Baseball scouts and coaches are always of the lookout for a five-tool player, one who can hit for average, hit for power, field, throw, and run—all of which, exceptionally. A five-tool player is a complete player, but to reach that level, one must consistently find ways to improve in all facets of the game. This includes baserunning.
Here are some tips athletes of all ages can use to sharpen their baserunning skills and polish their overall baseball skills.
You Can't Steal First
Having speed does not automatically make for being a great base runner. Running technique, instead, should be a focal point of any players.
Speed can, however, help you get to first base more often, but the bottom line is that you must get there—any way you can.
The phrase “Speed Kills” is a very true one in that it is the only tool that makes each of the other ones more dangerous. Speed can help make up for a weak arm, it can help turn singles into doubles, it can raise batting averages with infield hits, and it enables fielders to cover more ground.
The problem with speed is that it can be taken for granted, where base runners might take too many chances, get picked off bases when getting too much of a lead, or get a little greedy in always trying to get that extra base.
Tip: Aggressiveness should be applauded, but be smart with your baserunning. Speed can also be a rally killer—not a desirable way of spinning the “Speed Kills” phrase.
The First Ninety Feet
It cannot be overstated: Always hustle, because you absolutely never know when that routine grounder to short will become an overthrow at first that would equate to getting a double.
Jogging up to first may take away what would have been a situation where a runner is instantly in scoring position. It may even mean the difference between being able to beat a mishandled ball and being out by a step.
Tip: Out of the batter’s box, take about 4-5 strides and grab one quick peek at the play to get an idea of what is happening in order to prepare to either run through the bag or make the turn. After glancing once, focus only on what is ahead and run as hard as you can.
On the Base Path
Obviously, the youth game differs from that of high school and college, so understand this tip is intended for the older players, where stealing is not only allowed, but encouraged whenever possible.
Tip: Take about a two-step lead, then go a bit more, without going past a three-step lead, which is the maximum for a quick dive back to the bag. This will allow you to safely get a sufficient lead that can enable you to break up double plays, go from first to third on a single, or steal second when the time is right.
Rodney Baker has been a baseball scout and coach for many years and is now an assistant coach at a community college near San Diego.