THIS IS A GAME WE USE AT THE END OF PRACTICE.
3-2-1: Place three balls equal distance apart about three fourths of the way from third to home. Have a runner (team 1) and have a fielder on third base and one on 2nd base (team 2).
When you say “go”, the runner must reach 2nd base before the fielder fields and throws the balls to the fielder at second base. All throws must be accurate. If the fielders get all balls to second base before the runner gets there, the fielders get 1 point. If the runner gets there first, they get 1 point.
Lots of fun!!
The runner is on the base in her ready position (ready for her lead off). Another player or coach is a short distance from her, in the base path from 1st to 2nd base. The coach holds a tennis ball at eye height. As the ball is dropped on a piece of flat wood, the runner leaves the base and attempts to catch the ball before it bounces off the wood a second time. The distance for this drill is determined by the skill level of the runners, but start out close so that she can easily catch the ball and slowly move back to challenge her.
This drill was acquired acquired from a “Speed and Quickness” clinic in Phoenix by Don Lee
I’ve been ending practices with this drill for many years. It works with either baseball or softball.
Split the team in half and form two lines at home plate, one staggered ahead and inside the other. The coach stands at the pitcher’s circle with two bats. When he (she) hits the bats together, the lead runners in both lines take off. One runs straight through first base as if she is beating out a ground ball, the other makes a turn and continues into second. You now have runners at first and second and two lines of runners still at home. At the next crack of the bat, the drill continues in the same manner but the runner on second now rounds third and scores while the runner on first takes third. Now every base should be occupied. It continues again, with the runner on third tagging up and scoring. Two runners will now score each time the bats are hit together. They will then return to the end of the opposite line and the bases will always remain loaded.
The coach can gauge when the team has had enough and end the drill when the last player on line crosses home.
The drill allows for every baserunning situation, allows the coach to check running mechanics and proper turns and helps build stamina with short bursts. It’s much more helpful than having the players continually circle the bases. You will find that the runner scoring from second will often chase the runner tagging from third home, making for a good game-type situation.
Resistance Drills Equipment required: A belt and a short length of rope (about 10-12 feet long).
Put the belt around the waist of a runner and tie the rope to the back of the belt. Have another player grasp the rope and stand behind the runner with the rope taut. Have the runner lean forward while the other player holds the rope to keep her from falling. The proper running position is at about a 5-10 degree angle off vertical with her feet pointing forward, the back foot about 6 inches behind and 6 inches to the right (or left) of the lead foot. With the help of the rope holder, have the runner get into her running position and when she is, say “GO”.
The runner runs about 10 yards with the rope holder applying resistance. You do not want too much resistance, just enough to keep the runner in the proper running position. Do this 2 times then have the runner “free” sprint over the same distance while the rope holder is putting on the belt. Then switch positions.
This drill was acquired acquired from a “Speed and Quickness” clinic in Phoenix by Don Lee
OUT OF THE BOX
Out of the Box Drill: This drill is similar to the base drill, but this time the runner is a batter. The dropper is lined up a short distance from home plate in the base path to 1st base.
Have the batter take a normal swing with a “bat” (use a fake bat, or top of a batting tee). As the “bat” enters the impact or contact zone, drop the tennis ball and have the batter run out of the batters box and catch the ball before it bounces on the wood a second time. Once again, start out at a short distance and increase the distance to challenge the batters.
NOTE: Make sure batters weight is balanced and not leaning forward or backward or she will take unnecessary steps to regain her balance before running for the ball. Also, watch the right arm and elbow (right handed batters). The proper movement is to drive the elbow back and outside the hip to initiate the running sequence. Finally, watch the “bat” to make sure she does not “whip” the bat back to the right side and then run. The “bat” should be dropped by the left hand after the right hand has released it.
This drill teaches two things. The first is to get out of the batters box quickly and with the least amount of steps and wasted movement. The second thing it teaches is to hit the ball and run. Not to HIT THE BALL, ADMIRE YOUR HIT AND THEN SAUNTER TO FIRST BASE.
This drill was acquired acquired from a “Speed and Quickness” clinic in Phoenix by Don Lee
done everyday as part of warm up
2. High knees- quick feet
3. Long Strides
4. Form run
THIS IS A GAME WE USE AT THE END OF PRACTICE.
Have a fielder on first base and one on third base (team 1). Place a ball on a tee or soft toss it to a hitter (team 2). The hitter hits the ball and runs to as many bases as she can reach before both fielders have touched the ball. For each base she reaches before the fielders touch the ball, her team gets 1 point.
They all like this one!!
This drill was acquired acquired from a “Speed and Quickness” clinic in Phoenix by Don Lee
FIRST AND THIRD
Split up your team into two teams and have the catcher on each team make up signs for her players. One of the teams will play defense in the field, while the other team runs the bases. The team running the bases will begin with a runner on both first and third, with the object being to score a run.
This becomes a game of competition, with the team scoring the most points winning. The runner on first has only three pitches in which she must attempt to steal second base. A successful steal of second base will be worth one point, and a run scored will be worth three points. If the girl scores at second base and the other is out at home then they get one point and have one out. However, if the runner scores at home and the girl is out at second, the out does not count because the girl scored.
Defensively, the object is to stop the runner from scoring while also attempting not to give the runner second base on an easy steal. The catcher calls the play before the pitcher pitches the ball. Usually we play one or two innings and the losing team has to run sprints.
This drill really helps during the games and the girls feel more comfortable about the steal when there is a runner on third base. Additionally, the catcher feels more comfortable throwing the ball down with a runner on third base
We use this game to start the practice almost every night. It is fun and gets the blood moving.
Have your players lay on the ground in a circle with their heads toward the middle of the circle. Designate a player to start the action. When she starts, she gets up and runs over every player in the circle until she gets to an open spot (vacated by the first player she has run over)and then she lays down on the ground (usually falls down). After the starter has run over the FIRST player on the ground, SHE gets up and runs over every player until she finds an open spot (vacated by the FIRST player SHE has run over) and then lays down.
