ABCA Clinic Recaps - Darin Erstad


Liam Carroll

The Complete Outfielder
Darin Erstad – Head Coach, University of Nebraska

Clinic Topics

1. Perception/reality of Outfield play
2. Get your mind right
3. The game within the game
4. Setup
5. Ground Balls
6. Fly Balls
7. Catch play/footwork
8. Absolutes of Outfield play

When you register at the convention you’re given a bag containing your ID badge, the convention schedule, a few magazines, some promotional materials and the clinic speakers’ outlines.  My M.O. is to write notes in the outlines booklet; there were two clinics that I needed an extra page to write notes on, and this was one of them.  In a previous recap I wrote about how great coaches teach, create and motivate.  Coach Erstad is one of those coaches.

When a former big leaguer speaks at the convention it’s always a big draw but the quality of their presentations varies.  The best players don’t make the best coaches, as they say.  The quality of Coach Erstad’s clinic matched the quality of his storied collegiate and professional playing career and the last note that I wrote was “best clinic yet.”

He talked about the reality of Outfield play, particularly in how mentally tough it is to stay locked-in considering an Outfielder receives so few chances compared to Infielders.  Coach Erstad challenges his Outfielders to be ready “every pitch, every play, all the way to the end.”  To help “get your mind right” Coach Erstad said that self-talk is very important for Outfielders. 

Some things that he said coaches and Outfielders should be aware of in order to help “win the game within the game” are the surface, dimensions, background, sun, wind, warning track and fence.  To get your Outfielders in good habits remind them that every time they take the field they should check the sun and wind.  No one needs to see an Outfielder lose a fly ball in the sun because he left his Oakley’s on his hat.

As is standard for a Centre Fielder’s setup, Coach Erstad reinforced that they should be positioned off-centre so that the Pitcher doesn’t block their view of Home Plate.  As well as the type of hitter and the Outfielder’s strengths determining which side of 2nd Base to set up, Coach Erstad said that they should consider which side of the mound the Pitcher falls off.  Moving on to what Outfielders should be looking at, he gave three options: track the ball from the Pitcher’s hand, gaze at the strike zone, or follow the hitter’s barrel. 

Coach Erstad showed videos of creative drills to practice ground ball and fly ball technique and communication.  His drills focused on helping his Outfielders get comfortable finding the baseball when they drop their head or turn their back to change directions, and on being able to track the ball with a moving head.  Some coaches talk about trying to run without your head “bouncing,” Coach Erstad said that head movement is inevitable and Outfielders must learn how to deal with it.  He showed drills that challenged Outfielders to move in different directions and catch multiple balls.  About fly ball communication, Coach Erstad said that it’s not the terminology used that matters so much, but rather the cadence.  We want players to be loud and confident when they communicate. 

Coach Erstad’s absolutes of Outfield play included:

• Live reps (e.g. BP is an opportunity to get game-like reps)
• Be athletic
• Anticipate and Communicate
• Moving on every pitch
• Attack
• Secure the ball
• Four Seam grip
• Get the ball in quick
• Long Hop or no hop
• Hit the Cut-Off Man

My Most Important Thing

I loved how creative Coach Erstad’s drills were.  Considering the battles British coaches have to fight to develop players, such as time, equipment and player experience, I think it’s important for us to be creative, too.  Speed up your players’ development, as well as keeping them engaged, by including more than fungos in your practices.

Last Up: Dan Hartleb

On Deck: Rod Olson


tagged under: baseball, coaching, softball, outfield

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About Liam Carroll

Liam Carroll

Liam was a Regional Coach and then Development Coordinator for BaseballSoftballUK until May 2014. He returned to his hometown of London to work for BSUK in 2010 after stops in Somerset, Bristol, Cornwall, California and Nevada. Growing up playing in Britain, Liam made the move to America to study and play university baseball. After figuring out that his future would be brighter as a coach rather than player, he moved to the University of Nevada Las Vegas to finish his degree and coach college baseball. Since then he’s coached youth and adult teams on both sides of the atlantic and with the Great Britain Baseball National Teams.

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