Having a solid outfield game is crucial for any baseball outfielder. Specifically, a good baseball outfielder will have good running mechanics, good footwork, and eye-hand coordination. As someone who has been an outfielder for most of his life, I have experience with an endless amount of baseball outfield drills to improve baseball fundamentals. What are the best baseball outfield drills?
Some of the best 14 drills for baseball outfielders include:
- Drop step drill
- Crow hops
- Sinking line drive drill
- Across the middle drill
- Long toss
- Catching at the wall drill
- Communication drill
- Fly ball over the head drill
- Ball grip drill
- Catching fly balls
- Fielding ground balls
- Shading the sun
- Diving drill
- Cutoff drill
The rest of this article will go more in-depth about what these drills are. We’ll also cover how to perform each drill and how they will improve an outfielder’s skills.
1. Drop Step Drill
Footwork is essential for an outfielder. A player has to be quick enough to move around effectively to get any fly balls that are hit above their head. The drop step drill improves an outfielder’s ability to catch fly balls and line drives.
The drop step drill is performed by having a coach stand roughly 10 feet away from their players, with balls to throw. Players will stand in a line and each player will take turns.
To begin, the coach signals to the player to run backward at an angle. The player will then perform a drop step by turning their back towards their coach and running at an angle. The coach will then take a ball and throw it over the head of that player so the player can still catch the ball.
After catching the ball, the player will throw the ball back to their coach. Then they should run to the end of the line before the next player performs the drill.
Making the drill harder is simple. If coaches are able to hit the ball instead of throwing it, it’ll make the drill more realistic. Likewise, to make the exercise easier, all a coach has to do is shorten the running distance for players.
2. Crow Hops
The crow hop is an essential tool for any outfielder. Performing it allows an outfielder to add distance, speed, and power to their throws. Learning how to use it properly will let an outfielder perfect their throws.
The simplest way to perform the crow hop drill is for players to place their hat on the ground so they will be forced to lift their back leg over their hat while performing the crow hop.
With your hat on the ground, stand at an angle behind your hat with your plant foot directly behind your hat (left leg for right-handers) and your non-plant foot behind you, at about a 45-degree angle.
To begin the crow hop, jump over your hat with your back foot. Bring your plant foot forward and throw the ball once your plant foot hits the ground.
After players thoroughly learn the crow hop, a coach could implement catching fly balls to make the drill more game-like. With the crow hop being a fundamental movement for any outfielder, frequent practice will allow for outfielders to maximize their crow hop and maximize their throws.
3. Sinking Line Drive Drill
Another essential skill that outfielders need is learning how to catch sinking fly balls. When a player has to catch a sinking ball, they have two options: they can dive and catch the ball as it’s falling, or they can field the ball on the bounce.
This simple drill improves a player’s ability to decide whether to dive for the ball to get the out or wait for a bounce and cleanly field the ball.
To perform the sinking line drive drill, a coach stands at home plate while outfielders stand in the outfield. Using a fungo bat, the coach will then hit line drives towards the outfielders that will land in front of the outfielders. The players can dive for the ball or wait for it to bounce and catch it.
Instead of using a fungo bat, another option for coaches is to use a pitching machine to mimic line drives.
4. Across the Middle Drill
Running from side-to-side and catching balls while on the move is of utmost importance for outfielders. Proper running mechanics are essential for a player to reach maximum performance and can also increase an outfielder’s effective range.
The across the middle drill will improve an outfielder’s range and running mechanics, which also increases a player’s ability to catch balls on the move.
A coach and an outfielder perform the exercise. The coach will be roughly 20 feet away from the outfielder. On the coach’s signal, the outfielder will run forwards a few steps before turning to the right and cutting across the field, perpendicular to the coach.
After the outfielder turns to the right, the coach will then throw a ball out in front of the outfielder that the outfielder must catch. After a few repetitions on the right side, the outfielder will go to the left side and repeat.
5. Long Toss
Throwing is a fundamental movement in baseball. Just like the crow hop, knowing how to throw a ball properly is essential, especially for outfielders. The long toss drill is designed to improve an outfielder’s arm strength while also improving their throwing accuracy.
The long toss drill is simple: two players play catch, but at a long distance.
Although the distances recommended can vary from coach to coach, a good way to perform long toss is by first playing catch from 60 feet away, then from 110 feet away, and then from any comfortable distance above 110 feet.
Because the long toss requires two teammates to be further away, players will most likely be utilizing the crow hop to make the throw.
And just like with any drill, repetition is essential. By repeatedly performing the long toss drill, a player can create muscle memory, allowing them to throw balls with maximum force, speed, and accuracy. Just be sure to not overdo it with the long toss drill – long toss tires out the arm pretty quickly.
6. Catching at the Wall Drill
Effective outfielders have an extensive range but they also need to be aware of their position in relation to everyone and everything, including the wall. An effective outfielder needs to be able to catch fly balls near the wall.
This drill is designed to improve an outfielder’s awareness of the wall while still being able to catch the ball.
To perform this drill, an outfielder will line up roughly 20 feet in front of the wall or fence, preferably using the outfield fence. Then a coach will throw a flyball near the wall that the outfielder must catch. The outfielder will need to use their back hand to find the wall, while still maintaining eye contact with the baseball.
