Outfield tips 3: Catching fly balls in the Sun, and Other Fly Ball Challenges

Outfield tips for catching fly balls in the sun, as well as tips for days when a pop fly might blend into the clouds, and other sky challenges.
How to field a pop fly or fly ball in bright sunlight.  Tricks for dealing with sunlight and cloudy days on the baseball field

Doug Bernier prepares to catch a fly ball in bright sunlight.

Catching fly balls in the sun

There are many times when the sun plays tricks on what would normally be routine fly balls. Sometimes you get a tricky sunlight in the first couple of innings before sunset or anytime during a day game.

1. Using your angles to help fight off the sun

If you are staring into the sun and a fly ball is hit to you, the ball will be in the sun the whole time.

Now if you can see the initial flight path of the baseball and get to the side of the path and change where you are looking, the it will eventually fall out of the sun and you will be able to see it.

For example, you are playing right field and a routine fly ball is hit your way and you are staring right into the sun.

  • Change where your eyes are fixed from looking at the hitter, to looking in the direction of 2nd base.
  • With the sun now in your peripheral you use your judgment to where you think the ball will come down and wait. When the ball comes down you will be able to see the last (1/4 of the flight) of the fly ball.
  • This is not an easy catch but it does give you a chance to see it and make a play rather than not seeing it at all and hoping it doesn’t hit you in the head.

This is from the same idea that if a fly ball is hit to the right fielder and he loses it in the sun, the centerfielder probably can see the ball, but he is just too far away to make a play on the baseball. But since his angle is different than the right fielders he has a good look at the ball. That is what we are trying to re create on a smaller scale.

2. Block the sun with your glove

Get comfortable with using the big piece of leather on your hand to block the sunlight from your eyes.  When looking up for the baseball, most times, properly using your glove to block the sun will allow you to catch the ball.  Using your glove with good sunglasses will help on 90% of the balls that get hit in the sun.

3. Don’t panic

When the baseball goes up in the sun, it can be scary because we lose sight of it for just a split second. Understand that the it has to come down, and if you are able to get a little bit of angle so you are not directly looking into the sun, you should be able to see the ball before it hits the ground.  Trusting your read off the bat will get you close to where the ball is coming down, then wait until it gets out of the sun to finish off the catch.

4. Choosing the right sunglasses

Sunglasses are an essential piece of equipment for outfielders.  You need something to block out the bright sun or help with glare on a cloudy day.  There are many types and styles of sunglasses that players are wearing during a game.  For info and pro recommendations, see our guide to The Best Baseball Sunglasses.

Like anything else in baseball, you must find what works for you. Of course, using sunglasses isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never lose a ball in the sun.

However, if you do lose a ball in the sun, MAKE SURE that you are wearing sunglasses. Don’t have them on your hat, or not have them with you when you are playing defense. That is the quickest way to get pulled from a game or at least be on the receiving end of an angry coaches tirade.

Baseball Hitting Drills for a Batting Tee – New book comes with free video to demonstrate each drill

Cloudy or overcast day

Catching fly balls can be difficult for outfielders on a cloudy or overcast day.  It’s tough to see fly balls clearly when the background is dark or gray.

A quick fix is to use sunglasses that have an orange or yellow lens .

The purpose of these lenses, are to brighten up the surroundings. These colored lenses really do work and can help make the background easier to spot a baseball if you are dealing with a tough sky. Click here to see product reviews on sunglasses for outfielders.

Twilight

After the sun has set and it is not completely dark, the color of the sky can match a nicely rubbed up baseball.  This sky only lasts for about 15 -30 minutes but it can make seeing a fly ball almost impossible at times.

This is called twilight and the color of the sky almost camouflages a ball when it gets hit in the air.

From experience, sunglasses don’t help much. The best way is to let everyone on the field know that they need to point out and communicate when a pop fly goes up in the air.

As difficult as it may be, keep your eyes on the ball at all times, because if you look away and try to find it again, you may not be able to spot it.

Make sure to communicate with the other fielders and let them know if you can’t see the baseball.  This time of night is probably more difficult to catch a fly ball than during the day in the bright sun.

  1. Guide to Best Baseball Sunglasses
  2. Outfield 1: The Basics
  3. Outfield 2: Tracking and Catching Fly Balls 
  4. Outfield 4: How to Throw Using Crow Hops 
  5. Outfield 5: Using the Long Hop
  6. All Articles for Outfielders

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

5 Comments

  1. My son is a 11th grader and has never had problem catching a pop fly,infield or out, til this year. It’s not every one just when the field lights come on. He has an awesome glove, he can catch about every pick threw. He is a lefty. Any suggestions?

  2. Doug, Good outfield info. Players who can be dependable playing the sun field are very valuable. When making a lineup when my team is playing a game with the sun as a factor I look for players that I have confidence in that will be able to overcome the elements and make the plays. It is tough to do and tough players can do it. My old coach Eddie Popowski used to say, “the sun has been there for a million years.” So dont make excuses just battle it and adjust and get it done. Thanks again.

    • Coach Whisperer,

      Thanks for the comments, its funny because I had a coach that said the same thing about the sun being there for a million years. It made me laugh a little. Thanks for the kind words.

      Doug Bernier

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