How to Read a Ball in the Dirt

A big part of our baserunning program is "reading the ball in the dirt." This drill helps the players learn how to read the trajectory of a pitched ball that will bounce in the dirt—and make smarter decisions on the basepaths.

Setting Up the Drill

Players are set up at all three bases. They are independant of each other, because different bases have different rules for a ball in the dirt.

A coach pitches from the rubber and mixes in strikes and balls in the dirt to the catcher.  Any time the ball is about to bounce the whole team must yell "DIRT." ( This helps you make sure everyone is paying attention.)

Knowing When to Go

Baserunners on first should automatically go when they know the ball is going to bounce. If they leave after the ball has bounced, they left too late.

Runners on second need to react to the ball in the dirt and then decide if they would be safe. We tell them to read and decide.


If the ball kicks away from the catcher, they should've gone. If the catcher blocks the ball in front of him the base runners should stay.

The runner on third base is similar to the one on second. He takes his lead, gets a good crow hop as the ball nears the plate and reacts to the ball in the dirt. Again, he reads and decides.

Teaching Points

Coaches should emphasize that each base is independant of each other. Just 'cause the runner from first goes to second doesn't mean the runner on second has to go.

Coaches should also emphasize good secondary lead technique. It also helps if you have at least two catchers. You don't want one catcher getting tired and picking up bad or lazy habits.

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