Monday, March 01, 2010

Baserunning: Committing to it Everyday

Special Note***Was not able to post the diagrams for this article.  Please email me at for them if you are interested.  Sorry for the trouble. 

Baserunning is the most under practiced part of the game. It is kind of like special teams in football. Taken for granted, many coaches do not want to waste valuable practice time on things outside of offense or defense. The only time they really stand out is when something goes wrong. It is only then that coaches realize how important baserunning really is to the game.

Warming up athletes to start practice is an every day activity in high school sports. Usually coaches spend between 10-15 minutes on it each practice. The time may be spent constructively or not depending on the level of planning a coach puts into it. Some coach use the time to let players relax and ease into practice. Other coaches have the opposite approach.

I have found that using baserunnering as a warm-up kills two birds with one stone. First, it allows players to use a dynamic lower body warm up in a functional way. It stops the static stretching and meaningless form running. Secondly, done over time, it allows players the ability to increase their comfort level on the base paths.

Below are descriptions and diagrams of three baserunnering circuits my teams have used to warm up. Generally to start, the team will take two home run laps around the bases. Circling the bases, players jog at a 50% exertion level making sure each bag is touched. As players progress into the stages their exertion level should move to 75% finally reaching maximum effort.

There are several reasons to practice baserunner daily:

1.   Practicing transitions: During a play, there are several transitions players must make running the bases. First, they must get out of the batter’s box quickly. Secondly, they must accelerate through first base or use the proper footwork to align with second. From there, they must execute an aggressive rounding or running straight through. That is just on a single. With extra base hits there is even more to practice.

2.   Shortening the angles: Kids always find the easiest way; no matter what subject is being talked about. If they do something long enough, they seem to find a way to gain advantages. Baserunning is no different. As players practice, they should improve their ability to get from base to base. They will find a way to quicken their time from home to second or second to home. Their footwork on each base should improve helping them to create better angles. These angles help singles get stretched into doubles; something every coach loves to see.

3.   Body absorbing pressure and tension: In each of the stages, sliding is incorporated into the drill. Sliding is an activity rarely practiced by players. It is a dirty activity that does put a lot of stress and tension on the body. What a great activity for practice? Getting players use to that kind of shock to the body should eliminate all the small injuries players may acquire during the game.

Stage #1

The triangles at the plate represent two single file lines. After performing a swing, the inside group is running through the base, while the outside group takes a banana turn towards second base. Since it is the first stage, players are allowed to use several of their turns working up to full speed. Players are encouraged to perform longer strides, higher knee raises, and elevated heel action during their first few runs.

After being fully warmed up, players are expected to work on the below skills. Coaches are stationed on the first base line communicating to the outside runner on making a hard turn or taking second base.

Inside Group

Fluid transition from swing

Eyes up and arm relaxed

Accelerating through the base

Quick look to the right for overthrow

Outside Group

Fluid transition from swing

Eyes up and arms relaxed

Agile footwork in banana turn

No slow down when foot hits the bag

Stage #2

The triangles represent two groups again. On the mound, the coach serves as the pitcher. He gets into the set position. He will either perform a simulated pick off or throw to the plate. Baserunners work on reading his feet to produce the best possible jump.

The group at second base performs two shuffle steps, then breaking for third. They should practice both types of slides: head first or pop up. The first base group should be performing straight steals of second base. On the steal, players should practice a hook slide trying to avoid an infielder’s tag. The following skills are needed by both groups:

Second Base Group

Pre-Pitch Foot Movement

Eyes locked on pitcher

Accelerating through the base

Quick look to the right for overthrow

First Base Group

Adequate lead off

Eyes locked on pitcher

Aggressive right elbow throw

Quick crossover step

Stage #3

The triangles represent two groups just like in drills #1 and #2. In the third base box, the coach communicates for the runner to “tag up”. Once to the base, the runner should wait for the coach to say “GO!” At that, players race home accelerating through the plate.

The runner at first should advance to third base. When going into the base, players should practice a pop-up slide. Both baserunning groups should work on getting the best possible jump. The group at third base performs a tag up before racing to the plate. On the other side, the first base group runs out a simulated single to the outfield. Each group is required to slide into the advancing base. The following are skills needed by both groups:

Third Base Group

Pre-pitch walking lead

Eyes locked on pitcher

Agile move back to bag for tag

Strong push off third base toward plate

Acceleration through home

First Base Group

Swift first step

Seamless transition across second base

Fluid slide into third base

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