Episode 5 – Outfielder as an Infielder
Today we are going to talk about a secret weapon that most teams don’t know they have. A strategy that is so simple that you might even wonder why everyone doesn’t do it and the benefits and how you can get easy outs by following a simple defensive rule.
The secret weapon that seems to be a secret is…. Assume the infield will miss the ball. This is not saying that the infield is not good, it’s just saying that in the even that they miss the ball, the outfield will be there to pick it up and potentially make a play. Often what happens is that the outfield doesn’t register that the infield has missed the ball until it has gone past the infielder and they can see it behind them.
If you are the outfielder, its a matter of watching the ball off the bat as if it’s coming to you every time. Moving on contact in the direction it’s going as if you are going to field the ball will give you a head start if the infielder misses it and you are right there to back them up. Not only to back them up though…. you can also make a play if there are runners on base. I have made a play at first base from center field because I was right behind second when the ball got there after it was hit because I played the ball as if it were coming to me. You are like an extra infielder. an awesome extra fielder that your team didn’t know they have. Right fielders can make a play on 1st and second on a grounder past the infield, center field can make a play on second for sure and 1st if you have a good arm, and left field can make a play on third or second. It’s an amazing feeling to get those outs that the infielder would have got if they had fielded it. There are endless possibilities to extend your position. Now that is good backup.
If you are a coach, practice this. set up your field and have the infielders miss the ball or intentionally hit a grounder so they can’t field it and the outfielder has to run in and back them up. Practice the do or die fielding where the fielder picks up the ball on the run to make the play. Start with no fielders in the infield and let the outfielders know they can field it right behind the dirt. then put cones there and then players there for a progression. I guarantee you there will be outs that would not have been made if the outfield can play as infielders on a ground ball. Not only does this set up for fielding the ball but it also gets the outfielders moving on the hit to either back up or cover their infielder depending on the side that the ball is hit and the number of runners on base.
I always said this is not a spectator sport and it’s true. Everyone has something to do on a hit and this is something that will add some excitement to the outfield. How many times have you heard young players get upset because they “have” to play the outfield. Well as you can say it is a critical position to play and I was always honored to play the outfield because I loved the speed involved and the fact that I was a part of the last defense. More on that next time.