One perception of great bunting teams is that they posses excellent speed. Nothing could be further from the truth. While speed helps the bunting game, great technique trumps speed and allows any team to be a good bunting team. The individual player must understand his own gifts and limitations in order to execute bunts well. A bigger, slower player will need to pick his spots appropriately (i.e. - bunting with corners deep) and bunt the ball farther up the line to create longer plays necessary to rumble up the line. Faster players need to refine their bunting game to bunt in smaller spaces. Either way, bunting at the high school and college levels are an important element of any successful, balanced offense.
Obviously getting the bunt down triggers the next component of that offensive play - base running. While base running is addressed at length in a separate chapter, addressing leads and reads on bunt plays is helpful. When getting the lead in an attempt to advance from first to second base on a bunt play, the runner should get a normal primary lead but a more aggressive secondary (post-pitch) lead. The runner should seek to play fast and aggressive, but not silly. A faster, harder shuffle towards second in anticipation of the bunt getting down and then back to first base if the bunt doesn’t get down creates the appropriate level of aggressiveness from first to second base. The same holds true from second to third base, but the runner should be more aware of pick lays at second base as most teams run most of their bunt picks to second base. This should not halt the fast and aggressive play but should make the runner more aware. From third base to home, the runner should plan to extend by one more full taking a bigger, but not obviously bigger, lead to gain ground on home plate. Excellent base running makes an excellent complement to a well-executed bunt.
Practicing bunting and keeping the skill set sharp is worth a daily effort. Keeping the skill fresh and presenting new competitions is important if a team does work on bunting every day. While keeping the bunting skill on the practice plan consistently is important, showing it is important by the coaches being present is also vital. Monitoring progress, and providing energy and motivation will keep the players on their toes during this, and every, section of practice.
Bunting can be developed as a skill in so many ways. Here are a variety of ideas to implement:
- Hitters bunt the first and last pitches during batting practice rounds.
- Use cones to designate where hitters should bunt the ball, either as a spot or as an alley.
- Choose teams and execute a certain number of bunts, possibly of a different kind (sac, drag, push, etc.), and attach an extrinsic reward for the winner
- Establish groups of three and rotate through these roles: bunter, thrower, and shagger. Determine what kind of bunt(s) the players should execute and send the players up an outfield line. This works as a simple, daily element of practice. Make sure the players are throwing the ball hard enough from 45-50 feet to make it realistic.
- In scrimmages, make sure everyone is asked to bunt. Making sure all players in the program are able and willing to bunt is vital to the team’s success. It’s important to winning baseball.
- Bunting in game-like situations is vital to the skill’s development.
- Concentrate on bunting, a finer skill, as you head into a weekend series, tournament, or important game.
- On larger teams, like high school or college programs, take 16 hitters into two groups of eight each. In 20 minute segments, one group works batting practice on the field while the other works in the cages. Then they flip flop. All of the hitters would work on sacrifice, drag and push bunts in both the field and cage setting and strive to be mechanically. Bunting in both places shows the hitters the importance of bunting.