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How to Make a Shoestring Catch in the Outfield in Softball

In softball, hesitation is a play-killer especially in the outfield. An outfielder’s first step will always be backwards, but what if the ball drops sooner than expected? A ball that’s falling short requires not only quick reaction, but a unique type of catch as well. And although you’ve likely seen it before, you don’t always have to leave your feet to make such a catch. If you’re hesitant to dive or slide, or maybe you don’t have time to lay out, keep reading to learn how to make a shoestring catch in the outfield.

The Catch

A shoestring catch is exactly as it sounds: It’s a catch made just a few inches off the ground, about at the height of your shoestrings. In order to make these types of catches, you must follow two cardinal rules:

  1. You cannot hesitate: You must sprint to the ball as soon as you see it dropping.
  2. You must stay low: You have to bend your knees and extend your glove downward to secure the ball.

Next time you’re in the outfield and see the ball dropping, follow these easy tips to secure the out:

  1. Once you see the ball dropping short, start sprinting in.
  2. As you near the ball, start bending your knees deeper and deeper with each step. Lowering your elevation will make catching the ball a lot easier.
  3. As you near the ball, allow your glove to stay to your glove-side, but start lowering it below waist-level.
  4. When you are ready to catch the ball, bend your knees even deeper and extend your glove down toward your cleats. Hold your glove above your glove-side foot’s shoestrings and open its web to the ball. Keep your eyes down.
  5. Run through the ball to make the catch. This is incredibly important. These types of fly balls will only be caught if you run through the ball.
Hot Tip: Keep Those Eyes on the Ball

It’s incredibly important to keep your head down for these types of catches. Lifting your head, even an inch, may result in bad body positioning that disrupts the catch.

A Drill

If you aren’t comfortable making a catch that low to the grass without diving or sliding, try a quick drill to get used to staying on your feet and running through the ball:

  1. Grab a partner and head out to any spot in the outfield. Your partner will start with the ball and you will start 5-10 yards away from your partner.
  2. Drop step in any direction. Then pretend the ball is starting to drop early and start sprinting in. Because you are so close, you’ll only be taking a few short strides.
  3. When you are within two or three strides from your partner, he will toss you a short fly ball. This should not be easy. If anything, the ball should fall before you get to it (then your partner can work on tossing it a bit further).
  4. When you see your partner release the ball, start deepening the bend in your knees and extending your glove downward to your glove-side.
  5. Run through the ball and make the catch right above your glove-side foot’s shoestrings. Keep your eyes down!
  6. Toss the ball back to your partner. Repeat 10-20 times.
  7. Once you are comfortable running through the ball, take a quick break. Then repeat the entire drill, but start 10 yards further away from your partner. After catching the ball, go directly into a crow hop and throw the ball in.

Run through the Ball

These catches are fun to make, when you can make them! Always keep your eyes on the ball, run through it, and stay low. Mental preparation plays a crucial role in making this type of catch, so always be ready for it!

If you're in the outfield and a hit drops sooner than expected, you may not be able to catch it above waist-level. This softball guide describes the shoestring catch.
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