Baserunning is a part of baseball that does not get a lot of attention in practice. The best baserunning teams are those that drill their players in practice.
Drill your team in baserunning and you will actually see how it can become your tenth man on the team and you will be happy with the benefits.
Practice Makes Perfect
There are numerous baserunning drills that teams can practice. One drill we practice is called "Bounce and Run." This drill helps condition the players on what to do if they are on either second or third, with less than two out, and a ground ball is hit to the left side of the infield.
We want the runner to advance to the next base by first bouncing off the base as the ball is hit and then running when the fielder releases the ball. The drill is set up like this:
The players (as baserunners) line up at second. I have a shortstop and third baseman and have a coach play first base. Another coach stands at home plate and hits a ground ball to either the shortstop or third baseman.
The runner at second will bounce off the base and, once the fielder lets go of the ball on his throw to first, puts his head down and sprints to third. The next baserunner in line starts again at second. The player who is now on third will also be the runner on the next ground ball. The player who is on third goes home, then goes back to the end of the line at second.
Teach the baserunners that if they are on second and the ground ball is hit to third, they can bounce off further than a ball hit to the shortstop.
The same thing goes for the runner at third. If the ball is hit to shortstop they can bounce off further than if it was hit to the third baseman.
Another teaching point is that in games the baserunner at third should always slide when he runs to home. There should not even be a question about it.
Also in this drill have a signal with the fielders like scratching your head so this signals the fielder to fake the throw and catch the runner off the base. This is very effective and the baserunners learn from this if they are tagged out.
Secrets to Success
I highly recommend that youth coaches spend time going over baserunning with these following emphase:
- Coaches should put aside 10-15 minutes of every practice to go over a different aspect of baserunning.
- Make it a habit for every baserunner to aggressively bounce off the base on each pitch.
- Allow even the slowest player on the team the opportunity to steal a base in a game.
- Teach players to read the pitch or follow it on its flight home when on base to anticipate possible wild throws or passed balls to advance a base. Also, teach the runner to follow the path of the baseball when the catcher throws it back to the pitcher.
- Players should always slide into the base (except first) on a steal, force play, close play or a play at home because it is sound fundamental baseball and sliding may help create defensive blunders.
- Encourage your players to watch the baserunners carefully when at baseball games at a higher lever. Point out how players touch the base and make turns on extra base hits or going from first to third or second to home. Show them the difference between a regular lead and secondary lead.
Marty Schupak has coached youth baseball for 21 years and is the video creator of "The 59 Minute Baseball Practice", "Winning Baseball Strategies", "Hitting Drills & Techniques", "Pitching Drills & Techniques", "Baserunning & Bunting Drills" and author of the popular book, "Youth Baseball Drills". He is president of the Youth Sports Club, a group dedicated to making sports practices and games more enjoyable for kids.