Tips on how to best play the baseball fence when in the outfield

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While the perimeter baseball fence defines the parameters of where a fielder is able to field the baseball, the stretch of fence that lines the outfield is the only obstruction (other than the players and umpires) that is found in fair play on a baseball diamond.

Because of this, if you’re playing the outfield, you have to learn how to “play the fence”. Its irregularities and ability to act as a harsh boundary can easily change the course of the game. If you don’t become familiar with its nuances, the fence is going to play you!

1.) The effects of the outfield baseball fence.

In addition to potentially running into your own teammate when manning the outfield, you also have to contend with the outfield fence. This can have a profound effect on how you approach fielding a fly ball.

Be cautious not to allow the baseball fence to force you to take your eyes off the baseball. Who can forget that legendary play when former major league ballplayer, Jose Canseco, then of the Texas Rangers, took his eyes off the baseball as he approached the outfield fence?

He was so clearly concerned about running into the fence that he took his eyes off the baseball. It subsequently bounced off the top of his head and over the baseball fence for a home run.

The fence can also affect your running speed, causing you to hesitate as you’re running toward the fence. You might feel the impulse to back off, as you know the fence is near. Know that there are techniques you can employ (as noted below) to help you overcome this impulse, keeping you from slowing down too soon.

In thanks to the fence’s angles, the baseball can be redirected in multiple directions. These angles can easily put you in an awkward position, unable to field the ball cleanly, as the base runner rounds the bases.

Tips on how to best play the baseball fence when in the outfield

And, lastly, the fence can cause you to drop the ball. Running hard, you may come up with a brilliant catch, only to crash into the fence. The impact can be such that you drop the ball, not too mention the possibility of injury.

2.) Don’t become a Kamikaze of the baseball field.

Be cautious to show no fear of the fence, or simply become oblivious to its existence – running into it with full force. This approach is not recommended as it can lead to serious injury and doesn’t help your team in any way.

Not only is it probable that the ball will be left rolling around in the outfield as the base runner rounds the bases, but your team is likely to be without your services for some time. Approach the fence in a systematic manner, using the safeguards noted below to help prevent a reckless injury.

3.) Steps to help you deal with the outfield baseball fence.

First and foremost, prior to the start of the game, become comfortable with your surroundings, particularly around the fence area. Study the various quirks along the baseball fence that may lead to odd bounces or require unique methods of approach.

Test the difference between how the outfield grass and the warning track sand feels to your feet. Become familiar with this difference so that when you’re attempting to catch a fly ball and you feel the ground surface change, it’ll register in your head that you need to slow down as the fence is near.

Prior to the game, run toward the baseball fence from various angles, counting the number of paces it takes for you to reach the fence from the start of the warning track. You may find that it takes on average six to eight steps or eight to ten steps, prior to reaching the fence. Use this information to help you gauge the location of the fence during the game so that it doesn’t sneak up on you.

During the game, your best bet in an effort to avoid injury is to reach the fence before the baseball does. This will allow you to turn sideways and prepare to catch the baseball.

Where that isn’t always possible, another good in-game tactic to help determine the location of the fence, particularly when running at slow to mid speed, is the use of your throwing hand as a feeler.

As you’re running toward the fence with your eyes forward on the baseball, stick your throwing arm out behind you. Keep your hand behind you until it strikes the fence, letting you know where it is. This method works particularly well when you’re moving gradually back in an attempt to rob your opposition of a home run.

Most importantly, help your fellow teammates, and stress that they help you. If in the general area, call out to them, letting them know if they are approaching the fence. In effect, you are their eyes on the back of their head … and you hope they’ll be yours when you’re in a similar position.

4.) Balls hit over your head to the baseball fence.

If you determine that you can’t make a play at the fence, use the fence to your advantage by aligning yourself to quickly retrieve the baseball off the fence.

Play back from the fence far enough so that the ball won’t get past you as it ricochets off the fence’s façade. The distance you play off the fence depends on the fence’s material, as well as the height and power of the hit.

Obviously, the softer or more give the fence’s material has the less of a ricochet you can expect. Alternatively, if the batter hits a hard, fast, line drive that hits off of a hard baseball fence surface, it is probable that the baseball will bounce hard and far.

You should also take the angles of the baseball fence into account. If there are any sharp angles pointing away from home plate, the ball will deflect at a greater angle than if the angle of the fence is more perpendicular to home. The materials of the fence will also play a role in how fast the baseball comes off these angles.

You might want to start your positioning at approximately fifteen feet from the fence and, after taking all field conditions into account, adjust your positioning from there.