Baseball Pop Fly Priorities

Every baseball player needs to know baseball pop fly priorities, i.e. chain of command, so players won’t be fighting over who should catch a fly ball.

A well-played pop-up is often an easy out – but DON’T take that for granted.

A poorly played pop fly is not only embarrassing for the players, it can lead to errors, runs for the other team, and even dangerous collisions.

So here it is.

***Pop fly priorities broken down for the whole field***

  1. Centerfielder has priority over the left and right fielders.
  2. Outfielders have priority over the infielders.
  3. Shortstop has priority over everyone in the infield.
  4. Middle infielders (SS and 2nd base) have priority over the corner infielders (1st base and 3rd base).
  5. Corner infielders have priority over the pitcher and catcher.
zone coverage for pop flies in baseball

Who should catch a pop fly?

Image key: Numbers = positions
1. Pitcher (P)
2. Catcher (C)
3. 1st Base (1B)
4. 2nd Base (2B)
5. 3rd Base (3B)
6. Shortstop (SS)
7. Left Field (LF)
8. Center Field (CF)
9. Right Field (RF)

A side note: Your coverage zone may be more or less than shown on this diagram, because a player’s range differs according to his individual athletic abilities and pre-pitch positioning.


When catching a pop fly or fly ball, use your arms as an extra signal to call off your teammates

NY Yankee Doug Bernier calls off the other fielders before making the catch. Image by Ed Wolfstein.

“I got it.”  The player who makes the catch should yell “I got it, I got it, I got it,” and the person(s) he is calling off will say nothing so there won’t be any misunderstanding on who should catch the ball.

Wave your hands.  As an infielder if you are going back on the baseball and you are calling the baseball, along with yelling, wave your hands in the air so the outfielder can see that you are calling it. When there are a lot of people yelling and the infielder is yelling back towards the catcher, often times the outfielder won’t hear anything, but he will see the infielder waving his hands.

Dealing with potential collisions:

If there is a chance of a collision between and infielder and outfielder on a fly ball, the outfielder will slide feet first and the infielder will stay on his feet. This is to prevent a head on collision. A glancing blow is better than a major collision.

–Example 1: Colliding the Dangerous Way

Red Sox’s Johnny Damon was knocked unconscious in a head-to-head collision with second baseman Damian Jackson.

–Example 2: Trip to the Hospital Avoided

In this next example, major injury was avoided because good priority protocol was followed.

Red Sox left fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, and third baseman, Adrian Beltre, both ran hard after a pop fly. Ellsbury slid just before collision, following proper pop-fly priority protocol for outfielders, and effectively avoided a head-on collision. His quick response likely saved him a concussion and trip to the hospital, if Johnny Damon’s experience is any indication.  Click here to watch the video.


I hope this article on baseball pop fly priorities and how to avoid injury helps you play smarter, safer, and more effectively.  I invite you to ask questions or leave feedback in the comments section below.   Play hard! – Doug

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About Author

Avatar für Doug Bernier

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT 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. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies


  1. Avatar für Jeff

    I was brought up in the 80’s and was coached as an outfielder that when the SS is tracking down a flyball in the shallow outfield, they have priority over an outfielder, who is coming in on the same flyball and the outfielder should peel off to give way to the SS. When did this change as the rule ? Appreciate your time.

    • Avatar für Ryan

      This change is due to the fact that an outfielder will have a batter read on the ball as they will be able to run up as apposed to the SS running back. Same concept on why the corner infielders have priority on pop ups near the catcher as it is easier/faster for them to run up than it is for the catcher to get up and move

  2. Avatar für Ray

    I thought I remember decades ago that it was the pitcher’s job to point to — and shout out — the infielder that he wanted to catch the ball when a pop-up was near the mound. Am I right about that and, if so, why have they backed away from that?

  3. Avatar für ted

    The best way to avoid collisions is if the only person calling for the ball is the one who has the right of way. The other fielder who does not have the right of way should keep quiet and if they don’t get called off it is their ball. If the player with the right of way calls for the ball the other fielder should avoid contact and position themselves so they can back up if the ball is missed. I can’t believe how many times there are collisions in the MLB when they should be well versed in right of way at that level.

  4. Avatar für Donald Kane

    If the shortstop is getting dizzy it means he/she is back peddling too much. The should be no more than 2 backpedals before the SS turns to the side of the baseball and runs it down.

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