When played right, you will have 3 or 4 girls running over players and falling down at all times. The players love this game and it is a good warm up exercise.
Place two bases 40-60 ft. apart. Only three people are needed. One at each base and one to be the runner. I would recommend using tennis balls to avoid getting hurt.
The fielder with the ball should begin at the bag opposite the runner. Starting with his foot on the bag, the runner gets a 3-5 sec. lead toward the base in front of them. After they have touched the first base and gets a start back to the other base the fielder they just ran from throws the ball to the other fielder to try and tag the runner out. If the ball gets past the fielder or they drop it, the runner can turn around after touching that base and run back to the other. The runner would just go back and forth as many times they can until they get into a pickle. If the fielder catches the ball, they can run the runner back to the base like a real pickle situation in a game. The runner can not get credit for this base because they didn’t touch the other base, yet.
The goal of this game is to touch the bases as many times as you can without being tagged out. The runner must keep track of how many times they touch the base before a fielder tags them out. When that runner gets out, they rotate positions so that the fielders can be the runner. After everyone has ran, they compare their scores (bases touched).
This is a good drill for all aspects of stealing. Put players at each of the infield positions. Have the rest of the team put on helmets and line up at 1st base. The baserunners will each run the bases in this pattern: lead off, steal. Only one runner on the bases at time. The first runner gets ready on first. The pitcher pitches the ball and the runner takes a lead. The catcher attempts a pick-off at first and the runner tries to get back in time. On the next pitch the runner attempt to steal second and the catcher tries to throw her out. The runner proceeds with a big lead at second, stealing third and big lead off at third. The final pitch for that runner is a deliberate passed ball/wild pitch which gives the catcher and pitcher a chance to practice this play.
To encourage the runners to take big leads and to teach them what they can get away with we will place little pieces of candy in the dirt as a challenge. If they can grab the candy and get back safely, they can keep the candy. After they have done this drill a couple of times, allow the runners to do a “delayed steal” on their lead offs. If the catcher throws to first, the runners can attempt to go to second. This way the catchers learn to recognize the delayed steal and run the baserunner back.
The drill gives the catcher a lot of practice throwing to the bases, allows the infielder to practice positioning themselves for and putting on the tag, and allows the baserunners a chance to practice leading off, sliding, and themselves before practice officially started while the coaches were taking care of some paperwork. The coaches decided to just sit a watch them coach themselves.
Have 1/4th the players line up behind first base, 1/4th the players line up behind second base, 1/4 the players line up behind 3rd base, and 1/4th the players line up at home. You will need to have a dozen or so eggs (not hard boiled). Give 2 eggs (one for each hand) to the first player in line at home. She has to run to first base and slide, with her hands up so as not to break the eggs. The first player in line at first base, gets the eggs from the runner and runs to second base and slides. This continues until all the players have run and slide.
You will be amazed how few (if any) eggs are broken. We have never broken one!!
This drill is for conditioning and control.
A catcher stands between first and second base with a discard bucket. The rest of the team stands between third base and home with gloves.
Place three balls on the first baseline, spacing them a few feet apart. Do the same on the second baseline. Place 5 balls in the center of the field, vertically between catcher and player.
This drill should be run one player at a time. The player sprints to any ball on the field, and throws it to the catcher. (If the throw is not good, the ball is replaced by another player for a second try.) They then sprint back to where they started, and go after another ball. This goes on until all of the balls are in the bucket. This drill should be tiring, and should be run at a sprint. Time the players if they need motivation. The other players on the team should be cheering on the runner.
My daughter calls this game, “The Running Game”. It is also as old as the hills, but we use it almost every night in practice.
Have half of the team line up at second base and half the team line up at home. On the signal, one player from each team runs the bases until she reaches the base she started out at. When she gets there, she tags the next runner in line and she runs the bases. This is done until all the runners have run. Whoever reaches their base first wins. The other team has to pick up the bases.
This is usually the last thing we do at the end of practice.
This game has been played ever since the start of time. It is played with 2 teams. One team is at bat with a tee or soft-toss, the other team has one fielder on third base and one on first base. The batter hits the ball off the tee or from a soft-toss as hard as she can and runs as many bases as she can until BOTH fielders have touched the ball.
Keep score by counting bases reached before the ball is touched. After all batters have batted, switch sides
We play at a location that has 1 field and quite a bit of open space. The open space had may trees spread out. Some were 15-20 feet apart while there were 2 trees that were 60-70 feet apart. The trees I picked were in a circle but the could be in any order. Get enough trees to make even teams. Get a stop watch and time how long it will take to go 2-3 times around. On the second go round players positioned themselves to locations where the throws they would make in a game. You would be surprised on the improvement in time.
Vertical Leap Drills: Equipment required: 2 lengths of rope (about 15-20 feet long).
1. Static Jump: Have two players hope the rope LOOSELY in their hands at a height of the jumper’s knees. From a stationary position facing the rope, have the jumper, jump over the rope using her hands and legs to propel her over it. If she does hit the rope, instruct the holders to drop it. Next raise the rope to half way through the thigh. Then to the top of the thigh. Do this twice.
2. One Step Jump: Have the holders hold the rope at knee height and have the jumper take a step and jump over the rope with both feet (jump rope style). Raise the rope to half way through the thigh and to the top of the thigh.
3. Two Rope Jump: Have two sets of players hold two ropes. The first one is at the jumpers knees. The second rope is at mid thigh. Have the jumper stand in between the ropes and stretch out her arms. This is the distance between the two ropes. The jumper faces the first rope and takes a step and jumps over the first rope and immediately upon landing, she jumps over the second rope without taking a step. Do this twice. This drill improves vertical leap which is directly related to speed and quickness.
4. Lines on The Field: Equipment Required: Strips of cloth, small pieces of wood or chalk to make marks on the field (outfield). Have an area of about 60 feet to run in. Make lines (like hash marks) on the field indicating where players feet should be hitting as they leave the base or batters box. The first 10 feet should be short, but getting longer as they build up speed. Place a marker at about the halfway point and tell the players that when they reach the marker to focus on pumping their arms faster. This drill will teach the proper way of defeating inertia by taking short steps at first and then pumping their arms to reach optimum speed.
