It’s amazing how many times we say that “poor baserunning cost us that game.” And, when you think of it, it’s not something that we practice nearly enough compared to its importance in a game. Quite frankly, base running is a neglected practice art.
One of the things that I like to do at an early season practice is to review base running at each base. It’s unbelievable to me that solid baseball players do not know some of the basics of baserunning even at age 15!
Use this as a cheat sheet for training your players on base running.
Running in general is so important, not only in baseball, but in every sport, but how many coaches have taught their players how to run? Get the local track coach or an experienced marathon runner in your area to come talk to the players about running. They will provide your players with great insight into running techniques.
Here are a few that I teach:
- Run with a loose jaw and hands cupped — Never be tight when you run; running tight will slow you down. Think of the Olympic sprinters running and their cheeks flopping about when they sprint.
- Stay low at the start, especially when getting out of the batter’s box. I teach “chop, chop, chop” out of the box.
- Round bases by hitting the base about 1/4 of the way off of the inside corner. Hitting a base on the corner can cause a turned ankle and with only one base ump in youth baseball, the umps may incorrectly say the runner didn’t hit the bag.
- When on the bases, always keep your eyes on the pitcher and don’t ever drop your head.
- On fly balls when you go “halfway,” halfway really means as far off the base as where you can safely get back if the ball is caught.
- When returning to a base, always go head first.
- Some coaches hate the head first slide, but I’m an advocate of it in all cases except when breaking up a double play or sliding into a catcher. It is harder to tag an arm than a much larger leg. And, the aggressive nature of the headfirst slide will give you the benefit of the doubt with youth umps.
- On a figure four slide, have the kids slide while holding eggs in their hands. This teaches them to keep their hands up when sliding and keep the hands cupped and not clenched. The kids love this drill!
- Practice sliding with no shoes on wet grass. No need to risk injury otherwise.