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The Centre Fielder






Much of what has been said with reference to the left fielder is
applicable also to the occupant of the centre field. As a fielder only,
it is necessary that he should possess the same powers of judging a
hit quickly, of starting the instant the hit is made, of running fast
until he has reached it, and of catching the ball in any position; but
as a fielder and batter as well, his fielding qualities are often
overlooked, to a certain extent, in favor of his power as a batter.

Many fielders prefer to catch a ball while they are running and so
regulate their speed as to be still on the move when they meet the ball.
Some of them do this because they can catch a ball better in that way,
and others because they think it looks prettier and pleases the grand
stand; they are continually making what appear to be difficult catches,
and they occasionally fall down and roll over to add to the effect. But
while this may deceive the average spectator, it never escapes the other
players, and they soon grow extremely weary of such gymnastics. And
after awhile the spectators, too, discover his tricks, and then the
player will not get credit even for the really good work he may do.
Another thing to be said against this grand-stand style of play is that
these players sometimes miscalculate the direction or force of a hit
just enough to lose it, whereas if they had run hard at first the ball
would have been easily caught. The safest plan is to get under the hit
as quickly as possible and then there will be time to correct any slight
misjudgment.

In fielding balls hit along the ground, the outfielder should run in
quickly to meet the ball and return it instantly to the proper point on
the in-field. I have seen games lost by out-fielders stupidly holding a
ball or returning it lazily to the in-field. There is absolutely nothing
to be gained but everything to be lost by such plays.

In throwing to any point on the in-field, if the throw is at all a long
one, the fielder should line the ball in on the bound. An out-fielder
should never attempt a long throw on the fly, to first or third or home.
A throw on the first bound will reach there just as quickly, more
accurately, and with less chance of getting by the fielder to whom it is
thrown.

The centre fielder must back up second base on all throws from the
catcher, and also on throws from any other position, whenever possible.
On throws from the direction of first base he will be assisted by the
left fielder and from the direction of third base by the right fielder.
When a runner is stealing second base and the catcher's throw is wild,
the centre fielder must meet the ball quickly so as to prevent the
runner from going on to third. In a case of this kind a crafty runner
will often make a feint to run to third in order to force the fielder to
throw the ball in the hope that he may throw it wild. If there is a
probability that the runner actually intends to go to third, there is
nothing left the fielder but to throw and take the chance. But if the
fielder has good reason to suspect the honesty of the runner's
intentions, a quick throw to second, instead of to third, will often
catch him before he can return.

The centre fielder should also back up the left and right fielders on
all hits along the ground which either-of them runs in to meet. It gives
one fielder more confidence to go in quickly after a ball if he knows
there is another fielder behind him to stop it in case it passes
himself.

Even on an in-field hit to the second baseman or short-stop the out-
fielder should move in at once, so as to be able to recover the ball
quickly if it gets through the in-field.

When a runner is caught between first and second or second and third
bases, the centre fielder should get in line with the play, back of
second base. For, while only four players take an active part in such a
play others should back up to provide for the possibility of a wild
throw.

The necessity of calling for a fly hit applies with particular force
to the centre fielder. As soon as he has seen that he can get to a hit
and has decided to take it, he calls out loudly so that every one must
hear, I'll take it, and all the other fielders near him respond, Go
ahead. This will avoid all danger of collisions to which he is
specially exposed by having a fielder on either side.

On all high flys to another out-fielder he should go near the fielder
who is attempting to make the catch, so that if the ball is missed and
bounds his way, he can recover it quickly and prevent runners from
gaining extra bases.





Next: The Right Fielder

Previous: The Left-fielder



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