NOTE: Watch for the proper arm position of 90 degree bend in the elbows. The hands go from chest to pocket. KEEP THE HANDS OUTSIDE THE EYES. Also, there is a direct correlation between the speed of the arms and the speed of the feet. As an instructional demonstration, have the players try to run slowly while pumping their arms as fast as they can. It doesn’t work!!! The runner runs about 10 yards with the rope holder applying resistance. You do not want too much resistance, just enough to keep the runner in the proper running position. Do this 2 times then have the runner “free” sprint over the same distance while the rope holder is putting on the belt. Then switch positions.
This drill was acquired acquired from a “Speed and Quickness” clinic in Phoenix by Don Lee
BALLS OF THE FEET
I get a lot of e-mail asking how to improve speed to first base.
First of all, you must realize that the game of softball is played entirely on the balls of your feet, regardless of what position you play. There are only 2 times when your heels should hit the ground.
1. In between pitches when you are relaxing
2. In the dugout in between innings.
To generate more speed you must realize the dynamics of running. If you are running with your heels hitting the ground first, you are actually pulling the ground toward you. This is not generating any speed. When you run on the balls of your feet and leaning forward, you are pushing the ground away from you and this generates power and speed.
One of the best drills I have ever seen to improve strength in your stride (running stride) is to do static jumps. This is done by stretching a length of rope between two chairs or people (hold the rope very loosely). Hold the rope about waist high and from a standing start, on the balls of your feet, jump over the rope. You may have to start out lower, but get to the point where you can jump over a rope at waist high, then add a second rope a couple of feet away from the first. Jump the first rope and when you hit the ground, immediately jump over the second. This will improve your speed the first day you do it. Every day after that, you will see more and more speed.
The first few steps toward first base should be short, choppy steps and you must be still in a bit of a crouch and leaning forward. After about 10 feet, begin to straighten up just a bit and lean forward. When you reach almost half way to first base, begin to pump your arms as fast as you can. This will make your legs move faster, and don’t stop until you go past first base.
The key to faster times out of the box and to first base is to run on the balls of your feet. Do the drill and I am certain your will be a faster runner.
Runners start at home plate. Take a swing, round first properly taking a wide, aggressive, turn and dive back into the first base bag. Runner gets up quickly, takes an aggressive lead, and takes off to steal 2nd sliding into the bag. Next, the runner gets up, takes an aggressive secondary lead and dives back into the bag. He then steals third repeating the slide, getting up and taking an aggressive lead off third. Be sure that the third base lead is in foul ground, and that the dive back into the bag is coming back on the foul line in line of the catcher’s throw. Finally, the runner is to get up and sprint home (no slide at plate). The next runner takes off from home when the previous runner completes his dive into first and touches the bag.
The focus of this drill is to make our runners very aggressive and not be afraid to get dirty! It also gets players practice in sliding and diving properly, which will hopefully keep us from injuries and out of court. It also tends to develop players who want to work hard and get dirty.
I’ve been ending practices with this drill for many years. It works with either baseball or softball.
Split the team in half and form two lines at home plate, one staggered ahead and inside the other. The coach stands at the pitcher’s circle with two bats. When he (she) hits the bats together, the lead runners in both lines take off. One runs straight through first base as if she is beating out a groundball, the other makes a turn and continues into second. You now have runners at first and second and two lines of runners still at home. At the next crack of the bat, the drill continues in the same manner but the runner on second now rounds third and scores while the runner on first takes third. Now every base should be occupied. It continues again, with the runner on third tagging up and scoring. Two runners will now score each time the bats are hit together. They will then return to the end of the opposite line and the bases will always remain loaded.
The coach can gauge when the team has had enough and end the drill when the last player on line crosses home.
The drill allows for every baserunning situation to be executed, allows the coach to check running mechanics and proper turns, and helps build stamina with short bursts. It’s much more helpful than having the players continually circle the bases. You will find that the runner scoring from second will often chase the runner tagging from third home, making for a good game-type situation.
BATTING PRACTICE BASE RUNNING
One of my favorite ways to teach and develop great base runners is to incorporate base running into batting practice.
This can be done very easily by dividing your players into groups of four to take batting practice. One player will hit. The next hitter will warm-up on deck.
The 3rd and 4th players will run “circuits” on the bases. These circuits are designated circuits that are listed and attached to the first baseman protection screen. Players will always run after they hit. We normally hit three times with at least 10 swings each.
The circuits are:
At first base, fake steal and read the contact to get to second base. Once at second base, get a two-out lead and score on a base hit.
At first base, hit & run. Stop at second base. Then take a regular lead and read contact to get to third base. At third base, call for a squeeze by the batter.
At first base take a straight steal second base. At second base, fake steal and read contact. At third base, tag and score on a fly ball
Players should take their actions seriously. They should wear helmets. They must go back to the bag after each pitch to simulate getting the sign and taking a new lead. If they need to, they can skip a couple of “BP” throws to catch their breath and get ready for their next move.
The two players running the bases should make sure to “stagger” themselves so that they will not run up on the next runner. This is a great drill to teach base running savvy, awareness, and alertness. It is also a great way to condition. Make sure that each player stretches and warms up before doing this drill.
Another thing you might consider is those young players that need additional base running work may be ran extra during batting practice if they need it. Teach them to be aggressive.
Another great point is to teach them to anticipate the “pitch in the dirt.” If they get a “dirt ball read,” they should break. They should develop confidence in their own decision-making ability and learn to “trust their eyes.”
BETWEEN HOME AND FIRST
Players line up at home plate. One at a time swing a bat and drop it saftly as if a hit. They then become a runner and runner to first base watching the coach.
If signaled to second they round the turn and go to second. The coach may stop them and have them slide back into first, send them to slide into second, or have them overrun. The coach should alternate his calls to keep the players guessing and watching.
I have used this drill for many years to get my players safe on first base, and find it to be a great tool to teach:
1) running through the base.
2) rounding a base.
