I have been coaching youth baseball, especially Little League®, for close to 10 years. No matter which division I have coached in – from Tee Ball to the Majors – the youth baseball players have their favorite and desired positions they want their coach to put them at defensively on the baseball field. Most, if not all, love to be on the mound pitching in front of their family and friends. Some love to catch and be part of every play in the field defensively. Others want to play shortstop or even first base so they can get a steady dose of plays to make. From my experience, most Little League® players love to be in the infield, where they think the majority of the balls are hit on the field.
But what if your coach looks at his/her lineup card and points to you and says “Left Field.” Again, from my experience, the reactions are very similar. A roll of the eyes, maybe a glance out to Mom and Dad in the stands, a small puff or sigh, head down, and then a jog out to your position. You may think left field is a reflection of your ability or your role on the team. You may feel like your coach is just putting you out to left field to “hide” you on the field. You might look at left field and think “No one is ever going to hit it out to me,” or “I’m wasting my time out in left field, when I really should be in the infield or pitching.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that left field is very, very important and you should smile and thank your coach for trusting you with such an important role on his/her defense. The left field position is typically a fielder with a strong arm, exceptional range, and is a good team player. Here is a short list of famous left fielders – Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, and my favorite player of all time, Ted Williams. The left field position is incredibly important on every level of baseball from tee ball to high school to the Major Leagues. Left fielders are responsible for tracking down fly balls hit by power hitting right handed batters, line drives from left handed batters that drive the ball to the gap between center field and left field. Left fielders are a key backup for steals of third base, force plays at third base, and double plays from the second basemen to the shortstop. The number of plays a good left fielder is involved with is immeasurable. By learning the diverse role of the left field position, you can be involved in the action on just about every play.
Every position on the baseball field defensively has its importance. Some positions, like pitching and catching and the infield, are more involved in the pitch by pitch action of the game. Others, like left field, require the fielder to play a supportive role in the defensive scheme of the action. This does not, in any way, downplay the importance of the left field position nor any of the other outfield positions. Take a positive attitude out to left field. Talk to your coaching staff about how you can get more involved in the plays as a supportive fielder backing up plays. Learn your opponent’s hitters and their strengths and tendencies at the plate. Be ready to contribute to your team defensively, every play.
Trust me, Left Field Ain’t So Bad!!!