As the ball approaches you, put your body in front of it. Don’t let the ball go to either side of your body. Of course, it’s best to be able to catch it and fire it to first base but sometimes this is not the case. What you want to do is to keep your body in front of the ball so that if you don’t catch it cleanly it stays in front of you. Then, you can quickly pick it up and try to throw out base runners. Your mindset should be that of an ice-hockey goalie. If it gets past you, the other team scores.
If the ball it hit sharply to either side of your body, dive after it by landing on your stomach. Do not dive so that you land on your side because you risk injuring your shoulder. Stretch out your glove hand and use your other hand to help cushion your landing. Remember to keep your non-glove hand above your shoulders when you land as if you’re doing a head-first slide. If your non-glove hand is near your torso, you risk trapping your hand underneath your body when you land. This could lead to a damaged wrist or shoulder.
When throwing the ball, keep your knees bent and have your front foot facing the base where you’re throwing. It’s up to you if you’re more comfortable throwing overhand or from the side. Don’t aim the ball. Follow through on your arm motion and make sure your arm extends toward the base you’re throwing. This will require practice. You can practice this by going to a park where there are paddle courts and throw the ball against the wall. With a chalk, draw a box about 24 inches on each side. Your objective is to throw the ball so that it hits inside the box.
When throwing to another fielder (i.e. first baseman) make sure you’re throwing toward the base and not the person. The reason for this is that fielders are constantly in motion and the fielder you’re throwing to may be trying to get to the base to catch your throw. For example, you field the ball and want to throw to second base but the fielder is not there yet. By your judgment, the fielder will be at second base by the time you throw the ball there. In this instance, you throw the ball toward second base and not the second baseman.
You are the last line of defense and its imperative you keep the ball in front of you at all times. Use the same techniques as discussed in the Infielder’s section to keep ground balls or sharply hit balls in front of you.
When fly balls are hit to you, don’t suddenly start running. Pause for a moment to determine the trajectory of the ball and make sure you’re under it to make the catch. This is especially important when a line-drive is hit to you. Many times, your instinct is to start running forward to the ball but it will sail over your head.
When a ball is hit over your head you need to retrieve it and fire it back to your cutoff man (either your second baseman or shortstop). Don’t think about it just do it as fast as you can. Your other teammates will be directing the cutoff man to where he should be throwing the ball.
When throwing directly to a base, make sure you’re throwing the ball toward the base and not the fielder. Your front foot should be pointing toward the base and you need to throw overhand for maximum distance.
Please see the article “Improve your softball skills” for details on how to improve your arm strength.