Good defensive outfielders anticipate where they need to be before the pitch is thrown, not after it's hit.
Here are five ways young outfielders can maximize their defensive ability.
- Pay particular attention to a hitter's mechanics. This will provide a clue as to where he will most likely be able to hit a ball with authority.
- The hitter's count in many instances will dictate the likelihood of where a ball will be put in play. A hitter with two strikes should be "shaded in and to the opposite field" because of the likelihood of off-speed being delivered by the pitcher.
- The foul line is "our friend" as an outfielder. Remember that even with "gap" alignment, an outfielder should still be able to get to a ball down the line and hold the runner to a double.
- Don't forget to check the sun, wind, grass (ball speed) and field abnormalities to help with outfield play.
- Understand the concept of "No Doubles". The "No Doubles" defense is used very late in games (or sometimes early if the circumstance permits) and has the Outfielders playing a deeper starting position (10-12 steps deeper) and shading the lines. The purpose of this defense is for the defense to be able to close the gaps and create better angles with the idea being to keep the batter-runner off of 2nd base or to not allow a base runner at 1st base to score on a deep shot that would normally plate that run. The "No Doubles" defense is typically put on by the coach and all balls put in play should be "ideally" kept in front of the defenders in the Outfield.
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