When Your Kid is Stuck in the Outfield…AGAIN!

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I often get emails from upset parents asking how to cope with the degradation of their player being sentenced to the wastelands of Siberia…. er, having to play outfield. Especially for younger players under, say 1o/11u, it can seem like they’ve been sentenced to boredom, out of the way of all the action.

One reader lamented, “My Caden is just as good as any other kid on the team! But that ‘DaddyBall’ coach of ours saves all the good positions for his own kid and his friends while poor Caden is stuck in the outfield! I worry that he’s losing interest in the game he once loved so much. How do I talk to the coach and convince him to put Caden back at short stop where he was last year?”

Since I don’t know your player, the coach or any teammates, and my psychic powers have been disconnected due to nonpayment, it would be unfair for me to try and answer your question. What I CAN do, however, is point out a few things that will hopefully change change the way you and your kid view this outfield “punishment.”

1) For starters, one third of baseball’s positions are in the outfield. Someone’s got to play there. And it might as well be your kid. Or his kid. Or that kid over there. If your player can’t stomach the thought of being in the outfield, then apparently he doesn’t “love” the game as much as he thought. Sign him up for soccer or tennis ASAP.

2) Outfielders have a huge opportunity to be the hero of the game. They might not get as much action as the infield, but how they handle balls hit their way can be the difference between a win or a loss. With so much ground to cover, an outfield error can be disastrous; while a timely catch can save the day. Kids often don’t realize the importance of a good outfield until a costly error is made. It can quickly change a player’s perspective when he realizes he missed a big opportunity to shine.

Coach Chris Sharp of the 11u RBA Ropes says “big arms and big speed are required in the outfield. And a good outfield is key when you have a pitcher on the mound who pitches to contact.”

3) By 11/12u, many coaches will have their best athletes in the outfield. Outfielders need good eyes, a strong arm, quick reflexes plus the ability to run fast and cover a lot of ground.

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Coach Adam Marshall, also of the Ropes, sums it up very well.

“Plain and simple: outfielders are guys you can trust to make the high-stakes plays that will save a ballgame for your team. If an infielder can’t make a play on a ball, the other team might get an extra base or two out of it. But if a ball gets through the outfield, it almost immediately means extra runs. Outfielders are often some of the best all-around athletes; coaches need speed out there to cover large areas quickly, and they need big arms to get the ball back into the infield in short order. Some of the most exciting highlight-reel plays involve outfielders making over-the-shoulder or diving catches, or nailing runners who thought they could take that extra base. And some of the most dynamic MLB players right now are outfielders (Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton).”

4) Coach Marshall makes as great point. Tell your player to make a list of today’s top MLB outfielders and look up some YouTube videos of amazing saves and painful errors they’ve made. Then try saying that outfielders aren’t important.

5) Parents don’t always understand a coach’s reasoning behind how he positions his players. Sometimes what may seem like criticism is actually a compliment. This quote found on a coaches’ forum sums it up well. “Sometimes you have two kids who are really good infielders, but one is a better outfielder. Putting him in outfield is not at all an insult to his ability. I’m putting my players where I need them the most – and it’s not up to parents to judge that. When they do and talk negatively about it in front of their player, they’re creating a problem in his mind and sabotaging his team first mentality.”

6) In 6,7,8u, outfielders have more opportunities to show their fielding skills through backing up infielders. When a hard hit ground ball bounces past the shortstop (which will happen a lot more in the early years), the left fielder can look like a total stud if he’s in ready position and able to scoop the ball to make the play. At night, when you and your kid are watching your favorite team on TV, pay special attention to the outfielders and how many plays they make backing up the infield.

My “Andy in the outfield” (Only I’m allowed to call him Andy.)

7) Tell your kid to make it his goal to be the team’s BEST outfielder. For this one, I sought the input of my son Andrew, the starting center fielder on his high school team. He’s been playing outfield since age eight. Aside from the pitcher’s mound, there’s no place he’d rather be. And he’s pretty much always felt that way.

ME: “Why did you like playing outfield when other kids dreaded it?”

ANDREW: “I guess I just accepted that the kids playing infield were better than me. I mean, it was pretty obvious. So I figured if I was going to keep playing, I’d better be the best outfielder I could possibly be. I made centerfield MY position and decided that nobody would be better at it than I was. Plus, it felt great when I’d make great catches and monster throws. People started calling me ‘captain of the outfield.’ I liked that. Cheers and praise always help.”

ME: “So what did you do to become a good outfielder?”

ANDREW: “We practiced in the backyard all the time. You and Dad would hit buckets of pop ups and grounders to me everyday. We played catch everyday, moving farther and farther away over time til Dad and I were practically standing on opposite ends of the yard.”

(Note: We used to have a huge backyard. I miss it… except the mowing part.)

8) Coaches, be sure to praise your outfielders when you see them doing a good job….backing up infielders, hustling onto the field, throwing the ball to the right place, calling the ball, etc. When addressing the team, talk up the outfield. Point out their importance to the team, even if there hasn’t been much action there lately.

NOTE: Between tee ball and, say, age 10, no player should be stuck in the same position all the

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time. That’s lazy coaching! Feel free to quote me on that. During these ages, coaches should be focusing on developing solid, versatile ballplayers. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m preaching to the choir. I’m just saying, if your kid is this young and plays ONLY outfield or rides the pine, game after game, then you might want to find another team.

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10 thoughts on “When Your Kid is Stuck in the Outfield…AGAIN!

