Anyone that knows me can tell you that, outside of photography and family, the thing I love most in life is baseball. Living in Minneapolis, I go watch our baseball team on a regular basis and, of course, bring my DSLR with me to try and capture the action. I’ve had varying degrees of success and have a new found respect for sports photographers.
When things are moving fast, it can be challenging to avoid missing the perfect photo. The first suggestion I would give you is to take as many images as possible, and if your camera has a Burst mode, use it. Burst mode should allow you to capture multiple images per second; more images equals more chances you get that perfect photograph. Make sure to get a number of high capacity memory cards to store all these images on.
With DSLRs and Compact System Cameras (CSC), make sure the camera is set to Shutter priority. Set the shutter to as fast a shutter speed as the camera will allow, while still maintaining proper exposure.
Many DSLRs have what’s called focus tracking; if your camera has this feature, make sure to use it. Focus tracking continually changes focus to track your subject as it moves through the frame.
Use a telephoto lens. Unless you’re on the field with the athletes, you won’t get close enough to fill the frame with your subject using a normal focal length lens. I suggest a 300mm focal length, and the wider the aperture it has the better.
Telephoto lenses can be large, heavy, and exaggerate camera shake. I would suggest mounting the camera to a monopod to steady the camera when using a telephoto lens.
If you want to capture the action on video, I would strongly suggest using a DSLR or an Action Camcorder. With a DSLR, use a tripod with a panning head to record your video.
Action photography is one of the most challenging there is. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect.