Youth Baseball & Softball Outfield Play, Charging The Ball
Believe it or not during the course of a youth baseball season some of the instruction you will give may be about landscaping. In fact if you are a coach who is detailed orientated you’ll become an amateur in landscaping yourself. I’ll explain more a little later on.
In major league baseball I am always amazed on the play I see the third baseman make on a slow grounder as he charges the baseball and when he approaches it, picks it up bare handed while moving and then throwing the ball to first base. It is an amazing play and beautiful to watch. The defensive player’s concentration is incredible and he is focused 100% with incredible “eye-hand” coordination. In youth baseball it is a different story completely on grounders players should be charging to pick up. I can only speculate and there are no stats but I’m convinced in youth baseball there are more errors in the outfield on ground balls then on fly balls. We all know that when errors and mistakes happen in the outfield it is usually more costly than if it happened in the infield. If a batter gets a line drive base hit, if the outfielder doesn’t get in front of it and it gets by him, the batter can have an extra base hit. On the flip side if the player does not charge the baseball correctly, the batter will also get extra bases.
There are different ways of teaching players in the outfield to field a ball on the ground coming to them. I prefer to keep it as simple as possible. When a player charges the baseball, he must keep his head down and watch the ball go into the glove. The baseball will be slowing down as it reaches the outfielder. This is simple physics as the ball rolls on the grass, it will lose speed because of the natural resistance from the surface. Of course if the ball was bouncing to the player on concrete, it will also lose speed but not as fast. You can explain this to your team in basic terms that your young players will understand. I have and it usually sinks in with a lot of players.
A basic drill is to line your team up in left field and you take a position between second and third base with a bucket of baseballs. You can either hit the baseball or just throw is hard to the first person in line and he must charge the baseball and watch it go into his glove. You want to emphasize for the player to try and field the baseball between his legs and not too be too upright. Advice I have for almost all basic drills is not to combine skills. If you are teaching your players how to charge a baseball, just stop at having the player catch it. Don’t worry about him coming up and throwing the baseball. After he catches the baseball have him toss the ball to the side underhanded. This way he is 100% focused on the skill you are trying to teach. I have also colored baseballs with colored dots and the player has to yell out the color as the ball enters his glove. With this basic drill you can divide the team in half using right field with another coach between first and second hitting or throwing the baseball out. After the player charges the baseball, he goes to the end of the other line.
As far as the landscaping angle, you as coach has to make sure if the grass around the field has been cut recently or is wet. It is up to you to point this out to your team at the beginning and during the game. And also remember if your league plays on multiple fields that baseballs will not bounce the same on different fields.
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