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).