This is an excerpt from Youth Baseball Drills by Peter Caliendo.
Baserunning is a fundamental of the game that incorporates many facets that players can work on no matter what their running speed. Coaches of young players often do not work with their teams on this part of the game. Running the bases is an art. If coaches teach baserunning correctly, they will increase the ability of their players to steal bases and take extra bases. Fast base runners force fielders to throw to another base because the runner got there quicker than the fielder expected. In the field, faster players are able to get to and catch more balls. Before working on baserunning, coaches need to teach young players how to run properly and have them run every day to get faster. Speed and agility training is an important part of helping young players develop their athleticism. After a young player has developed his athleticism, all the facets of baserunning become a lot easier. Most of the time players cannot develop athleticism by playing baseball. This should be a priority when it comes to helping young players run the bases better.
To work on running and running the bases, your warm-ups in practice and before games need to be organized around running. Running needs to become a habit for young players. You can begin and end practices with fun running drills and games. Keep in mind that you always want to end practices with a competitive and fun activity because the last thing they do is what they remember. You want them remembering that practice was fun so that they learn faster.
Coaches should talk to track coaches to learn the proper running techniques so that they can help their players run better. Track coaches can teach the techniques and drills that allow players to perfect their running.
A few things need to be taught to help with all facets of baserunning. First is the ability to move quickly from one spot to another. This art is used in baseball and in many other sports. It begins with the hip turn, pushing off one foot and going. This turn will help runners and fielders. In this technique, players turn their hips as quickly as possible, keep the feet low to the ground, and turn on the angle that they need to run. The hip turn helps them move their feet faster. As they turn their hips and their feet touch the ground, they push off with the back foot. This turn can be practiced in warm-up drills, as we explain in the following drills.
56. Baserunning Game
You can use this drill at the end of practice for a fun game. Work on baserunning and make it a natural instinct. Plus it is competitive and fun for the players.
- Six cones or plastic milk cartons with water in them
Divide players equally into two teams. Make it fair by having the same amount of speed on each team. When you give them the order, mix them up. Don’t place all the fast players first. Place half the team at home plate and the other at second base. Place a cone before and after each base. When the runners run around the bases, they go around the first cone and inside the second cone. This will help them understand how the bases are run.
- On the whistle, the first runner at each base begins to run around the bases until he gets all the way back to the base where he started. When he touches that base, the next runner goes.
- The team to get around the bases first is the winner. You can play best of three or five, however you like. Winners get two baseball cards and the losers one.
- Make sure they run the bases correctly. If incorrect, send the runner back.
- Also, make this the end-of-practice drill because players will be warmed up.
62. First to Third
This drill teaches players to be aggressive on their secondary lead, get a good jump, read where the ball is, and continue to third. As described earlier if an outfielder has to move to the right or left more than one step, the runner continues to third base. He will not be able to advance to third if he does not get a good secondary lead and is not moving as the ball enters the hitting area.
- Three bases
Number of Players
6 to 12
Place players at catcher, pitcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, and in each outfield position. Place a hitter at home plate with a helmet, tracking the pitches. Have a runner on first base, a pitcher on the mound who delivers the ball to the catcher, and a runner at first.
- The pitcher keeps the runner close to the base. He can go home or pick to first.
- If the pitcher goes home, the runner on first takes his secondary lead.
- As the ball crosses the hitting zone, a coach hits the ball to the outfield.
- The runner decides whether to go to third or not.
- The defensive players work as they do in a real game.
- Sliding, tags, and relays all occur as they do in a game.
- The batter - runner stays at first. The runner on first who went to second or third goes in to hit. Players keep rotating.
- Watch how the defense reacts.
- Watch to see how the runners react.
- If they do something incorrectly, you might want to repeat the play so that they feel the right way to do it.
- A common mistake is not running full speed all the way until the outfielder fields the ball cleanly and has the ball in his throwing hand. Most runners stop, assuming that the outfielder will field the ball or that the transfer to the throwing hand is easy. Fear stops most runners from being aggressive, so they must be encouraged in practice to take chances.
From this, you can let the hitter run as if he hit the ball. You go to the next phase of the situation, which is holding the runner at first if the runner gets to third or holding the runners at second and first. This becomes a baserunning drill as well as a defensive drill.
Learn more about Youth Baseball Drills.