The Most Efficient Way to Play a Ball Off the Outfield Wall
By Tyler Zupcic
One of the most overlooked and costly plays in youth baseball is the following:
- The ball is hit deep to the outfield and hits off the outfield wall.
- There is a runner on first who was running from the moment the ball was hit.
- The outfielder plays the ball off the wall and throws it to his cutoff man.
- The cutoff man throws it home to either hold the runner at 3rd or to make a play at the plate.
This describes the ideal scenario, but playing the ball off the wall is often under-taught at the youth level. Outfield play is a vital part of youth baseball and it often separates the average teams from the good teams.
While as a high school and college coach, I worked with our outfielders on being efficient as possible with their movements in the outfield, particularly when playing a ball off the wall. Below, is the best way to play the ball off the wall in order to save your team runs!
Why Outfielders Need to Be Efficient
Once the ball makes its way to the wall here are all the things that must happen before that runner on first runs 270-feet (90-foot bases):
- The outfielder must play the ball cleanly off the wall (if ball is not moving the outfielder must pick the ball up with the bare hand)
- Make a quick and accurate throw to the infield
- The infielder must catch, exchange, and make an accurate throw to the catcher
- The catcher must catch the ball and apply the tag before the runner touches home plate.
Remember, all of that has to happen in 10-11.5 seconds (average time from the contact of the ball to tag at the plate in MLB on plays at the plate on 20 different relays from the 2018 season) which takes precision and efficiency from all players involved.
Playing the Wall Ball
Playing the Wall Ball – The Good
- When ready to pick up the ball, angle your body to the side in a ‘ready to throw’ position.
- Pick the ball up off the back foot.
- Pick the ball up while sinking into the back hip.
- Explode off the back leg into a one-step throw.
Playing the Wall Ball – The Bad
- Back to the throwing target when the ball is about to be picked up the ball.
- Pick the ball up off the front foot or picking it up far away from your body.
- After the ball is picked up, the fielder takes two to three steps before throwing the ball in.
- The outfielder is the one who starts the relay, the outcome of the play usually is directly correlated to how quickly they can get the ball off the ground and into the infielder’s glove.
- A good rule of thumb to tell your players is that, on average, every step the outfielder takes with the ball in his hand, the base runner will be two to three steps closer to home.
- Efficiency in your movements is important!