Base Running Basics
When you start off learning youth baseball life is simple. Base running basics are keeping your foot on the base until the ball passes home plate (when the catcher catches it). There really is no measurable difference from a human perspective. Coaches at the T-ball level are going to focus on teaching the players to stay on the base until the ball is hit.
At some level, after that, you will introduce stealing. Until the age of 10 there is little chance of throwing out a runner stealing. Some advanced players may be able to throw runners out before then. The concept of delivering an accurate pitch, the catcher receiving the pitch and making a good transfer followed by an accurate throw, then a fielder catching that throw and making a tag in the amount of time it takes for a base runner to get from one base to the next is almost unfathomable. Most kids probably stole two bases in the time it took me to type that sentence out. Later in life, AAU and other advanced leagues, you will introduce “Leading” or leaving the base while the pitcher still has the ball. When you are looking for some real entertainment go watch a coach coaching his first game at that level. Kids are afraid of leading.
My theory on base running is simple
Teach your players what they are going to need to know. Remember winning and losing will take care of itself. Your job as a coach is to teach kids how to be good baseball players and better people. We have all watched a baseball game at the youth level where the merry-go-round is happening. Most leagues have installed rules to try to prevent it.
If you haven’t seen this it is probably because this is your first go around with youth baseball. In case you don’t know what I am referring to it goes like this. The ball is hit by a batter or worse ball four goes past the catcher. The batter/base runner hustles down to first and then continues to second when the ball gets overthrown by the fielder or while the catcher is walking back to retrieve the ball. Then the ball gets thrown to second base where it is missed again. The runner then continues to third base. Again the ball is thrown away and the runner runs home and scores. Most of the time all of this is done without the benefit of a hit being scored because the batter either walked or the fielder made an error on the initial ball that was put in play. The net result, run scored one team feels great and the other team feels terrible, nobody learned anything and 90% of baseball never happens because the game turned into a county fair.
A lot of this could have been prevented by GOOD COACHING
Most fields have fences around them to keep the ball in play. If the other team’s players are retrieving the ball and all they need to do to record an out is play catch successfully don’t let your runner go to the next base. So in other words, unless they are not going to need to slide to reach the next base safely make them wait for their teammates to move them around the bases. Teach them what they will need to know. Someday the players on the other team will be able to play catch. If your player doesn’t learn when they should run and when they should stay. When the other players catch up your players will get thrown out a lot.
So keep it simple:
- Always teach players to face home plate. (The baseball is the most dangerous thing on the field keep an eye on it.) Left foot on the base both feet facing toward home plate. Hands off their knees keep them loose. This is the position they will be in when they do start leading if they have been doing it since they were 5 years old it will be one less thing they need to learn when leading comes along. Kids hate leading!
- Make sure you have competent vocal base coaches. Teach your kids to go when the coach says go and stay when the coach says stay. GOOD COACHING can prevent the merry-go-round.
- Sliding practice is fun. Most kids love to get dirty. Make sure you discuss the fact that sliding is a part of the game ( More injuries occur when a player didn’t slide and should have than players who slide when they shouldn’t have). Therefore sliding practice will happen at most practices. Dress accordingly. Shorts and baseball really don’t mix. Baseball pants are not that hot. Sports apparel companies stopped making them out of wool a long time ago.
- Outside foot on the inside corner. When rounding the bases you want to teach your players that whenever possible they should touch the inside corner of the base with their right foot. Make sure to tell them not to step on the top of the base. That is dangerous. A lot of injuries occur from this type of base running.
That is all you really need to know for now about base running. We will get into more details in future posts if you have any questions post them. I will answer anything.
P.S. This is a good resource to get information about base running.