“Get outside of the ball.” It’s a teaching cue that is used in just about every level of baseball. On face value it’s not a hard concept to understand, but it’s so much more than what it seems. Let’s breakdown the what, why and how of getting outside of the ball.
What does get outside of the ball mean?
As an infielder getting yourself outside of the ball means to get your glove shoulder to the right of the baseball. Some people will say to field the ball off your left ear/eye. Others will say to round the ball. No matter the cue, the message is the same. Get the glove shoulder to the right of the ball.
Why do you get outside of the ball?
If you ask most people that question you’ll say you get outside the ball to field it off of the left ear and to get momentum into your throw. While those are true the reasons for getting outside of the baseball are deeper than that. Not only will getting outside of the ball establish momentum but it also allows for a better view of the hops and speed of the ball. Reading hops is clearly an important aspect in fielding a groundball. Getting outside of the ball allows for reading of the depth and height of the hop. Getting a view of the depth and height of the hop will make picking out the friendly hop easier in turn making fielding the ball easier. As we get a better view of the hop we also get a better feel for the speed of the ball. Think of crossing the street. If we’re standing on the curb waiting to cross and a car is coming in our direction down the road. We can judge the speed of the car from a distance but it’s not until it crosses in front of us, and we get a side view of the car, do we really get a good feel for exactly how fast its going. This is the same for a groundball. If we get a side view of the ball we’re able to judge it’s speed compared to if we see it from straight on.
How do we get outside of the ball?
Getting outside of the ball on balls hit so we have to move laterally are easy. Based on the location of the groundball we’re already outside of the ball we get a good view of the hop and speed of the ball. When the ball is hit to our left we’ll already be outside of the ball and our momentum will already be headed in the direction of our target to a certain extent. Groundballs hit to our backhand side will give us a good view of the hops and speed but getting our momentum toward our target can be tricky. In these cases we have to do out best to beat the ball to a spot and play back through it with out feet, if possible.
The groundballs we need to take the initiative to get outside of are the balls hit directly towards us. With these we’ll need to initiate our movement to get outside of the ball with our left foot. This step with our left foot will be toward the ball but slightly across the body to our right side. If we use this directional step and maintain athletic footwork our next step, with our right foot, will take our body outside of the ball and will set us up to see the hop and speed of the ball. If we initiate our movement outside of the ball with the right foot then our left foot could still step directly to the ball and keep us in line with the ball thus missing the benefit of getting outside of the ball. Another reason to initiate the movement outside of the ball with the left foot is that if our timing is off and we need to immediately get back in line with the ball to field. The step with the left foot can be immediately followed with a right step into the fielding position and we’re still in rhythm with our footwork to field thru the ball with momentum.
A good cue or approach to getting outside of the ball is to think, “get my body outside of the ball while keeping my glove in line with the ball.” This mindset will trigger our movement to get outside of the ball but keep our glove movement to the minimum by keeping it in line with the ball. It prevents a movement outside of the ball that is too drastic, but its enough to get the benefits of getting outside of the ball.