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In baseball, it often happens that a fly ball is hit where two or more fielders would have a chance to catch it. In that case, the fielders have to agree as to who will make the catch. If they miscommunicate, they might collide and let the ball drop; then the batter reaches base and the fielders reach ESPN's Not Top Ten blooper reel. This is a particular risk because the fielders will normally be watching the ball instead of each other.

Casual players seem to handle this just by yelling "I got it". Do professional teams have a more elaborate system? Sometimes it appears on TV that players are shouting as they go for the ball, but it's hard to tell what they are saying. I would think there should also be some rule for what to do if both players try to call for the ball.

I suppose the same issue must arise in cricket, and I'd also be interested in that answer if it is different.

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I cannot speak to cricket, but in baseball there is a system of who has precedence in a fly ball situation:

  1. Outfielders have precedence over infielders
  2. Infielders have precedence over the catcher and pitcher
  3. Catchers have precedence over the pitcher

When it comes to who has precedence within the outfield, or infield it is as follows:

  1. The center fielder has precedence over the corner outfielders
  2. The middle infielders (SS and 2B) have precedence over the corner infielders (1B and 3B)
  3. The short stop has precedence over the second baseman

Basically if there was a scenario where everyone could catch a fly ball, the list of precedence would be as follows:

  1. Center fielder
  2. Left or Right fielder
  3. Short stop
  4. Second baseman
  5. First or third baseman
  6. Catcher
  7. Pitcher

When it comes to actually communicating, players will use different systems. This can be a style that a coach decides on (especially at lower levels than professional) such as calling "ball" or "I got it".

If you are teaching this system to younger players it is good to teach the player to call "ball" and for the other players to either call "you" or call the players name. This lets everyone on the field know who is catching the fly ball.

Players in the pros may speak different languages and may communicate differently. Usually this would be something that they agree on during spring training as to how they call each other off.

Personally, in college we were taught that the infielders call "me" and the outfielders call "ball" as a way of distinguishing who can call you off. They continue calling it until the players near by return with "you" to help avoid collisions.

Here is a reference on what I have explained

  • I found this answer when trying to understand why MLB outfielders often chase fly balls the outfield is in a better position to catch. The precedent system outlined here is what we teach in Little League, but something else seems to be going on in MBL. See for example img.bleacherreport.net/img/images/photos/001/923/535/… – Eric J. Sep 14 at 4:17
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In baseball in particular, it is usually the outfielder's job to 'call off' the infielder (i.e. the infielder should listen to the outfielder). This is because the outfielder can see the entire field (including the infielder and the runner) during the play. On the other hand, the infielder has to turn his back, or else is running backwards, and in either case, is not able to see the field properly. Although I don't have personal experience at the professional level, my understanding is that the fielders are using the same "I got it"-style of communication to broadcast their intentions that little league players use. Of course, this isn't perfect, and sometimes they end up on the Not Top Ten.

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The complexity above in baseball looks amusing.. I don't know much about baseball, it might really be required. But in cricket, I don't think any set of clear guidelines exist. Fielders with specific positions would be positioned accordingly and they expect to catch the ball. But yes, even in cricket there can arise a situation where two fielders are running for the same catch. A good communication system is usually practiced by teams to avoid collisions like someone calling like 'Mine' loudly.

This was one infamous incident where two fielders went for the catch with no communication and Australian captain Steve Waugh ended up with a nastily broken nose.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGu1eMhkAzc

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