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Popups require a set of priorities since so often more than one fielder can get to the ball in time to catch it.It is easier to catch a fly ball while moving forward than while moving backward. It is easier for a player to catch a fly ball to their right or left than one coming right at them. So in general the player behind has priority over the player in front, the middle of the field players have priority over the side of the field players. The catcher has lowest priority because the mitt makes it hard to catch the ball. Thus:

  1. Center fielder has priority over every other player.
  2. Left and right fielder have priority over all infielders.
  3. Shortstop has priority over all other infielders.
  4. Second baseman has priority over all infielders except the shortstop.
  5. The first baseman and third baseman have priority over the pitcher and catcher.
  6. The pitcher has priority over the catcher.
  7. The catcher yields to all.

Call for the Ball

Once the ball is in the air for a second or so, the fielder who should make the catch should call for the ball. If two players call for the ball at the same time they may not hear each other. Therefore there are rules for how and when to call for the ball.

If the player is going toward a player of lower priority and can get the ball they should call for the ball at least three times and loudly.

If the player is moving toward a player of higher priority and can get the ball, they should go quietly. This allows them to hear the higher priority player.

See the Ball

When the ball is first hit all players should start toward the ball while they determine where it is going and whether they have a chance to catch it on the fly. By the time they have taken their first step they will know whether to keep going or to cover a base. For the players who have a chance to catch the ball they must assume they are the one who will make the catch and go full speed for where the ball will land until they are called off by a higher priority player. It is those cases where the closest players are not sure whether they can get to the ball that it is most important for them to be able to take their eyes off the ball to see where they are and where obstructions such as other players and fences are located.Because the players begin the play spread out and away from the fences, low popups which will only be in the air a second or so usually do not require looking away from the ball. The player should look away from the ball on all high flys and popups. The most important reason is to avoid collisions with other players and objects. It is also an advantage for catching the ball.

On a popup that the player must run fast to catch they should look away from the ball because they can run faster if they are looking where they are going than up and back at the ball. When there are no clouds or tall trees to give perspective on how the ball is moving, a player can get “hypnotized” by the ball and miss it. If they look away from the ball, they will gain the perspective from moving their visual field from the horizon back to the ball.

Popups that Hit the Ground

Popups have backspin. The bat has accelerated the bottom of the ball. Thus, all popups try to bounce toward the foul line they are closest to. If a popup is near the foul line (and not beyond the base) and it is not caught it will bounce foul unless the field is really soft or the ball hits a rock. Therefore the player who does not catch the popup and does not think they can throw out the runner at first (or get the force at some other base) should wait to see if the ball will roll foul.

Infield Fly Rule

The infield fly rule applies only when there are less than two outs and only when both first base and second base are occupied. It is called by the umpire and is another of those “judgement” calls.Since the umpire has already called the batter out, the pressure on the defense is to prevent runners advancing. Runners at bases far from the ball must decide whether to get a good lead while the ball is in the air or tag up. The defenders must assume that the runners will be aggressive. Thus whether they catch the infield fly or not they must get the ball quickly and look for runners off base. This is where knowledge of which way the ball will bounce is so important. At least one fielder should position themselves between where the ball will land and the nearest baseline. It is one of the few cases in which an infielder who has been called off a popup should not cover a base. The reason, of course, is that they may still be the one to get the ball.

The players not getting the ball must keep track of what the runners are doing while their teammate catches the ball. They can then tell the guy with the ball where to throw it. For this, your team needs a convention in how to refer to the various bases. Many teams use “one,” “two,” “three,” and “four.” Since the vowel in the word “two” and the vowel in the word “four” sound a lot alike I prefer “first,” “second,” “third,” and “home.” Of course “first” and “third” share a vowel, too.

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