3) taging the base with the left foot on the left corner of the bag, and
4) watching and listening to the base coach.
Divide the players equally among the four bases. One at a time from each base will be running, with the others waiting their turn. At ‘go’ from the coach, the four take off. Proper technique is a must and the goal would be to do a certain amount right in a row before going on to something else.
Player at the plate: Simulates a swing. Takes off as if hitting a double and possibly a triple. Makes a good turn at first. Picks up the 3rd base coach half way to 2nd. Rounds 2nd hard, ‘picks up the ball’ and returns to 2nd quickly. Player at first: From a lead, goes from 1st to 3rd. Picks up the 3rd base coach half way to 3rd. Makes a hard turn at 3rd then returns quickly. Player at 2nd: From a lead, goes from 2nd to home. Picks up the 3rd base coach and makes a good turn. Runs hard through the plate. Player at 3rd: From a lead, goes back to the bag to tag. Takes off for home, rounds it, then takes off for 1st as if beating out a single. Looks inside towards the 1st base dugout as he crosses the bag for possible overthrow.
A big part of our baserunning program is “reading ball in the dirt.”
This drill helps the players learn how to read the trajectory of a pitched ball that will bounce in the dirt. Players are set up at all three bases. They are independant of each other because different bases have different rules for a ball in the dirt. A coach pitches from the rubber and mixes in strikes and balls in the dirt to the catcher. Any time the ball is about to bounce the whole team must yell “DIRT.” This helps you make sure everyone is paying attention. Baserunners on first should automatically go when they know the ball is going to bounce. If they leave after the ball has bounced, they left too late. Runners on second need to react to the ball in the dirt and then decide if they would be safe. We tell them to read and decide. If the ball kicks away from the catcher they should’ve gone. If the catcher blocks the ball in front of him the base runners should stay. The runner on third base is similar to the one on second. He takes his lead, gets a good crow hop as the ball nears the plate and reacts to the ball in the dirt. Again, he reads and decides.
Coaches should emphasize that each base is independant of each other. Just ’cause the runner from first goes to second doesn’t mean the runner on second has to go. Coaches should also emphasize good secondary lead technique. It also helps if you have at least 2 catchers. You don’t want one catcher getting tired and picking up bad or lazy habits.
HOME AND FIRST X2
This is a basic base running drill.
Line up half the team behind home plate and half behind second base. Have a coach at first and a coach at third. Players run for first or third on a start signal from the coach and must either stop or go on based on coach’s signal.
Variation 1: treat third base same as first. This allows the home to first drill to go twice as fast. If done in reps with players jogging to back of line after run can be used as a type of windsprint.
Variation 2: Use bases as actual bases so runner at second will either slide into third, go in standing up or make turn for home, while runner going to first either runs through or makes turn to second.
One problem we have in youth baseball is getting the baserunner to come off of the base aggressively as soon as the pitch crosses the plate. In our league you can’t come off the bag until the ball is either put into play or caught by the catcher.
To correct this we run an exercise requiring a pitcher, a catcher and a first baseman and one baserunner with batting helmet (at first base). The remaining players line up in foul territory to take their turn running. To begin the pitcher pitches to the catcher and the catcher makes a throw to first base to try to catch the baserunner coming off of the bag to go to second base.
The object is for the baserunner to get as far as possible toward second base (but not to go to second) and then try to get safely back to first before the throw. We mark a line in the dirt at the farthest distance that each player gets to – only if they get back to first safely. That tells the player how far they can get off the bag and still get back during a regular game. We have a competition to see who can get the farthest. We never lose a chance to make any drill into a game or competition. In order to get any distance at all they have to dive headfirst back to first base (which is considered both safe and legal in our league).
Our aim is to get the players to come off the bags far enough to take advantage of any dropped balls by the catcher or to get the catcher to make an attempt at a throw-out (which results in an error about 50% of the time). It is also a good workout for the pitcher, catcher and first baseman.
Final coaching consideration
It’s important that when you finish the competition to go back over each player’s mark with that player and have them stride off the distance. This will let them have an idea how far to come off the bag.
Instead of the traditional “run the bases before we end practice” routine, we let our kids do the following:
Split the team in half, with one group of kids behind home plate and other half behind second base. Give the first kid of each group a ball (this will be the “baton” for the relay race). At “GO!” the first kid from each team begins running the bases, ball in hand. After making a complete lap around the bases (back to each kid’s starting point), that kid hands the ball off to the next kid in line, who continues the relay race. First group of kids to finish the race wins.
Our kids often beg for rematches and will VOLUNTARILY run the race ALL OUT at least three or four times! Even the coaches participate on occasions. The kids love it!
We always end our group sessions of practice with base running drills. This is one of our finest.
1) Start all the players at home. Swing the bat run through first base as if it was a double, then hustle back to the base. At this point the next batter goes. They wait at first base until all are done.
2) Lead off first, dive back to base as in a pick off. Then lead off again, coach says go run towards second picking up the third base coach 1/2 way to second as he waves you around to third. As you pass second pick up ball. When the runner takes off to second the next runner leads and dives back to first.
3) When all players are at third, we lead off into foul ground and dive back to third getting used to the proper length lead. Then we will lead again and tag up. The coach says tag, you hustle back to third and pick up the ball as the coach says go you hustle to home plate and the next players takes their lead.
We do this 2 to 3 times and the kids really get the feel for their leads and the way different coaches coach bases.
The Delayed Steal
One of the best-kept secrets in baseball is the delayed steal. The success rate should be around 90% and the runner does not have to be fast. It causes confusion and oftentimes can be used several times in the same game without a team realizing what is going on.
What is the delayed steal and when should it be used?
The delayed steal is a method of taking base using more of technique, then actual speed or a good jump to get to second base. The key is that the middle infielders are not checking their base after every pitch with a man on first base. In other words, a middle infielder must take a few steps towards second after every pitch. When the middle infielders do not do so, second base is ripe to be taken via the delay.
