Following are three drills, in three completely different settings, to enhance baserunning skills. The first provides an array of ways to incorporate base running practice during BP. The second gives some baserunning rules for intra-squad games to promote aggressive baserunning. The final drill can be used both indoors or out and challenges base runners’ ability to react intelligently to various situations.
Baserunning During Batting Practice
- Decide how many groups you will have, usually three or four.
- Example: 45-minute BP with three groups at 15 minutes each.
- One group hits, one group plays defense, and one group does baserunning.
- The group that is doing baserunning does 10 minutes wherever you want them to. The BP pitcher throws from the stretch to simulate a game. After 10 minutes, the base runners come in for 5 minutes of soft toss to get ready to hit.
- The guys on defense go to baserunning, and the hitters go to defense.
- Base runners can spend three minutes at each base. They take a five-step reaction on balls put in play.
- During BP, teach going on contact at third base. Have players parallel with the third-base line. They practice reacting to the ball properly. If the ball is hit back to the L-screen, they yell, “Rundown.” If contact is made on ground, players take five hard steps toward home. If no contact is made, players take one hard step into fair territory and look to see where the third baseman is.
- Place a screen halfway down the third-base line to protect your players during the drill.
Mandate that runners go two bases on all singles to the outfield. This directive promotes quick reads and potentially more runs, whereas delayed reads result in only one-base advancement and no runs. The goal is to eliminate hesitation. This approach also helps outfielders because they know that they have to be aggressive on every ball. Hitters have to read the lead runner. They know that a throw is going somewhere every time, so they must run hard out of box to get to second base if the outfielder makes a bad decision.
Aggressive base runners anticipate bad throws from outfielders. They do two things to help them read potential errant throws. First, they read the position of the cutoff man to determine whether he is in the proper place. The runner should know the target to which the outfielder is throwing. He should be able to read whether the ball is going to be offline or will short-hop the infielder on the relay. Second, the runner should read the arc of the ball out of the hand of the outfielder in the first 10 feet (3 m) of the throw. The runner should know exactly where the throw is going: Is it offline? Is it high? Did the outfielder make a bad decision?
Reads and Reactions at First Base
Three runners at a time take their primary leads at first base. The coach faces the runners in the infield to start the drill. The purpose of the drill is to challenge the runners to make quick, intelligent decisions without hesitation. The coach yells, “Skip,” and the runners take their secondary leads, getting out to the 22-foot (6.7 m) secondary lead boundary marked with a cone. The runners then react to the following coach’s hand signals:
Read: One hand above the head is a Texas Leaguer (figure 7.14).
Reaction: The runners go halfway and respond to the coach who says, “Catch” or “Drop.”
Read: Two hands above the head indicates a fly ball (figure 7.15).
Reaction: Runners get off first as far as possible, listening to the coach and returning when he claps his hands to indicate a catch.
Read: A karate-chop motion across the chest back toward first base indicates a head-high line drive behind the runner (figure 7.16).
Reaction: Players run in response to a line drive hit behind them. They have no reason to vault back in this situation because if the first baseman catches the ball the runner is out regardless.