An outstanding outfielder “moves at full speed while judging the ball on the run,” says Stanford head softball coach John Rittman.
Cardinal rule number one for playing the OF, according to Rittman, is you never want to take a step in and then be forced to retreat. “That’s when you’ll misjudge a ball and it will go over your head,” he says.
Whether it’s a can ’o corn to straightaway center or a roper down the baseline, keep Rittman’s tips in mind as you patrol the OF.
Your first three steps will be when you determine how hard the ball’s hit, your angle to the ball and how you’re going to catch it, whether it’s a fly ball or line drive.
The first step on a fly ball or line drive is going to be a drop step.
If the ball is hit over your right shoulder, your next step will be a drop step with your right foot into a crossover; do the opposite if it’s hit over your left shoulder.
Once you’ve made up ground and have caught up with the ball, do not turn and backpedal. Open up your body in the direction of where the ball is going.
If you find yourself out of position and need to initiate a change of direction to make a play on the ball, take a reverse drop step, turn your hips and reset your direction.
Another efficient move for changing direction is to drop your lead shoulder and roll your head around to the opposite side, then pick up the ball again.
Catch the ball over the throwing arm side of your body. If you’re a right-handed thrower, try to catch the ball to the right so you can get rid of it in one fluid motion.
As you catch the ball, move through it toward the base you’re throwing to. If you’re chasing a ball down and have to make a one-handed catch, pump both arms and run on the balls of your feet so your head and eyes don’t move. This will make it easier for you to see the ball.