Technique is absolutely the most important aspect of the delay. Too many kids try to get a good jump and it ruins any chance of making it to second. The key is to take a secondary lead (see secondary lead some other chapter) as you would on a pitch that you are not stealing on. For our purposes, a secondary lead is two wide shuffles. One important note is the base runner must keep his shoulder square to home plate. The minute you open the right shoulder to second base you will tip off the defense. It is also important to remember that a good secondary lead helps set up the delay for future use.
After the second full shuffle (runner must make sure he FINISHES the second shuffle, the runner takes off for second base. At this point the ball has just about crossed home plate, but the first basemen has no idea that the runner took off for second. By the time he says anything the runner is about 10 feet from the bag and it is too late. Some will argue that an alert catcher will see the runner and this is tough to argue. However, this is where the middle infielder’s lack of doing their job comes into play. Even if the catcher throws with normal timing, the middle infielders will not be at second base and 9 times out of 10 the ball ends up in the outfield. In most cases, the defense has no idea what just happened and often times will start yelling at the first baseman for not yelling “he’s going.” Another important note is the runner will be more successful if he slides head first. Is this a big issue? No, but every second counts. The head first is better because in theory, the middle infielder is going to be late to the bag. Knowing this, it is better for the highest part of the base runner’s body to be closest to second base. A second baseman who is late to second is more apt to be tagging the back part of the body, which in this case is the feet, which are now closer to the ground and tough to tag. One other note: Since the runner is not looking for a great jump he MUST NEVER GET PICKED OFF WHEN HE IS ABOUT TO ATTEMPT A DELAY. NEVER!!
When do you put on the delay?
As mentioned above, the most important issue is that the middle infielders are not paying attention. In some games, a coach will realize right away that the delay will not be in the game plan for that given day. However, if the middle infielders are not paying attention here are a few times to delay. First, you do not have to be fast to delay steal. In fact, it is usually the slower guys on the team that you will do it with most often. As a result, these “slugs” seem to take pride in their delay technique and do it well. Keep in mind, you wouldn’t have your quickest players delay steal because they can steal second with regular technique. Furthermore, a fast runner usually gets more attention then the slug; thus the middle infielders are more apt to check their base.
Other than the delay possibility actually being “there” there is one great opportunity—the first and third. In a first and third situation, most of the time the defense puts on some sort of play—either throw through, throw to the pitcher, fake to second throw to third, etc. Often times, the defense will put on a play where the shortstop goes to the middle of the field to cut off a throw from the catcher. With a delay, the shortstop will be too late to come to the middle, thus the ball goes all the way through and the runner from third will easily score. An important note is the runner on third must watch for two things: First, he must watch the catcher’s shoulders. When a catcher is throwing to third, his left shoulder will open up towards third base. In this scenario, the runner must get back to third right away. Second, he must read the height of the throw to second; he must make sure that the ball is not being thrown to the pitcher. Once he reads height of the ball he can take off for home.
One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the steal of home. I am not talking about the standard play where a runner from third leaves when the catcher tries to throw out a runner going to second. I am talking about a straight steal of home!
Certain “conditions” must be in place in order for an attempt to be successful. First, you must have a fast runner at third base. What is fast? You just have to use your judgement. On average, only 3-4 kids per team will be successful. Second, the pitcher must be in the wind-up position. Third, you must have a pitcher who does not pay attention to the runner on third. In other words, he doesn’t “check” the runner on every pitch. Finally, you need a pitcher who has a long delivery to the plate.
It is important that the batter knows when the runner is going to steal home. We wouldn’t want a kid getting a mouth full of Z-Core would we? Usually I will tell the on-deck batter that if I give them the take signal (once they are up to bat) that we are going to steal home.
Once you decide that you are going to try to steal home, the runner should start getting the timing down. Once again, as always, the players should be watching the pitcher from the dugout to pick up tendencies and timing.
There are several keys to success here. First is the lead. The lead should be a good one-third of the way down the base line. I also call this no man’s land because the pitcher at this point can see the runner peripherally. If the runner gets here and the pitcher has not pitched yet, he should just take off. Often times the pitcher will balk. The other key is that the runner takes off the instant that the pitcher starts his windup. EVERY TENTH OF A SECOND IS IMPORTANT HERE!
Stealing home actually takes two pitches to set up. The first pitch is for the runner to get the timing down one last time. He should take a normal walking lead and crow-hop as the ball reaches the plate. Then he should turn and go back towards third. Instead of going all of the way back he stops and takes his walking lead. He should continue walking to the no mans land point and hopefully this is the same time that the pitcher begins his windup. The runner should then sprint for home, slide feet first towards the inside of the plate. Ideally, he should pop-up as soon as possible as that gives the appearance of a runner being there sooner.
Stealing Second Base
This will be a quite long-winded subject, but deservingly so! There are several different techniques and certain ones are best used in different situations.
The number one rule as a base runner when you are not standing on the base is keep your eye on the ball. In other words, when taking signals from the third base coach, the runner should have a foot on the base. Too many kids get picked off because they are watching their coach give signals while standing off of the bag. Furthermore, a player should always watch the pitcher when taking a lead. Someone said your lead should be a body length and a step and this became the standard. Why limit yourself to a certain distance? Now, I am not saying that this isn’t a good reference point, but there are millions of kids out there who have never ventured beyond this point! A better rule might be on your first lead, go with the body length and a step, wait for a pick-off attempt, and evaluate your lead. Some pitchers have quick moves, while others are rather slow. A base runner must take advantage of every opportunity.
As far as technique in taking a lead, there are several different methods. I instruct my players to take a crossover step behind the right foot, followed by two sideways steps. This is a good base to work from and the lead can be extended or shortened from there. The player should take his lead at the front edge of the bag. In other words, the runner should be as close to the pitcher as possible while still being even with the base. The purpose of this lead is to give the pitcher the perception that you are closer to the bag. A pitcher who isn’t worried about the base runner will soon find the base runner no longer on first base!
Getting a good jump
This is absolutely the most important aspect on stealing a base. If a player does not get a good jump, he will be out most of the time. A player who is aggressive with his jumps will have far more success. I tell my players that there is no such thing as a steal signal; too many kids think they have to go on the next pitch. Our signal is a “green light” signal; meaning the player can steal IF HE GETS A GOOD JUMP! There are several different ways of obtaining a good jump:
Watching the pitcher’s feet (Right handed pitcher only.)
