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Baseball Outfielder’s Crow-Hop
One of the least understood and incorrectly performed moves is the Crow-Hop. Used correctly by fielders, this motion will improve the accuracy and power of the throw. So what is Crow-Hop? Basically, it’s the movement a player makes to provide balance and momentum after the catch. Catches can be on ground balls or fly balls – but the player must use the Crow-Hop correctly to have the best chance of making good throws. Balance is the goal and key to playing well in the field.
This next sequence is done in one smooth motion. After catching the ground ball, the outfielder should push off the front knee and switch the front foot to the back foot. The best way to do this is to lift yourself off the ground, lift your back knee first, then your front knee, and place your back foot approximately where the front foot was. When done correctly, the rear knee/front knee lift and rear leg/front leg switch happens quickly. When lifting and donning, the player should also turn their torso and hips so that their glove arm is facing the target. This move is called the Crow-Hop.
The Crow-Hop is a move that puts the player in the best position to throw the ball. The outfielder balances, aligns his shoulders to the target, and loads his throwing (back) leg for the throw. Back (throwing) leg loading is the term used to describe the beginning of the throwing motion. Simply put, this means that most of the player’s weight is on the back foot. Most means more than 50 percent and less than 100 percent. Some instructors like to give an exact percentage, but my experience with thousands of players tells me that it’s a little different for each player. The average weight distribution is about 80-20 back foot to front foot.
Like most sports including baseball, a player must move in one direction in order to move better in the opposite direction. Both hitters and pitchers do it too. It is a mechanism for balance and body energy. Some players exaggerate the crow-hop by raising their knees very high, almost like a marching band. Other players drag their back leg into the wrong or “short” position – and the back leg never gets completely under the body. Neither of these methods is correct.
The correct technique is to raise the knee high enough for the player’s back leg to support the body. This creates balance – and good throws. When the outfields really perfect the Crow-Hop technique, it looks seamless and smooth.
Warning: Slide, Cha-Cha and slide
Many players, including myself in my youth, try to perform the crow-hop without clearly substituting one foot for the other. They only move the back foot, so they don’t change it to the front foot (on the glove side). First-hand experience shows that this results in poor balance and bad throws. Once I learned to lift my knees and place my throwing leg under my body, my balance and throws were consistently good. Figure 2-6 illustrates an incorrect sliding crow-hop. It can be seen that the winger did not put weight on his back leg, he is stretched and unbalanced. This roll is very likely wrong.
A common Sliding Crow-Hop situation occurs after his back foot has slipped and not fully balanced. The player’s brain tells him that he is off balance and he tries to correct it by quickly repositioning his back (throwing) leg. His front leg is still in the air while his back leg pumps up and down. It makes it look like a pogo stick. He pumps his back leg two or three times to try to balance – and all the while his momentum carries him forward, so he rarely comes into full balance.
Another incorrect variation of the crow hop is what I call the Babe Ruth Cha-Cha. Babe moved in the box from the batter up to swing at the curveball before she curved. He did this by moving his back foot behind his front foot and then striking the ball with a powerful stride. A lot of slowpitch softball hitters do this too. Again you see that the player is off balance. It also moves parallel to the target, losing its momentum off target. Arm strain and bad throws are sure to result. Many players use the Cha-Cha motion to turn their upper body to throw. While the move aligns the player’s shoulders to the target, it also reduces balance and momentum.
The Gliding Crow-Hop looks like a scissor kick in the air, like a ballerina throwing a ball. The player’s knees do not rise; instead, he jumps up, brings both straight legs together, then steps forward with his front foot (on the glove side) as the throwing foot hits the ground. It looks pretty good to most untrained observers. But sliding has a very high probability of throwing the player off balance. In most cases, the player’s momentum moves so quickly that they don’t allow themselves to fully load their back leg for the throw. The Gliding Crow-Hop also never allows the player’s back leg to be fully loaded in the field. He is so unbalanced that many times he falls forward to the ground after throwing.
I hope this helps players and coaches know the correct and often used incorrect ways to use the Crow-Hop in the field. You will be amazed at the improvement in fielding and throwing by executing this critical movement correctly. Thank you for reading!
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#Baseball #Outfielders #CrowHop