How many times have you been at practice working with your outfielders on tracking fly balls only to have one of them asking the coach to change position because “the sun is in my eyes”? Unfortunately, the game of baseball, if we're lucky, is played in the sun. Believe me, one of the best times for any outfielder to work on tracking fly balls is on bright sunny days, with the sun in their eyes and lots of wind. To work on sun balls, use the sun as a mechanism for a drill. Additionally, on windy days, vary the position in the outfield so that outfielders can work on tracking with the wind at their backs, in front and from side to side with the cross wind. Too often, days with bright sun, high sky and wind are not used to the advantage of working on tracking balls in the air. Coaches, when you have these days, use them to assist the outfielders in turning tough catches into routine catches.One of the ways the game has changed in the last 20 years for outfielders is the advent of full visual sunglasses players can wear all the time. Prior to this, it was those dastardly flip downs that sat under the bill of the cap and as the outfielder got closer to the descending flight of ball, he would tap the bill of his cap with his throwing hand and presto, the glasses flipped down and hopefully the ball was caught (need I say more?) Today’s sunglasses are made to assist the outfielder in making those tough in the sun catches. So if they have them, make sure they are used properly and worn on their face and not on their hats.
When working on the development of tracking and catching balls in the sun, the first call to action is to ascertain the flight of the ball and move swiftly to the location of intersection with the catch. Next, use the glove to shield the sun and block out the direct rays coming into the eyes. The outfielder should never try and follow the ball through the sun, as this only causes the eyes to create a retina burn, producing little dots in each eye. Those dots stay there for a few seconds and then disappear. Once this occurs, the possibility of the catch will be significantly reduced.
In addition, if the outfielder is not moving across to the ball, but has the ball coming directly to them through the sun, then one of the most important keys is to work on moving either clockwise or counter clock wise around the sun. This type of routing takes the outfielder away from a direct line of the sun and once the ball passes through the sun, the background for the catch is the blue sky. In understanding routing, if an outfielder throws right handed, he will work clockwise around the sun using the glove to shield out sun rays, while a left handed throwing outfielder will work counter-clock wise and similarly use the glove to shield out the sun.Finally, when sun balls are indeed caught, often an outfielder will not be in the perfect position. It's like a squeeze bunt...don’t care what you look like, just get the bat on the ball. In this case, don’t worry what the outfielder looks like, just make the catch. In all sun catches, the receiving outfielder (or infielder) of the ball must under all circumstances learn to stay with the ball, even if it means falling to a knee to make the catch at the lowest catch point prior to hitting the ground. In this case, you can implement the "Stay with it" drill and have the ourfielder (or infielder) work on catching the ball while dropping to one knee.