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Backing up Plays

No matter the level of baseball, errors are a big part of the game. While back-ups may not eliminate errors, they will certainly limit the number of extra bases a team gives up. The majority of back-up duties belong to the outfielders. On each ball put in play, outfielders should run to back up either the infielders or their fellow outfielders. It is important to understand that every ball in play creates an opportunity for a back-up.

Backing up Infielders

  • Regardless if the ball is hit directly to the infielder or to either side, the outfielder should always break to back up his infielder. If an infielder makes an error on a ball hit directly at him, and the outfielder has not moved to back him up, the runner could easily take an extra base. For example, imagine that with runners on first and second, a ball is hit straight to the first baseman. If the ball goes under his glove and the outfielder is not backing up, the outfielder has no chance to throw the runner out at home.
  • Pick-offs and throws: Likewise, the outfielders should back up throws from infielders to the bags. For example, the center fielder should back up throws to second base (including pick-off attempts); the right fielder should back up throws to first base and throws from the third baseman to second base; and the left fielder should back up throws to third base and throws from the first baseman to second base.

Backing up Outfielders

  • As a general rule, the outfielder closest to the player fielding the ball will be backing up the play. The outfielder should understand that the sharper the angle of a fly ball, the farther it will roll if missed. This means a high fly ball will be less likely to bounce far away, while a line drive will roll a long way.
  • Ground balls: This follows the rule mentioned above. Sometimes, a ball will take a bad hop, skip over the outfielder's glove and roll a long way. If a fellow outfielder does not back him up, then the runner will likely be able to trot home. Backing up an outfield ground ball will limit the extra bases the runner can take on the error.
  • Fly balls: This follows the same rule. For example, if a fly ball is hit to the center fielder's left, then the right fielder will run to back up his fellow outfielder.
  • Line drives: This follows the same rule. If the outfielder dives for the ball and misses, the back-up must run quickly to cut off the ball and throw it to the cut-off man.