This is one of two basic techniques used in stealing second base. The pitcher has three options once he is in the set position. He can pitch, pick, or step off. When the pitcher throws to the plate, the first part of his body to move will be his left heal. When a pitcher picks, or steps off, the first part of his body to move will be his right heal. A well-trained base runner is able to focus on both feet and be able to react immediately. Left foot go, right foot back. The pitcher has a way of countering this technique. (See defense, the balk move)
Watching the front shoulder
The other basic technique is for the runner to watch the front (left) shoulder. When the pitcher goes to the plate, his front shoulder will “close” towards third base. If he picks, it will open towards first. Again, the pitcher has a counter attack for these two techniques.
This technique is for the aggressive style coach and player; not everyone will be able to use it. Many pitchers, especially at the youth level will have some sort of tendency such as:
ONLY PICKS ON THE WAY UP WHEN COMING SET
ONLY PICKS ON THE WAY DOWN
ONLY PICKS WHEN HE IS SET
PICKS ONLY AFTER BEING SET FOR ONE SECOND (NEVER PICKS ONCE HE HAS BEEN SET FOR MORE THAN A SECOND)
ALWAYS PICKS AT A CERTAIN TIME FRAME (SET, ONE SECOND, PICK)
WILL NEVER PICK MORE THAN ONCE IN A ROW
WILL NEVER PICK TWICE
TAKES A DEEP BREATH RIGHT BEFORE PITCHING
The above-mentioned tendencies, as well as many others are things a base runner should look for. Keep in mind that a runner does not have to wait until he is on base to pick up on tendencies. A good base runner watches the pitcher as soon as his teammate gets on base.
Timing the Pitcher
This technique can be used from the youth levels all the way through the college ranks, if not beyond. It goes back to the tendencies. Oftentimes, a pitcher will come set for the same amount of time on every pitch. If a base runner knows that the pitcher always pitches after a two-second delay, why not steal just before that time has elapsed? Once again, a good base runner is storing this information from the dugout. This technique takes a bit of guts, but once it is attempted and shown to be successful, the savvy base runner will have tons of success. Is there a risk in this technique? There sure is, but one will find that when the timing is executed correctly, the success rate far outweighs the failure.
The coach can signal to his base runner the set count of the pitcher by tapping one hand with the other. One tap for a one second set two for a two-second, etc.
GETTING BACK TO THE BASE
There are several techniques used to get back to first base. When stealing, the base runner should always be “diving” back to the bag. In theory, if he is able to get back standing up, then his lead was not big enough. The “dive” back is a simple crossover and a pseudo headfirst slide to the bag. If you have noticed, I have put the word “dive” in quotes. It important to note that when going back to the bag, the runner isn’t actually diving. When a player dives, his body is high off of the ground and is easier to tag. The goal is to get as low as possible as soon as possible to avoid the tag. As soon as the runner gets back, he should get up (while still making contact with the bag) as soon as possible. Furthermore, he should always be looking for an overthrown ball.
If the runner is not “diving” back to the bag, his movement should be a crossover, followed by a step to the left side of the bag. He should then continue his momentum and open his right shoulder out towards the right field foul line. Obviously, he should look for an overthrown ball.
There is another way to get back to the bag. Oftentimes, a pitcher will make a lazy lob pick to first base. If a good base runner realizes that the pitcher is making this sort of pick, he should go straight to the bag, in front of the first baseman and come up “tall”. In other words, once he reaches the bag he should stand on his tiptoe, hoping the first baseman will lose vision and the ball is overthrown.
Stealing Third Base
With proper technique, stealing third base can be easier than stealing second. Once again, it comes down to finding the pitchers tendencies.
The proper lead should be as much as possible, without getting picked. I tell my guys to be straight in the base line. Some coaches will tell their players to start a few feet back with two outs so they have a better angle to score on a base hit. With proper technique in rounding a base, the runner does not need to take the “two out lead”. The third base coach is extremely important with a man on second. His job is to keep an eye on the shortstop and the second baseman. Many youth coaches tell their runners that the coach has the shortstop and the runner has the second baseman. Remember that the number one rule of a base runner is to keep his eye on the ball. If a third base coach can’t handle watching both players, then maybe he should be relegated to the dugout.
The most obvious tendency of a pitcher with a man on second is the number of looks he makes to second base. Many pitchers are “one lookers” and are extremely easy to steal off of. However, even if a pitcher does A Good job of mixing up his looks he can still be exploited. As soon as there is a man on second base, the whole team should try to find out what the pitcher’s maximum (max) amount of looks is to second base. A good pitcher will vary these looks between zero and at least three. So, assuming his max is three, the base runner should know that once the pitcher hits his max, he will not look again. Here is where technique comes into play.
There are a few keys here for execution. First, the runner must have the guts to start movement towards third before the pitcher even lifts his leg to go to the plate. Most pitchers are pre-programmed to either pick or pitch. We are gambling a bit here, but the odds are in our favor. Right before the pitcher lifts to go to the plate, the base runner should take two lateral shuffles towards third. The key here is to make sure he keeps his shoulders squared to home plate. In other words he makes no commitment towards actually going to third base, only a motion towards it. If, when in his second shuffle, the pitcher’s leg lifts, the runner can takes off for third base. If the pitcher’s leg does not lift, the runner just shuffles back to his original lead. Either the runner gets a great jump, or he at least distracts the pitcher and the defense.
Now you might be wondering, what if the pitcher mixes up his looks really well. It does not matter! Before the runner takes his lead, he should decide how many looks he is going to look for. If he is going to look for one, he should shuffle after the first look. If the pitcher looks twice in this scenario, it doesn’t matter; the runner will just shuffle back as his leg did not come up after the first look. If the runner is looking for two looks, and the pitcher only goes with one before he pitches, then the runner just needs to wait for the next pitch. Another key for the base runner is to not show emotion while out on the bases. If he looks for one look, and gets one look, but doesn’t feel comfortable with his jump, then he just doesn’t go. Oftentimes a runner will show some sort of emotion in this scenario; this wakes up the defense. Once again, as is always when stealing a base, the runner must get the jump. Remember that the runner has a signal for a green light to steal not a signal to steal.
