Somewhere along the line, we’ve been fed the myth that the best players are infielders. You should prefer pitcher, shortstop, catcher, third base, second base, and first base (roughly in that order) over anything in the outfield. And if you’re a right fielder? You might as well quit.
This is false. If you’re an outfielder, own it. Be proud of it. Be the best outfielder you can be. Your coach and your team will thank you for it.
Sure, at the youngest of ages, the outfield positions are mostly for show. The ball only gets there because a grounder got through the (prized) shortstop or was thrown around by one of the infielders. But the older you get, the more outfield matters.
And it matters a LOT.
Infielders may have the potential to touch the ball more often, but outfielders can make a much bigger impact on the game. Their execution, or lack of execution, is more likely to lead to or prevent multiple extra bases for the opposition at a time. Valuable extra bases.
It’s no secret that I love talking about my first group of Spiders who graduated to high school after the 2018 season. I was so proud of this team. But we didn’t have dominant pitching or dominant hitting. Far from it. We were really good, but a big reason for that was our outfield play.
The outfield was where fly balls went to die. We had track stars in center and left. A cannon in right. The outfield was probably the greatest strength of that group.
When you have a great outfield, you can win games that don’t feel winnable. The other team, better on paper, had more hitters and a stronger pitcher on the mound. They consistently hit the ball hard. But you got “lucky” because everything just happened to be right at someone.
Or at least that’s how it feels when playing a team with a great outfield.
If you’re a coach, value your outfield. Prioritize it. Teach it. Don’t try to “hide” players there because a ball will always find them. Speak of the importance of outfield so that your players value it, too, and don’t see it as a punishment.
Stop assuming that your most skilled defensive players need to be on the infield. It’s outfield skill that turns singles into outs and extra bases into singles. Converting outs and preventing extra bases are primary ways to win the game.
If you’re a player, own it. Be proud of how you don’t let a ball get by you. That you take the best angles. That you always back up your teammates. Take pride in those diving catches and rocket throws, but also take pride in making the more difficult plays look easy and the routine plays look automatic.
If you’re a parent, never belittle the outfield position. Don’t make it seem like a negative that your child is playing there (it’s NOT). It may be underappreciated, so you need your child to FEEL appreciated. Help them become the best outfielder they can be. The older they get, the more their skills will be valued.
Everyone thinks they’re a shortstop. Not everyone can or will play on the infield. Will you be a positive in the outfield?
How do you show your players the value of the outfield?
Let me know in the comments below!