While watching a baseball game you may notice an outfielder raising their hand during game action. Why do outfielders raise their hands?
An outfielder may raise their hand for several reasons. An outfielder will raise their hand to signal to other fielders that they are in position to catch a flyball, essentially calling off the other fielders.
An outfielder may also raise his hand to help shield out the sun. During day games, flyballs can travel directly through the sun so outfielders will use body position and their hands to help pickup the ball as it travels through the air.
Another reason that an outfielder may raise their hands is to signal to an umpire that the ball has been lost or stuck in the wall or interfered with by a fan. This is a request to stop game action and call the play “dead”.
Let’s dive deeper into these scenarios to explain while outfielders raising their hands is necessary.
Catching a Flyball
Catching a flyball takes both concentration and communication. When a baseball is hit in the vicinity of two or three fielders, they must communicate while also keeping their eye on the ball as much as possible.
Besides verbal communication (like yelling “I GOT IT”), players will raise and/or waive their arms to help communicate that they are in position to field the flyball. This alerts other fielders to peel off to avoid collisions.
Communication among outfielders is important to avoid injury and to also keep flyballs from dropping in between two outfielders. There are scenarios where both outfielders may pull up thinking the other one is going to field the flyball.
Raising the arm is one of the ways outfielders use to help prevent collisions and mistakes.
Shielding the Sun
An outfielder will often raise their hand to help shield off direct sunlight or occasionally a stadium light. Day game are difficult for outfielders because the sun can swallow flyballs and make it very difficult for outfielders to keep their eyes locked on the baseball as it travels through the air.
Outfielders will use their hat, sunglasses, and eye black to help reduce sunlight and glare. But sometimes these things are not enough so an outfielder will turn their body to try and angle away from the sun as much as possible, and also lift their arm and try to shield the sun.
Fielding flyballs in direct sunlight is a very difficult play to deal with and takes experience and practice. It is easy to panic but professionals have enough experience to know how to use their hands and body angle to pick up the baseball as it travels through the air.
Fan spectator interference occurs when a fan reaches into the field of play and disturbs the progress of a live ball. This will happen when a fan leans over a side rail and grabs a baseball as it runs up an outfield line or when a fan reaches out with a glove and snags a flyball in play.
Fielders will throw their hands in the air to signal to the umpires that the play has been altered by interference. This allows the umpire to signal the play dead immediately.
When this happens, the umpire will award any bases or charge any outs that he judges would have occurred without the interference. This also usually results in the interfering fan being ejected from the stadium. Fans are asked not to interfere with live game action.
There are many famous incidents in Major League Baseball history of fan interference. The most famous is the Steve Bartman incident during the Chicago Cubs home playoff game on October 14th,2003. Steve Bartman reached over the wall and grabbed a flyball that appeared catchable in foul territory, resulting eventually in a Cubs loss.
Ball Stuck in Wall or Gate
Occasionally in Major League Baseball, a batted ball in play will get stuck in a wall or gate or other form of on-field object (such as the ivy wall at Wrigley Field).
When the ball first becomes lodged an outfielder MUST throw his hands into the air to signal to the umpire that the ball is stuck. If the outfielder does this, the play is blown dead and a ground-rule double is awarded to the batter.
If the outfielder does not throw his hands in the air, and instead tries to grab the ball and make a play on it, the play remains live and cannot be blown dead. Because of this, you may occasionally see an outfielder dramatically throw his hands in the air when a ball gets stuck in the wall.
Do Infielders Raise Their Hands?
Yes, infielders will also raise their hands. They do so for the same reasons an outfielder raises their hands. To shield the sun, communicate to other fielders, and to signal any sort of interference.
Using hand signals to call for a flyball is especially useful for infielders because the incoming outfielders can see the play in front of them and see the infielder signaling for the ball. Because the infielder’s mouth will be facing away from an incoming outfielder, sometimes verbal communication cannot be heard. Using their hands to signal helps avoid collisions.
What Other Hand Signals Will Outfielders Use?
Another hand signal that outfielders will use is to signal to other outfielders with their fingers how many outs there are after a play is made. Coaches teach fielders to do this so that all fielders know how many outs there are. The number of outs in the inning changes how a fielder will play certain situations and needs to be known.
Why Do Fielders Raise Their Hands on a Pop Up?
When a popup is hit on the infield or shallow outfield you will see many fielders raise their arms and point to the sky. Pitchers especially do this. Fielders raise their hands on a pop up to communicate to other fielders that the ball is in the air. This is in case a fielder could not pick the ball up off the bat and does not know where the ball is.
Pitcher will do this a lot when pop ups are hit behind the catcher. Because the catcher wears head gear and is crouched in a stance to receive a pitch, they have a hard time picking up popups off a batter’s bat. Pitchers are taught to point out the flyball so that the catcher knows which direction to break towards to make a play.