Outfield defense is critical to the overall success of a ball club.
That’s why Matt Hornsby makes it a focal point of his softball practices at Heard County High School.
One of the team’s favorite activities is the outfield circle drill, which Hornsby implemented a few seasons ago.
“I’ll put a really big circle made up of cones, probably 15 yards in diameter, in center field. I stand with our pitching machine over on the left field foul line or right field foul line.”
The drill is a fun way to compete against each other and replicate game-like situations. Agility is certainly pushed to the limit while the pressure is on to not make any mistakes.
“Our outfielders are going to step in the middle of the circle one at a time. The player’s turn goes until a ball drops inside those cones,” Hornsby said. “Once a ball hits the ground, your round is done and however many you’ve caught inside the circle is what your number is.”
While one outfielder is participating, the rest are eagerly looking on, awaiting their turn and ensuring safety.
“Once they catch the ball, the player tosses it outside the circle and the rest of the outfielders are around the edge of the circle helping gather the balls so that the player fielding doesn’t dive or step on them,” Hornsby said.
The coaching staff even adds some extra incentives to winning.
“Our group of outfielders will compete with each other as to who can catch the most per round,” Hornsby said. “Whoever ends up winning that round may not have to do any running or maybe we’ll get them something from the concession stand.”
The outfielders run the gamut of possibilities inside the circle.
“They’re running all over the place,” Hornsby said. “We’re controlling the machines so we can shoot it super high and take them back to the farthest point or shoot a low, line drive to make them come lay out for it in the front of the circle.”
The drill is also an excellent source of cardio.
“As far as timing goes, once they catch the ball, we immediately shoot the next one. It’s very rapid,” Hornsby said. “As soon as the ball touches their glove, I’m ready to fire off the next one and getting the next angle set.”
The outfield circle drill is another example of the innovative approaches Hornsby utilizes to give his team the best chance to be prepared on the diamond.
The players are honing their hand-eye coordination and building muscle memory for those challenging fly balls headed their way in crunch time.
“Our outfielders love it and it’s helped them a ton. It’s not only about mental toughness but also about angles,” Hornsby said. “They have to make split second decisions. You can’t hesitate. You have to catch it. It’s about trusting your first step and taking it from there.”
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
Check out The Fence Drill for another fast pace fielding drill.