Proper Footwork for Strong Outfield Throws

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The Do or Die Crow Hop

We have seen several variations of footwork for throws from the outfield on balls right at the athlete, when athletes are actually attempting to throw someone out.

Take a look at this progression and then I will break it down a bit more:

Truth is you will see several different versions even if you turn on the TV and watch the big leaguers play. Which tells us that you can probably have success with a couple different techniques.

That being said, we do have a preference as it pertains to the footwork and crow hop an outfielder uses when coming through a baseball and attempting to throw someone out. The following set of footwork is for a ground ball directly at the outfielder.

This approach of coming through the baseball (as opposed to taking the ground ball on one knee or in an infield-esque fielding position) is often referred to as a “do or die” technique. This comes from the idea that there is a greater possibility of not fielding the ball cleanly with this technique but it may be the only shot a player has at throwing the winning run out. Situations will obviously dictate what technique should be used.

Do or die technique on a ball right at outfielders:

The do or die technique we prefer to see our outfielders learn for a groundball right at them is as follows:

  1. Field the ball in stride with the glove side foot in front.
  • Imagine fielding it in a narrow lunge position (glove side foot in front).
  • Preach good glove presentation (glove low to the ground right alongside the front foot).
  • Chest comes down close to being on top of the thigh (helps with depth and glove presentation).
  1. On the next step drive the throwing side foot and knee through into a crow hop.
  • Crossing over in front of the glove side foot (you can gain more ground towards your target going in front rather than behind).
  • As the throwing side foot drives through, simultaneously turn the throwing side foot to get it perpendicular to the target.
  • Pointing the instep of the foot to the throwing target.
  • This will help get the shoulders into the proper counter rotated position to produce strong accurate throws.
  • A good verbal cue is having the athlete imagine kicking a soccer ball with the instep (arch) of their foot towards their target.
  • As the back leg drives through the athlete needs to turn their hips and shoulders (counter rotate) to create the torque to deliver the best throw they can.
  1. During the crow hop, reinforce the idea that the athletes should be trying to really gain ground towards their target.
  • Good verbal cue: “think more out than up.”
  • There is an important balance here as there should be some “up” because that hang time in necessary for the outfielders arm to get into the slot, however, very often kids just want to go as high up as they can without gaining much ground forward.
  1. Release Point – get on top
  • From the outfield it is important that athletes try to really get on top of the ball to create good backspin.
  • This will help the throws carry more and stay straighter, which is more important when throwing from greater distances as outfielders often do.
  • A good verbal cue is to tell the athlete to feel like their fingers are on top of the ball and they are pulling down through it, or something as simple as “dominate the top half.”
  1. Finish
  • After they come over the top try to remind them to finish their throw by hinging at the waist and finishing their throw.
  • The mentality of finishing the throw can help produce more arm speed.
  • Additionally, it is very important for arm health as it helps with the deceleration of the arm.

Below is a little progression to give you a visual:

Breaking it down into these pieces can allow you to implement “part practice” which we have talked about before. It is a great way to help athletes learn the correct mechanics is they have to break the comprehensive skill down into its component pieces.

Have players begin learning this skill by breaking it down, then progress to ball in hand and have them actually make the throw. From there you can progress to rolling them ground balls and having them blend it all together.

Eventually working up to them being able to perform the skill as one smooth fluid move as they come through a fungo ground ball.

After teaching them this technique it is also great to tell your athletes to practice it every time they play catch. Everyday they go through the motions as they play catch. Forcing your outfielders to practice their crow hop footwork during catch play will accelerate their acquisition of the skill. They can simply go ball in hand and simulate the entire move as they deliver a throw to their partner.

Again, I want to remind you that I do believe players can have success with a replace step, or even a step behind. They can also have success fielding the ball with the throwing side foot in front. This is simply the footwork that I see as the most efficient.