Understanding the Basic Principles of Fielding
While the engine of the baseball sport is powered by two players—the pitcher and the batter, baseball is not just about hitting and scoring, it is also largely a matter of defense. In this case, little league fielding occupies a vital role in the game of youth baseball. When kids start playing baseball, it is natural for them to want to occupy the two primary roles of batting or throwing because players who occupy these positions are considered the baseball stars; few of them are really interested in learning and getting good at fielding, particularly in playing outfield, as this is deemed as a position reserved for poor players. Also, playing in the outfield can get them little action when they are just beginning to learn baseball and the batter does not hit the ball farther than the infield. As they grow older, however, better hitters will usually hit the ball frequently to the outfield and being positioned in that area can be exciting.
A lot of kids who are only beginning to learn baseball think that fielding is an easy job as it only requires running and catching the ball. However, fielding requires particular athletic skills such as speed, accuracy, and agility for a player to excel in this position. Fielders for one must have a strong arm and can run fast as well as control their speed, slowing down and stopping at will. To keep a runner from getting to an extra base, the only defensive weapon a fielder has is the arm with the aid of strong and flexible legs and feet for leaping. As the old adage about baseball goes, “baseball is a game of inches.” Many baseball games are won by the extra step that a fielder takes by extra speed and reach. Fielders also need to be hardworking, patient, constantly alert, and be clear thinkers to be able to consistently execute the plays.
All the fielders work to prevent batters and base runners from the opposing team to score a run or hits. In a youth sports baseball game, there is a total of 7 fielders—4 in the infield and 3 in the outfield. The 4 infields include the First baseman (assigned to field the area near the first base), the Second baseman (assigned between the first and second base), the Third baseman (assigned near third base), and the Shortstop (assigned between second and third base). The 3 outfields include the Left field (assigned to field the outer portion on the left side of the batter facing the field), theCenter field (assigned to field the middle portion of the outfield), and the Right field (assigned to field the outer portion on the right side of the batter facing the field).
Defense StrategyGood fielding strategy can make or break a baseball game. Like basketball, the different between winning and losing a ballgame can be a matter of defense. For a team to win, a good defense strategy is needed to keep the opposing team from scoring runs. The most basic thing that fielders need to learn is how to be on their toes or on the balls of their feet so that they can move quickly and easily into any direction needed. The first principle of fielding is to support the weight with the toes or heels and not to stand flatfooted as this inhibits movement and impedes accuracy in stopping the ball.
Choosing a GloveConditioning the glove is an important factor for catching and throwing the ball accurately. A flexible soft leather glove that fits well depending on the player’s hand is ideal for comfort and grip. A relatively flat and shallow glove is usually better than a deep pocket glove (even if a deep-pocket glove can grip a ball better) so that the player can retrieve the ball quickly for throwing to the base. The ball can get lost inside a deep pocket when you need it most. Trying on different gloves to see which one fits the best is recommended. As the adage goes, “Different strokes for different folks.”
The correct position for little league fielding, for both infielders and outfielders, is to spread the feet comfortably apart, bending the knees and waste slightly with the hands—both the bare hand and the gloved hand—alertly placed on the knees, and slightly leaning forward in anticipation of the ball. The body should be properly balanced, finding the body’s center of gravity. The head should always be up and the eyes should stay focused on the ball. For outfielders, a ball may not head to your direction for three or four innings but it does not mean you should cease paying attention or relax your attention for a moment. A fielder should always anticipate that the ball might come towards the player’s direction.
ThrowingThrowing better and stringer is largely a matter of practice. Throwing a lot will build muscle memory and develop an accurate arm. When throwing a ball, a player should step towards the base that he or she is throwing to. Long tosses as well as short tosses should be mixed in drills to make the arm stronger. To straighten throws, the players should get on top of the ball and if the player throws ¾ over the top, the arm should not drop to the side. At all times, the ball should be held across the seam as much as possible.
When catching a ball, the player should move into a position that gives him the best opportunity to catch the ball instead of merely standing on one spot and extending the arm hoping to catch it. If it is thrown over the catcher’s head, a drop step should be taken and then the player should go after it. If it is thrown to the side, the catcher should move and try to get in front of the ball. Youth sports baseball drills for catching fly balls and ground balls should be developed.