  • June 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm
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    My son has been “stuck” in outfield this entire season. He views it as not being good enough. I have been trying my best to convince him it’s important and why. The other night the coach gave him the chance to play third. He got no action. However as usual outfield did. And the kid in his normal position was slower and let the ball get by him causing a double instead of a single and a run to come in that wouldn’t have had my son been in. (If he played like he normally does.) He is fast and great at backing up and following the ball at all times. He can throw from outfield to second no problem. Seeing what happens when you don’t have a fast kid in outfield showed him how important the position is. He still wants to play infield, but he’s starting to understand the importance of outfield.

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  • May 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm
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    Put each player in a position that he or she can be successful in…. Not because the parents think that being short stop is somehow a more sexy position. If you are a good Catherine you will catch. I coach 15u ball and ill tell you what, many of the plays start in outfield! There is nothing boring about outfield when the kids start getting bigger! The earlier that the kids love play outfield the better. It’s the parents not the kids who have decided that outfield is a lesser position!

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    • May 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm
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      Oops, should have reread that…. Should say catcher not Catherine…. Nothing against Catherine!

      Reply
  • May 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm
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    I think you should have led with your “NOTE” section. I agree that kids should try hard in all positions, but playing the same kids in the same positions each and every game is the reason why the dropout rate for sports is 70% from 10-13.
    I wish coaches like this would go hug their trophies at night and leave the sports to the real coaches who are trying to develop players.

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  • May 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm
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    Want to coach? More parents should sign up instead of complain. It runs both ways. My son coaches and moves kids around. His favorite saying during a game is telling the kids “have fun”.

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  • May 16, 2017 at 6:03 am
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    I am so glad someone addressed the problems of people assuming their children are being punished by playing certain positions. Please remember that it takes a whole team working together to win or lose. Learn from your accomplishments and your mistakes. Put your heart into playing and make every minute count.

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  • May 16, 2017 at 4:42 am
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    Well said Sir, Well said!!! We raised 3 sons, all of which I believe are well rounded athletes and good men, husbands and fathers necause of their love and being taught teamwork. I think they’re are fantastic at everything they do but Im their mom. Anyway, we live in a very small town, 1100. If ALL kids dont play sports then no one gets to. SO, we Played Sports. Of course like most athletes parents, we coached. Started with TBall then all thru youth. Baseball and Basketball. What you explained is how you should teach. Your not just.l coaching baseball, basketball, your teaching sooo much more. You start with basics and and continue on in the skill level as they grow as in all things in life. And I have also saw there was never any fear of our players when they hit the field. They knew that all have errors and we will just remember to remember your skills. And YES the outfield can win or lose the game. You are spot on, player needs a cannon of an arm, depth preception, speed, agility, what else?? My middle son could rattle the backstop from CF so when not pitching he was in CF. of course, we taught cut off man BUT players have to have instinct too. Don’t think for a second he wouldnt throw you out in a heartbeat!!!

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  • May 16, 2017 at 1:37 am
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    I had 15 kids and no help. When the parents would come out of the grand stands and tell me how great their child was at shortstop I would ask them nicely to come to the next practice and give me a hand so I could try Johnny at shortstop. I didn’t have the time to do it running the whole team by myself. Typically, Little Johnny stayed in the Outfield, as I never so the parents again.

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  • May 14, 2017 at 9:16 pm
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    I coached little league for many years. My son was a good catcher. When he made all stars the head coach ( I was an assistant) put him in right field. Bottom line there was a better catcher on the team. I knew it and so did my son. I was still a little hurt that my son did not get any back up time behind the dish. My son (11 years old) asked me why he was stuck in right field.
    I was talking to 2 of the other assistance coaches about the fact that I was mad about it. One said well you need to talk to the head coach about it. Then the other coach said or tell your son to go out there and be the best right fielder he can be. Tell him out field is not a punishment, it’s a necessity.
    I did just that. He had the best all star season ever made 3 or 4 game saving catches. Had 8 putouts at second just by backing up first on over throws. Threw out 3or 4 at first on singles. He also had put outs at the plate. He was names tournament MVP 2 times by the other teams coaches.
    I found out that he was up set because I was up set. All you parents have a big responsibility to not get caught up in the politics of the game. If you truly don’t like the coach of the travel team your kid is on then move him. Chances are its your problem and your kid is just happy playing every inning.

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  • May 14, 2017 at 1:43 am
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    Our 13 year old son has always played 3rd base, catcher, or pitcher until this season. This season we moved to a new league so he could play with classmates. With in the first 3 games the head coach told Tyler he is his #1 catcher and expect to play there most of the season. Well, the assistant coach has a set of twin boys that he has dreams of them pitching and catching together clear through the MLB. About the middle of the season I noticed Tyler played 4 games in left field or on the bench. I will admit I was a fired up about it. I can understand someone has to play the outfield but not a player that probably out plays 3/4 of team and is always accountable. I decided to talk to both coaches at the same time. I asked if playing Tyler in left field was game strategy or if we need to speak with Tyler about his behavior. I asked if he was uncoachable, disrespectful, or goofing off in the dugout. I wanted to approach them without be rude or appearing upset. It worked. Neither one of them had a negative thing to say about Tyler and actually said they appreciate Tyler’s attitude. He has not played the outfield since I spoke with the coaches. He has sat out a few innings in some games that they winning by 9 or more points at Tyler’s request. He told the coach to let some of the less experienced players play his position. We do have kids on the team that have less than 3 years playing ball.

    Reply

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