The execution and dedicated practice of base running can take any good team to the level of a great team. Understanding and practicing the base running philosophy explained here will allow players to become “men of action” on the base paths.
The goal of any base runner should be to be a “man of action.” By giving an exceptional effort on the base paths, a base runner should return to the dugout, either after a run or an out, tired. Fundamentally, a base runner should always run with his eyes up. Seeing the ball, the players, and the action is vital in reacting to the action, especially in hit and run or bunt situations (three steps and peek in those situations). A “man of action” seeks to take advantage of the other team’s errors and weaknesses, and recognizes that he is not out until the bag is touched or the ball is caught. He will run hard until then. The pace a “man of action” takes dictates the ability to take the appropriate risk. He recognizes that his pace comes from the beginning of the play, not halfway through the play.
A “man of action” will also be aggressive as a base runner and take calculated risks. Base runners who exercise this mindset put constant pressure on the defense and force the other team to make extra throws. When pitchers pick off more often, it adds pitches to their pitch count. When catchers make more throws, it can wear out a lesser athlete. More throws by the opposing team equals more chances for error by the opposition, especially at the lower levels of baseball. More throws also leads to longer innings for the opposition. Runners can extend the amount of time the opposing team is on the field by drawing more throws from the defense. The more time on the field and the more throws by the opposition will inevitably lead to more errors and, eventually, to weaker offensive output by the opposition. In addition to drawing extra throws from the opposition, players should “think in twos” on the base paths - home to second, first to third, and second to home. Active base runners will push their opponents to the limit of competition. Coaches should encourage an “80% decision” by his players – if the player would be safe 80% of the time, it means it was a good decision, a good calculated risk. Open up the conversation with the players. As an aside, when a player gets a bad jump (out of the batter’s box, trying to steal, tagging up, etc.), the player shuts down the 80% rule and probably the idea of taking any risk on that play (“live to play the next play”).