FIRST TO SECOND
At 1st Base:
1) Always take your sign while on the base – You can and will be made to look silly if you are over looking at your buddy in the dugout or your girlfriend in the stands and the 1st baseman tags you out. Funny now….try it in a game and see how funny it is.
2) After taking your sign, you should begin your primary lead (the lead you take before the pitch). Always focus on the pitcher while you are taking your lead. If the pitcher is right handed, look at his front heel (the heel of his left foot). If he is left handed, look at his front shoulder (his right shoulder). You will stay in your primary lead until you see daylight under the front heel of the right hander or until you are certain the left hander is going home. At first base, you are expected to take as big a primary lead as possible and still get back safely on a pickoff move. Your lead is not big enough if you never even come close to being picked off.
3) When the pitcher makes a pick off move, Always come back to the inside of the bag if you are standing…the outside of the bag if you are diving back. When you come back standing turn your back to the pitcher and do not push the 1st baseman. This is a very important way to put pressure on the defense. When you come back diving, the idea is to “just get back.”
4) Take an aggressive secondary lead as soon as the pitcher gives you enough information that he’s going home. The secondary lead is the extension of your primary lead, to be taken as the pitcher delivers his pitch. Crossover, hop, hop, hop…GO if the ball is hit, get back if it is not. Do not “float” or nonchalantly return to the bag.
5) You are responsible for getting back if the catcher throws to 1st. Do not rely on your 1st base coach. If you are getting a good secondary lead, many catchers will throw over. That is good, because he cannot get you out if you are taking care of your business. What will happen is he will throw the ball into right field sooner or later and you will be on third.
6) Only tag up if the ball is foul, otherwise we should be “halfway” on popups and flyballs at first base. “Halfway” means as far as you can get toward 2nd base and still get back safely if the ball is caught. That could be 2 feet on a pop up to the first baseman or 89 feet on a fly ball to deep center field.
7) With less than 2 outs, Always freeze on a line drive. The reason we need to freeze (or not run) is to make sure the line drive goes through the infield. If it is caught in the infield and we have already started our move toward the next base, we will be doubled off.
8) Stealing against a left handed pitcher, I teach my kids to go on first movement. You must learn that the only first movement you cannot GO on is when the left handed pitcher steps off the back of the rubber with his back foot. If the hit&run is on, go when you would normally start your secondary lead. If the pitcher is right handed, GO on steal or hit&run when his front heel picks up. When steal or hit&run is on, you should look in and find the ball on your third step. This will give you valuable information for you next move. Delayed steal is very similar to the normal primary-secondary progression. When that play is on, you should start your secondary lead as you always would, only this time it goes crossover, hop, hop, hop, GO.
9) If we are bunting, see the ball down before you run! GO when you are sure the ball will hit the ground.
10) You should want to run to third base. If the ball is hit in front of you (to Left or Center), you will decide if you can make it or not and carry out the appropriate actions. If the ball is hit into right field, pick up the third base coach before you get to 2nd base (about 20 feet before) and he will tell you to stay or GO.
11) Never get picked off when the batter has a take sign and you are not stealing.
3-0 is a count that we will normally shorten up our lead and make the pitcher throw a strike before we do anything.
12) If we have a 1st and 3rd situation and a play is on, your job at 1st base is to NOT run into an out, especially with 2 outs. That means stay in a rundown. If the defense refuses to make a play on you, advance to second base. Sometimes we will try to get picked off. Sometimes we will leave early. Those plays will have special signs. Otherwise we will run our regular steal, hit&run, or delayed steal.
13) The rules require that you avoid all batted balls and fielders in the act of fielding. If you run into a batted ball or a fielder trying to field, you will be called out. A good baserunner can disrupt a fielder by timing it so that he jumps over the ball in front of the fielder. This is a visual hindrance and is completely within the rules.
HOME TO FIRST
Out of the batters Box:
1) Always run hard – your goal is to advance for extra bases on balls hit into the outfield. On balls hit in the infield, we hope to beat the throw to 1st base, but we will at least apply a little pressure on the defense. You are expected to run out all pop ups and fly balls. If there is any doubt as to whether a batted ball is fair, run hard and let the umpires decide.
2) Never lunge at the bag – just run through 1st base, that is why the rules allow you to overrun that base. Occasionally a slide is appropriate at 1st base, but usually only to avoid a first baseman’s tag.
3) Always find your batted ball – about 3 steps out the batters box, find the ball (keep running) so you will have the information you need to approach 1st base.
4) Never step on home plate when bunting – the rules say you are out if you do so.
5) Always make an aggressive turn at 1st base – If you can make the outfielders believe you are going to second base when you turn at 1st base, you have done your job. If the outfielders aren’t even aware that there is a runner, you have given up a chance to put pressure on the defense. To avoid turning wide, learn to swing out into foul ground and dip your inside shoulder as you turn for 2nd base.
6) Never become a spectator – If you single in a runner from second base, chances are there will be a throw to the plate. If the ball clears the cutoff man, you should be on second base. You must anticipate this throw, find the cutoff man, determine the height of the ball, and aggressively take second base when it is available. Lots of things happen in high school games when a ball is batted. We must always be ready to take the extra base if the situation allows for it. There is a difference between aggressive and foolish.
SECOND TO THIRD
AT 2nd Base:
1) Get your signs from the coach. Check where the outfielders are playing and make a mental note. That information will help you on batted balls into the outfield. Great baserunners get great jumps from second base often because they knew the ball could not be caught before the play actually happened. They knew because they knew where the outfielder was playing and had good judgement on where the ball was hit.