When done correctly, the outfielder will be able to find the wall with their hand and make the catch for the out.
7. Communication Drill
In addition to remaining aware of the wall, outfielders need to be effective communicators. By communicating effectively, outfielders can decide who will catch the fly ball while avoiding a collision with their teammate.
The drill begins by spacing out two outfielders in the outfield. A coach will then either hit a ball or throw a ball with the intention of that ball landing somewhere in between the two outfielders.
In order to catch the fly ball, the two outfielders will need to communicate with each other. Usually, the closest one to the ball will be able to catch it by calling out “I got it” or “Ball”, but both players will need to work on communicating in order to avoid running into each other.
8. Fly Ball Over the Head Drill
In a game, outfielders will have to run while a ball flies overhead, and they’ll quickly learn that they need to make some adjustments because the ball moves from one side of their body to another. This drill is designed to improve an outfielder’s ability to catch balls that are hit directly over their head.
To practice the fly ball over the head drill, a coach will line up outfield players somewhere in the outfield where the players can easily run backward.
The coach will then point in one direction, indicating to the player to run backward in that direction. Then the coach will throw the ball over the player’s head, but towards their opposite shoulder.
In order to catch the ball, the outfielder will need to briefly turn their back towards the ball and quickly find the ball again. This allows the outfielder to maintain their speed while also getting into a better position to catch the fly ball.
9. Ball Grip Drill
Along with having proper throwing mechanics, another critical aspect of throwing a ball is properly gripping the ball after making the catch. A four-seam grip is an ideal grip for outfielders because it allows for the most powerful and accurate throws. Luckily, finding a proper ball grip is easy with practice.
The ball grip drill is performed with a baseball and glove. Players start by taking the baseball out of their glove and throwing it up in the air a short distance. They will then catch the ball with their glove and quickly get their fingers into the proper position by grabbing the baseball with a four-seam grip.
The drill aims for players to get a 4-seam grip as quickly as possible. Players should repeat this drill often, including crow hops and long tosses if possible. With repetition, the four-seam grip will become natural for players.
10. Catching Fly Balls
Catching fly balls is the most important skill for outfielders to have. Outfielders will have to sprint to where the ball is going, catch it, and throw the ball back to the infield. This drill prepares outfielders to catch fly balls and quickly get the ball back into the infield.
To perform the drill, outfielders will position themselves in the outfield. The coach or another player will then hit or throw fly balls to the players. As the ball is moving, the outfielders will have to move to where the ball will land. They will then throw it back into the infield as soon as they catch the ball.
By performing this drill on a consistent basis, outfielders will maintain their basic baseball fundamentals of catching a fly ball and quickly throwing it back into the infield.
11. Fielding Ground Balls
Besides knowing how to catch a fly ball, outfielders must also know how to field a ground ball. Speed and running mechanics are essential for fielding ground balls, but knowing how to create angles to field the ball is also critical.
To perform this drill, players will line up in their position in the outfield. A coach or a player will hit ground balls to each player. The players will then need to cleanly field the ground ball and quickly throw the ball back into the infield.
12. Shading the Sun
All baseball players, but especially outfielders, will have to play while the sun is in their eyes. Learning how to play with the sun in your eyes is a necessary skill for all outfielders. Although some players will wear glasses to play in the sun, most block the sun out with their gloves.
To practice the shading the sun drill, a coach will put outfielders in a place where they will have the sun in their eyes when a fly ball is hit. As the outfielder faces the sun, a partner will throw a ball to the outfielder. The outfielder must then shade the sun and catch the ball.
Outfielders can use their glove to shade the sun or they can use their free hand, depending on what feels comfortable for the player.
This drill is easy to perform and can be repeated. Catching fly balls that are close to the sun is one of the most difficult scenarios an outfielder will come across so an outfielder needs to be comfortable catching baseballs that are close to the sun.
13. Diving Drill
In addition to playing in the sun, another challenge outfielders will inevitably face during games is diving for a ball. A lot of decision and technique goes into diving for balls, but dives can be one of the best techniques for outfielders. This drill aims to teach outfielders proper diving mechanics.
This drill is performed by an outfielder and another player or a coach. The player will begin with both knees on the ground and the coach or other player will throw a ball towards the outfielder, just out of reach. The outfielder will have to dive for the baseball as it approaches.
To make the drill more difficult, players can quickly get up after the catch and throw the ball to a base.
Diving is an essential move for outfielders. If an outfielder doesn’t know how to dive, they’ll be less efficient at catching balls or, at worst, get injured by doing a dive. This drill teaches proper diving techniques and builds confidence in outfielders.
14. Cutoff Drill
Once an outfielder has caught a ball, their next goal is to get the ball back to the infield. Most of the time, outfielders will have to throw their ball to a cutoff man once they have caught the ball. This drill will teach outfielders how to throw balls to cut off men.
To perform this drill, a coach will position an outfielder in the outfield. Fly balls will then be thrown or hit towards the outfielder. After catching the ball, the outfielder will then throw the ball to the cutoff man. While throwing the ball, the outfielder will need to aim the ball towards the cutoff man’s head and towards their gloved side.
This drill will familiarize outfielders with returning balls to the infield and teach them where to aim when throwing the ball.