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Monday, December 20, 2010

Center Field Mistakes

The 7th of 12 posts that show common mistakes players make by position.

The fearless Jim Edmonds
tracks it down.
Too timid. The last thing a center fielder should be is too timid.  They are playing center field for a reason. Someone thought they could cover the most ground and probably thought they had the most athleticism and speed among the three outfielders as well.  A fearless aggression is essential for a center fielder to move from good to great.  Premiere center fielders take it personally if any ball drops in their territory without being caught.  They certainly have the most territory to cover so any hesitation in their first step jumps and approaches to fly balls will prove costly.  They want the ball hit to them and they expect to track it down every time.

Grady Sizemore about to make
a great play in shallow center.
Too deep. There are coaches who probably would disagree with this but I believe many center fielders, especially at the high school level, play too deep.  Upwards of 75% of the game of baseball occurs in the infield.  Taking this into account, most balls hit to center field are going to be in front of the center fielder.  Playing more shallow allows the center fielder to be in a position to catch more line drives and bloop hits that fall into shallow center field.  A couple reasons why center fielders play deeper is because they are more comfortable moving forward on a hit ball and fear a ball will land over their head for extra bases.  This certainly will happen every once in awhile but the benefits of reaching more balls in shallow center outweigh the few balls hit over their head.  At least in my opinion.  Keep reading to see what can help a center fielder gain more confidence on balls hit over his head.

Leave the batting practice
socializing to the pitchers.
Too lazy during batting practice.  The first two mistakes so far have been playing too timid and playing too deep.  Practicing outfield work during batting practice is single handedly the best way for any center fielder (and other outfielders as well) to correct these mistakes and improve their defense.  Having coaches hit fly ball after fly ball is no replacement for reading the baseball off the bat during batting practice.  Too many players who are out in the field during batting practice use that time to socialize and hang out until it is their turn to hit.  Premiere center fielders use the time differently.  They treat it like a game where their job is to get to and catch every ball hit into center field.  By doing this, they are getting experience going every which way to get balls, they are working on their jumps, they are anticipating where balls will be hit, and to address the previous mistake, they are working on going after balls over their head.  Taking this approach to batting practice gives center fielders more confidence to attack fly balls come game time and also gives them more confidence to play a bit more shallow since they know they can go back well on balls over their head.   

Too quiet.  Like I mentioned in the post about mistakes catchers make, center fielders need to be the most vocal member of the outfielders.  They are the coach in the outfield and should be constantly reminding the other two outfielders of things they need to know.  Where batters hit the ball in previous at-bats.  Which runners can run and which ones can't.  The score.  The outs.  Any piece of information that would impact how an outfielder should play should be passed along by the center fielder.  College coaches and professional scouts notice that so a center fielder cannot afford to be silent on the field.

Tomorrow:  Right field

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