It’s late in the fall practice season at a D1 school. The coaches are making their final observations of players for the fall practice period. Soon the players will be on their own for 6 weeks for finals and winter break. There are a few intra-squad games left, and coaches are paying particular attention to outfield play, where some freshman have been showing well and pushing the returning players for playing time. Tim, the returning senior left fielder is feeling particularly anxious about his status, and wants to affirm to his upper class teammates that he is the one to beat and the one who is in control. He’s out in left field during the scrimmage as the play unfolds.
A routine fly ball is hit out to left field. Tim has been watching the World Series, and has seen some of the Cubs outfielders catching fly balls low and at their chest, rather than up above their heads as fundamentals would dictate. Tim thinks it looks cool. As the ball hangs in the air above him, he decides to show his dominance by catching the ball like the big leaguers. The ball comes down and he lets it travel to his middle chest, attempting to catch the ball fingers to the side instead of fingers up. But, he hasn’t done it before and he misjudges the ball. It clanks off the heel of his glove and bounces away.
Tim is beyond embarrassed as the batter ends up on second and a run comes home. His coaches are not very happy either. They wonder why a guy who is fighting for playing time would be goofing around in the outfield. It’s something they will think long and hard about during the winter when trying to figure out what roles players will start the season with.
What Went Wrong?
The problem is not only that Tim missed the ball, a result that should never happen at that level of play, it’s that he abandoned his fundamentals and process. Catching the ball like big leaguers in the World Series might seem cool, but Tim should have known that MLB players can make it look easy because they are the best players in the world.
There is a certainly a time and a place for having fun and testing glove skill, athleticism, etc. but in situations when you are battling for playing time is not that time. When competing, it’s rarely a good idea to turn your back on any process that will give you the best chance of being successful. Tim went with a lower percentage play, and will pay the consequences of the result. Learn from his mistake and stick with the fundamentals. Save your big league catches for when you are getting extra work in with your teammates, or better yet, when you make it to the show!