Outfielders are the last line of defense, and with that comes great responsibility. If they let a ball get past them or over their head, extra bases are the consequence.
At Alexander High School in Douglasville, Georgia, softball coach Zack Graham places a premium on outfield defense through a drill utilized two to three times per week.
How The Drill Works
Set up three cones in the outfield about 15-20 yards apart. Outfielders line up about 10 yards in front of the cones. (The distance can be adjusted to be closer or further away from the cones.)
The coach throws the ball toward one of the cones at a quick speed. The outfielder runs from her position to get the ball while trying to field it at the correct angle. The player has to quickly decide which side to drop step to, or if they need to field the ball directly behind them in a basket catch. If the outfielder misplays the ball, it could end up behind her, and a runner could get extra bases. Once the player has fielded the ball and thrown it back to the coach, she runs back to the end of the line.
The goal for this drill is for the players to open up their hips correctly and get to the ball quickly.
“Sometimes you’ll be against a speedy girl and it has the chance to be a triple, but with good fundamentals you can reduce it to a double,” Graham said. “We’ve held quite a few girls to singles instead of doubles because of the fundamentals taught in the drill.”
Aggressive In The Outfield
This drill is part of Graham’s overall philosophy on defense. While some coaches might play their outfielders near the fence, Graham doesn’t see that as an effective strategy.
“With our outfielders we play very shallow,” Graham said. “We want to take away the cheap hits. When the pitcher makes a good pitch and jams her, we want to take away that in between ball that maybe the infielders can’t get back on but the outfielders are there.”
This aggressive strategy has paid off for Graham so far.
“We steal a lot of hits this way,” Graham said. “If you’ve got a speedy outfield, you can play them shallow and take away a lot of hits.”
For other teams that want to have this type of outfield defense, executing a drill like this in practice might be a good way to start.
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
Check out other fielding drills here.