2) Take a short primary lead and an extremely aggressive secondary lead. Your primary lead shouldn’t be more than 3 or 4 steps off the bag. 2nd Base is the easiest base to get picked off at, so that is why we take a short primary lead. Also, be aware of the fake overthrow play, where the pitcher spins and fakes a throw and both middle infielders dive and start running into center field. Personally, I don’t like the play, but you will look silly if you start for 3rd because you will be put out. Start your secondary lead as soon as the pitcher’s front foot comes off the ground. The secondary lead is different from 1st base. Here we will shuffle and slide toward 3rd, as if we were playing defense in basketball. Again, you must immediately make a move to 3rd or make a move back to 2nd at the end of your secondary lead. Do not stand around in a stationary position!
3) Watch the PITCHER, NOT THE MIDDLE INFIELDERS! Focus on his back foot…..If it comes off the ground or starts to spin, GET BACK.
4) If there is no runner at 1st base forcing you to advance on ground balls with less than 2 outs, you should GO on ground balls hit at you or behind you. Do not hesitate. On balls hit in front of you (to your right), you should wait and read the infielders throw.
5) When there are two outs, take a staggered primary lead and stay in that line as you take your routine secondary lead. This allows you to turn at third base without swinging out before the bag. The reason we do this is because nine times out of ten we will take the chance of scoring on a base hit from 2nd base with two outs. Plan on going!
6) When running from 2nd base, advance to 3rd as though you will keep going toward home. The 3rd base coach can only stop you. Avoid station to station running. In other words, do not go to third and wait for the coach to send you home. You are going home unless the coach stops you. You must advance toward 3rd full speed with the intention of scoring.
7) Tag at 2nd base on all foul pops or fly balls. If you are not sure if the ball is foul, rely on your basecoach on the side of the field where the ball has been hit. Otherwise, only tag on fly balls that appear to be sure outs but are deep enough that you can beat the outfielder’s throw to third base. Most of these fly balls are hit to center and right. It is very rare to tag on a ball hit to left field.
8) If the steal is on, take your normal short primary…then advance into a more aggressive position as the pitcher comes set. From there, you can steal 3rd base if you get a good jump. If you pay attention to the pitchers as the game progresses, you may see a pattern of pitchers looking once or twice, then throwing to the plate. If you pick up a pattern, take your primary lead, extend it, then allow the pitcher to look the patterned number of times. As soon as his head turns after his last look, take off. You will steal easily.
THIRD TO HOME
At 3rd Base:
1) Always take your leads in foul ground and return back to the bag in fair ground. This is because a batted ball that hits you over fair territory puts you out, but a thrown ball that hits you will probably result in a run.
2) Listen to your base coach for special instructions. We may want to make the ball go through the infield before we try to advance or go on anything hit to the right side. You must be ready to react when running at third base.
3) Take a walking lead if the pitcher is in the windup, a normal lead if the pitcher is in the stretch. Start your walking lead very close to the bag, and take that lead very casually. You start your secondary lead when the pitcher begins his windup. When he is in the stretch, apply first base rules to opposite handed pitchers. In other words, treat a lefthanded pitcher like a right handed pitcher and treat a righthander like a lefty. Land on your right foot with your chest facing the infield as you complete your secondary lead. Don’t stand around, make a move. Be ready to advance or retreat as you finish your secondary lead.
4) Be aggressive on passed balls! However, be smart. I encourage taking chances if you get a good jump. The ball doesn’t have to go too far from the catcher for you to score from third base, but you must get a good jump. If you have doubt, stay at third!
5) With less than 2 outs, tag on all balls hit in the air and listen to your third base coach for instructions. I may tell you halfway on a fair pop up if I think the ball is not batted far enough out for us to score. Or I may tell you to bluff to the plate so we can draw a throw and hopefully make the defense throw the ball away. You are responsible for seeing the ball enter the outfielders glove so that you can get the best possible jump toward the plate. It is a sprint so run full speed.
6) When running at third in a first and third situation, the rule is to go as soon as you are sure the ball will clear the pitcher’s head. Don’t cheat, just be focused and leave at precisely the right time and we will have success. You will have to extend your lead a little as you see the catcher start his throw to second base. If you start early, the catcher will see you and throw your way. Against teams that run a cutoff play with their middle infielders, you may be told to stay at home. If they do run this play, we can put them in a bind with a fake bunt, steal play and simply stay at third base. There will be nobody left to take 2nd.
7) If you can run well and learn take good aggressive (not stupid) leads at third base, some situations may call for a steal of home. I will tell you verbally when I want you to do this. The batter should NEVER swing at the incoming pitch when a runner is attempting to steal home. We must have the right pitcher and you must get a good jump to pull this off. Do not slide headfirst into the plate. We will never attempt to steal home with 2 strikes on the hitter.
8) If we have the suicide squeeze on, the runner at third should take off for the plate as soon as the pitcher breaks his hands…no sooner. Prior to that, he should act naturally and take primary and secondary leads as always.
9) Sometimes I will verbally tell you to bluff a steal of home to try to force the pitcher to balk you in for the score. We will only do this when the pitcher is in the windup. Take a short primary lead. You must make an abrupt move toward the plate (about 4 steps) then take two backward so you can return safely if the pitcher deals with the pressure appropriately. The secret is timing. You want to start just about a second before he does. You won’t have any idea when he will start if you haven’t been paying attention to his mannerisms. This is not something we will do over and over. We will take a shot from time to time, then go on with the game. We will not build our offense around them balking, but we are not too proud to take a run here and there.
SAFE SLIDING PRACTICE
When practicing sliding try using a large piece of cardboard placed on grass. Have the kids start thier slide hitting the piece of cardboard. This causes the cardboard to slide on the grass instead of the kid so there is less chance for injury do to abrasion or maybe snagging a cleat or shoe in the grass. Use a stick of some kind as sort of limbo bar and have them slide under it to make sure they stay as low as possible. Make sure they practice good form(slide more on your back than side and keep the hands up and back).
Always wear batting helmets when practicing.
I coach 1st and 2nd graders. Many of them slow down before they get to first base instead of running through the bag. During practice, I have the kids run to a base I place about 15 feet past first. This way they keep up their speed through the first.