Pre-Game Preparation: Knowing the Field
Baseball fields are not all created equal, and in a game where split second decisions matter, the slope of the foul line, speed of the infield, and other such factors can dramatically change the outcome of a play. With just a little bit of preparation, you can give yourself an advantage during the game.
Check the length of the grass.
The length of the grass will determine how much the ball will get caught up and slow down or how fast it gets through the infield. Is it wet or dry? This could make throwing difficult. Is the surface smooth or are their uneven sports and little craters where there may be some bad hops? This info factors into where to play certain hitters, and how to attack certain ground balls.
Check the dirt
to see if it is loose or tightly packed. Does the ball stay down or hop up? Is it fast or slow? Know where you are in the infield because some dirt areas are larger than others. Get acquainted with the infield.
How far back is the back stop and what is it made out of?
With runners on base sometimes balls will ricochet right back to the catcher and there is a chance for a play. Balls bounce off wood differently than it bounces off cement, fence, or padding. Keep that in mind.
Check the outfield fence.
How deep is the outfield wall? What is it made out of? Are there any weird angles that can create difficulty when lining up for a relay? Understand that a ball will kick further off of a wood or padded wall compared to a chain link fence. Many times there are different types of materials that make up one fence, so have an idea what type of ricochet may happen before the game even starts.
How much foul territory is there?
You need to feel comfortable tracking down a foul ball pop fly as you are running over towards the stands. Also make note if the bullpen mound is something to worry about when running after a ball and not watching where you are running. If that mound surprises you at full speed it does not feel good. I know from first hand experience.
As a corner infielder, check out the baseline
and see if bunts stay fair or roll foul. Before the game, look at the dirt where the chalk lines are and see if the ground looks flat or angled. Roll a couple balls down the line to simulate a bunt and watch the ball to see what it does. Do all balls roll foul, or do they hang on and stay fair? It is quite common for a grounds crew to doctor the foul lines a bit to help the home teams strength. This will help you in a game when a player decides to bunt a ball down one of the lines.
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