How to Catch a Fly Ball

Master the art of catching a fly ball with these expert tips
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Catching a fly ball is a fundamental skill in baseball that requires proper technique and focus; learn the steps to position, track, and securely catch a ball in flight to become a defensive asset on the field.

  • Outfielders need to know how to catch a fly ball in order to make an out for their team.
  • The first move on a fly ball should always be back in order to protect from the ball sailing over your head.
  • To catch a fly ball, you must keep your eyes on it at all times and track its path.
  • You should time your approach to the landing spot of the ball and run on the balls of your feet so as not to lose focus of where the ball is going.
  • Catching a flyball requires placing your glove above and slightly before you – never directly over your head – and waiting until you feel impact before squeezing tight.

Positioning and anticipation

What should be your first move if a fly ball hits you? The correct answer is “back.” Regardless of the situation, your first move on a fly ball should always be back. This protects you from the ball sailing over your head, which leads to more bases for the offense. Once you take your first step, you should recognize whether the ball is going behind you or in front of you.

If the ball is shallow, the outfielder will take off running in while keeping his eyes on the ball. A major key to catching a fly ball is always keeping your eyes on it. You can look down for a quick second if you are near a wall or the dugout. Otherwise, it is crucial to know where you need to be going.

If the ball is hit behind you, you will need to turn your body depending on which side the ball is coming from. For example, you would turn your body to the left and run back if the ball was hit on your left side.

Your eyes are more than effective at recognizing the path and distance of the ball. It is essential to know the approximate landing spot. It is a whole lot easier to run to a spot you know you are going to. You will have a much more difficult time if you are just guessing.

Tracking the ball

How hard is it to catch something you aren’t looking at? The answer should be pretty easy to guess. A great outfielder has great vision. You might hear an announcer on TV say that an outfielder got a “great jump.” This means the outfielder saw the ball off the bat and was immediately able to recognize the path of the fly ball.

Vision separates the good outfielders from the bad outfielders. Your eyes will tell you where you need to go. The only reason you should ever look away from a fly ball is if you are about to run into an object like the wall.

One tip that helps is to run on the balls of your feet. If you run with heavy feet or on your heels, your eyes will bounce, and so will the ball. For example, an outfielder running on his heels will see the ball move all over the place. An outfielder running on the balls of his feet will have a still body and be able to use his eyes efficiently. 

Timing and approach

The key to timing your approach to a fly ball is to be smooth. You don’t want to stop a dead sprint as soon as you are about to catch the ball.

If you need to sprint to a ball, you must be able to cruise to the catch. This means slowing yourself down to make a smooth catch. If you don’t need to sprint, find a comfortable pace to jog toward the landing spot.

A player trying to showcase his talents to scouts should want to master his approach to a fly ball. An outfielder with a consistently smooth approach to a fly ball has great potential. This outfielder will stand out from others by showing great vision and timing. An approach that is the opposite will stick out like a red thumb.

You may not need to move if the ball is hit right at you. You should still have the same approach, however. With your first step being back, you should always want to be behind the ball.

It is much easier to judge a ball when your eyes are looking in front of you. After getting behind the ball, slowly move up until you reach the final destination.

Catching the ball

To catch a fly ball, you connect your eyes with your glove. This is not literal, but it means using your eyes to place your glove in the right spot.

As you approach the ball, place your glove above and slightly before you. You will have a tough time catching the ball directly over your head. Outfielders that do this find themselves dropping the ball or losing their balance. Once you have your glove in the right spot, all you have to do is finish the job. The ball will hit your glove, and now you know to squeeze your glove tight.

If you find yourself impatient or worried, you might squeeze your glove too soon in anticipation. Once you feel the impact, this is your sign to squeeze. The most challenging part of a catch is getting yourself into position and in the right spot. Once you do this, you just have to make the catch. 

Practice and repetition

All skills require practice if you want to get better. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to be good at something. Fly balls are a huge part of baseball, and you must be prepared for them.

For an outfielder that is in-season, he shouldn’t go a day without seeing fly balls. If you want to improve, make it a priority to practice them every day. All you need is a coach or a teammate. Head out to the field and have them hit your fly balls. Make sure they hit them in different spots and at different speeds.

You will want to be able to test all your skills and find out what is missing. As a coach, you could begin by ending every practice with fly balls. At the end of every practice, gather all your players and spend about 30 minutes hitting fly balls at them. You will notice the difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get better at catching fly balls?

One way to get better is through practice. Everything in life you desire to be good at will require repetition. Experience always plays a big part in catching fly balls. Your past mistakes give you guidance to do better next time.

When catching fly balls, where should your glove be?

Your glove should be above your head and slightly in front of you. It would be best never to catch a fly ball directly over your head. This sets you up for failure every time.

What hand technique should you use on a fly ball?

Your glove hand should be focused on catching the ball with your glove. Your other hand doesn’t play much of a role. Your glove should be above you and slightly in front of you.

How can I practice catching fly balls by myself?

Don’t you have anyone to hit you with fly balls? No problem. Just grab a ball and your glove. All you need to do is start throwing the ball as high in the air as you can. Focus on getting behind the ball and positioning your glove the right way.


Fly balls are seen in every single baseball game. You cannot avoid them, so you should incorporate them into your skill set.

A player who masters catching a fly ball is one who is great defensively. Coaches will notice your hard work through your timing, approach, and catch. Once you develop a sense of confidence, things will become a lot easier for you. You will find yourself judging fly balls much more quicker and much easier.