More Base Running Notes

A couple of notes on more obvious situations but ones that bear constant repeating by coaches on the field. Coaches should constantly encourage the base runner to run with his eyes up to see all of the action. Holding up a hand and making the base runner shout the number of fingers the coach is holding up can help the runners realize on what they are focusing. For fun, in a situation where the base runner should be making the decision and not the coach (i.e. – a ball in right field and the runner is going from first base to third base), the coach could do a dance of some sort to bring some humor to the practice situation. Stress the concept of vision to the players at all times.

In a more specific example, when a runner is on second base, the coach should remind the runner at second base that a ground ball hit in front of them must get through the infield, while on a ball behind them they should advance to third and look to score.

Also, runners should recognize their place on the field and the distance of the next possible throw. For example, if the pitcher picks to the runner at first base in a first-and-third situation, the runner at third should gain ground and not retreat to the bag. Any time the ball is two bases away, remind the base runner that the ball is over 120 feet away from him and that he should gain ground until stopped.

Because we encourage such an aggressive style of baserunning, getting picked off may happen more frequently. Though the goal of our teams is to make zero outs on the base paths, aggressive baserunning necessitates a strategy for being in rundown situations. When our base runners get into a rundown, the base coaches will be encouraging the baserunner(s) to “win the rundown.” By encouraging the runner to maximize the amount of time he is in the rundown, we increase the possibility of an error by increasing the number of throws. One of the techniques to teach the baserunner in the middle of the rundown is “run to the glove.” As the area of the rundown decreases, the baserunner should run towards the glove of any player receiving a throw from a defensive teammate. The movie shows an example of a baserunner in the College World Series executing this technique. By running to the glove of the defensive player, the baserunner blocks the alley through which the thrown ball is traveling and potentially deflects the ball unintentionally while getting to the base safely.

Stopwatch times are important in base running as well. Understanding basic times of common plays are valuable. A commonly accepted infield to first base time on a ball in the infield is 4.5 seconds. A pitcher should be roughly 1.3 seconds to the plate and a catcher 2.2 second from pop to second base. The collective total is 3.5 seconds for this play. Finally, an outfielder should be able to throw the ball to the catcher in 3.3 seconds. A runner who commonly runs any of the above times faster than the numbers above will be a damaging base runner and one who can change the game for your team. Runners should be classified in three colors – green, yellow, and red. All players, no matter their color must take ownership of their base running. Green runners must own how, when, and why to do it. Yellow runners absolutely have to know and understand the concepts. Red runners must learn and work hard to improve on their speed.

One way to teach green and yellow runners to get better jumps from the physical perspective is to encourage them to get on a slick surface (i.e. - linoleum or hard wood floors at home) and work on their jumps. This will give them a better feel for their body - their feet, their center of mass, etc. - and how to waste no movements and no steps in trying to steal bases.

There is a lot more to base running and many more intricacies. Little things in the game such as never making the first or third out at third base, knowing when to be aggressive, trying to go from first base to third base with one out, and trying to get to second base with two outs, and over the years this document will continue to expand to include those elements as well.