For anybody who is new to the outfield or even those who already call the grass their home, these are some essential tools that every center, left, and right fielder need to succeed. You DON'T need to be the fastest out there (I, for sure, never was) but you should always be the one who is most prepared.
so read up and get out there!
1. Perfect Your Drop Step.
I cannot emphasize this enough. This ONE step sets you up for the rest of your run. You want to meet a ball where it is going to land, not on your way there. When a ball is crushed over your head, you need every little bit of time and every little bit of help to get there. NEVER back peddle. Open your hips and try to get as deep of a step as you can and then RUN!
2. Hit Your Cut.
Again, this is HUGE. There are those few, rare times when you get to gun it all the way to third base or to the plate. We all want to. In our minds, we want to make the heroic play. Don't be a hero, hit your cut. That's what they are there for. Runners can be unpredictable. There's no point to risk an overthrow. Save your teammates from doing extra work and prevent teams from taking extra bases. Bonus: If you throw all the way home, try to throw THROUGH your cut so they can cut the ball, last minute, if they need to. Otherwise they will move out of the way.
3. Be LOUD.
If you're shy and quiet off the field, that's absolutely fine. But on the field you need to learn how to TAKE CHARGE, ASSERT yourself, and be LOUD. Do NOT be timid going after the ball. YELL! Let everyone know who's catching the ball in the air. Shout "Mine, mine, mine" or "Ball, ball, ball." Keep teammates from colliding and freeze the runner, you'll give yourself extra time to throw her out.
4. Don't Be Afraid of the Fence.
I get it, running into fences isn't fun. It hurts. But if you spend time practicing the correct techniques for how to run into a fence, you will be safe AND successful. ALWAYS know your surroundings. Count how many steps you are away from the fence. Keep it tucked in the back of your mind. Listen to verbal cues from your teammates and when you're close enough, reach out your throwing arm to feel for the fence. This will help you be more confident in your surrounding and will lead to more caught fly balls!
5. Back Everyone Up.
You have to always remember, YOU are the last line of defense. If a ball goes through the short stop's legs, it's up to YOU to stop it. A ball that gets by the infield is the difference between out and safe, whereas a ball that gets by the outfield means runs and extra bases. Do not let it happen. Even if you don't think it's your job, you should always BE ON THE MOVE to BACK UP your teammates. Never be a bystander. Be prepared and know where the next play could be. You never know when runners will try to take extra bases or when just one overthrow could be the difference between winning and losing the game. Trust me.
So, there you have it! It's as easy as that. Just kidding. it DOES take countless hours of training both mentally and physically. Don't ever get down on yourself. Look at every mistake as an opportunity to get better. Being an outfielder is harder than it seems but it is also the BEST position out there... but hey, maybe I'm a little biased.
Good luck! Play hard!