Eventually, while playing day baseball games, you’ll encounter what is known as a “High Sky” which essentially means the sky is totally blue and void of clouds.
This may at first seem to be ideal playing conditions, but without realizing it, clouds serve as a depth perception aid when tracking a high fly ball and without them it increases the difficulty of estimating distance.
A “High Sky” also presents a glare problem, which you may not realize until the ball is hit high in the air and suddenly you have difficulty seeing the ball.
You’d also surmise the white ball would be more clearly defined against a blue background, but we’re not talking dark blue, we’re talking very light blue with a hint of glare thrown in for good measure.
Ok, we’ve identified what a “High Sky” is and the problems it presents for an outfielder, more so than an infielder, because the outfielder is most likely to be by himself too far away from other fielders to assist. How do we play in a high sky environment?
The very first thing you should do, if you suspect there’s a sky which could create a problem, is to have fly balls hit to you during pre-game warm ups. I’ve seen coaches who will only take infield practice prior to a game, assuming outfielders know how to catch and one grass outfield is not much different than another, but this can be a huge mistake.
Their assumptions grass is grass, may be correct, but the possible makeup of the sky could create much more problems than a rock on the infield. A bad hop single is nothing compared to a misplayed, because you couldn’t see the ball, in the park home run.
While shagging flies you see no issue with seeing the ball, fine, go about your business, but if there is a problem, you know ahead of time how to adjust your tactics in playing a high fly balls, instead of when the game is possibly on the line.
In order to play a high fly ball in a “high sky,” there are two important things to accomplish, acquiring depth perception and blocking out the glare. One way of course is to wear sunglasses, but that’s not always a sure fire method either, because most outfielders won’t actually wear the sunglasses on their face, they prop them on their cap, with the intention of reaching up, grabbing them and putting them on as they track the ball.
The problem arises when the fielder panics because he can’t find the ball and completely forgets he’s even wearing sunglasses or is so consumed with searching for the ball, he doesn’t take the time to retrieve them.
The best method for playing a high fly ball is to turn sideways, your glove hand facing the infield. Unless the ball is hit to your opposite side, which will require you to use your throwing hand as a shield, you can visually track and run a ball down to catch it. Why, how does this work?
By turning sideways, you are looking at the ball from an angle, from which it is much easier to determine height, distance and arc of the ball. In order to further increase your visibility, using your glove or hand, to block the glare from affecting your eyes allows you to focus without squinting. This method is also the exact method to use when battling a Sun Field.