. They should be assertive, aggressive, and take responsibility for their decisions. A good centerfielder knows the opposing lineup, the count, his pitcher and what his strengths are, the situation of the game, and moves his outfielders, as he moves. The corner outfielders must be aware after every pitch and hitter that the centerfielder is going to move. They have to make an effort to look at the centerfielder during the entire game.
Field Awareness – An outfielder has to gather information during batting practice to make accurate judgments in the game. A prepared outfielder will have the answers to all of these questions:

  1. Is the grass fast or slow?
  2. Is the surface of the outfield smooth?
  3. What is the distance of the warning track from the wall?
  4. Does the fence have padding?
  5. How do balls play off of the wall?
  6. Do balls down the line hug the wall or line?
  7. What angles should I take?

Ball in the Sun – Fly balls in the sun are caught by using sunglasses and the glove to shield the glare. An outfielder needs to stay off to the side of the sun, one to two steps. The angle will allow an outfielder to see the ball come out of the sun earlier and he will be able to make adjustments sooner. These catches are made with one hand.

Ball In the Lights – While rare, it is possible that our outfielders could play under the lights. Fly balls that go up into the lights can become a panic situation for an outfielder. If he has done the drop step and stayed behind the baseball, he has to hold his ground until the ball comes out below the bank of lights and then make the catch. Line drives are extremely difficult. An outfielder drop steps and holds his position until the ball leaves the bottom area of the lights. If a depth perception read on the ball is accurate, an outfielder will be able to move forward and make a good attempt at the catch.

Balls Hit to the Fence – Anytime a ball goes to the fence, an outfielder must return the ball back to the infielder quickly. The outfielder has to:

  1. Run to the ball.
  2. Get his chest over the ball. The ball is between the legs of the fielder and can see the ball clearly.
  3. Barehand the Ball: If the ball has stopped, always pick up the ball with the bare hand. If the ball is moving, field the ball with the glove.
  4. Stay low and pick up the infielder.
  5. Step and throw to the target. The outfielder should use a crow hop step-through or heel click to throw out of this position.
  6. The outfielder fielding the ball should always know the position of the relay men.

There are two drills outlined in the Team Defense section - Cuts and Relays, and the Doghouse Scrimmage - that are very effective measurements and tools for developing outfielders. Both are drills designed to simulate game pace and style desired in the program which puts game pressure on all involved. Three other drills - the In Between Drill (either between two outfielders, or a set of outfielders and infielders) Communication Corner, and fielding the ball properly off the wall will be filmed for future use in this book. The remaining videos are a variety of drills that can be implemented to improve overall outfield play.

Below are a series of drills that can also be used in the development of outfielders.