Once you’ve mastered the Cardinal Rules of the Outfield, as prescribed by Stanford softball head coach John Rittman, you’re ready to take the field and hone the fundamental skills needed to become a defensive threat.
To develop fundamentals such as footwork, range and ability to judge balls on the run, Rittman uses the Blind Ball Drill and its variations. The drill involves Rittman throwing the ball from a short distance to a player who has her back turned. The player must turn, locate the ball and catch it much more quickly than a standard fly ball hit from a greater distance.
“Once they get used to judging balls and trying to pick up balls at that distance, we start hitting live balls to them,” Rittman says. “It’s a little bit longer distance, so they feel like they have more time to judge and to react.”
Once you’ve aced the drill and its variations, move on to practicing with live balls, either through fungo work or in batting practice.
Blind Ball Drill
• Take position in OF facing away from home plate
• Partner stands approximately 30 yards away and throws fly ball, simultaneously shouting “ball” command
• Upon command, turn around, locate ball and catch it
Coaching Point: React quickly to where ball is thrown
Variation 1: Blind Foul Balls
• Perform drill with partner throwing fly balls into foul territory
• Upon command, turn around and sprint toward foul territory to catch ball
Coaching Points: Run on balls of feet // Pump both arms while running
Variation 2: Blind Fence Balls
• Perform drill standing 5-10 yards away from fence
• Upon command, turn around, locate ball and catch it in front of fence
Coaching Point: Use warning track to help judge distance to fence
Variation 3: Blind Ball With Runners on Base
• Perform any variation of Blind Ball Drill
• Upon command, turn around and locate ball
• Catch ball on throwing arm side of body and throw ball to third base
• Repeat to all bases
Coaching Point: When catching ball, move through ball with shoulders turned toward targeted base