|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2007)|
A center fielder, abbreviated CF, is the outfielder in baseball who plays defense in center field – the baseball fielding position between left field and right field. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the center fielder is assigned the number 8.
Outfielders must cover large distances, so speed, instincts and quickness to react to the ball are key. They must be able to catch fly balls above their head and on the run. They must be able to throw the ball accurately over a long distance to be effective. Amateur players may find it difficult to concentrate on the game, since they are so far from the action. Emphasizing the correct position will give outfield players something to concentrate on at each pitch.
As well as the requirements above, the center fielder will be the outfielder who has the best combination of speed and throwing distance. The center fielder covers more 'grass' than any other player (see photo) and, most likely, will catch the most fly balls. The center fielder also has the greatest responsibility among the three outfielders for coordinating their play to prevent collisions when converging on a fly ball, and on plays where he does not make the catch, he must position himself behind the corner outfielder in case the ball gets past him. He is the captain of the outfield and has the authority to call off the corner fielders when he thinks he can catch the ball. Aside from requiring more speed and range, the center field position is slightly easier to field because balls tend to fly on a straight path, rather than curving as they do for the other outfield positions. A center fielder's vision and depth perception for that matter is a coveted skill and must be considered above average. Because the center fielder requires a good arm and fast legs, center field is generally the position where the team puts its best all-around athletes; as a result, center fielders are often fine hitters as well. Many center fielders are renowned as excellent batters and base runners.
When a base runner is trying to steal second base the center fielder must back up second base on throws from the catcher to second base in case the second basemen misses the catch or it is a bad throw.