David has enjoyed watching and playing baseball since he was a kid.
Baseball Scoring and Base Running
One of the less glamorous parts of baseball is baserunning; the only part worse is probably defense. For many young players, doing base running exercises is an excruciatingly boring part of any practice.
What some players do not understand is that poor base running can mean the difference between winning and losing a game, literally.
It also amazes me to see professionals make glaring mistakes on the bases. Here are guys making millions of dollars to play a game and something as simple as paying attention to what is going on in the field can be an issue. I recognize that for the most part, professional players are very aware of what is going on and, as base runners, they are looking for any situation that they can take advantage of.
Recently, a younger player has made an impact on the game with his hustle and eagerness to always get to an extra base. Have you heard of this young outfielder named Bryan Harper? Sure, he has ruffled a few feathers but he never gives up and is always looking to get one base closer to scoring.
Some will associate speed with good base runners, but this is not always the case. Sure, speed helps, but a smart and savvy base runner will get a ton accomplished on the bases too. Some examples of smart base running are when a slow catcher steals a base after the defense forgets all about them. Many catchers aren’t blessed with speed (squatting behind the plate during all of those games will zap any excess speed they might have had), so they are not known as threats on the bases. However, the sharp ones will still steal a few every season.
A crucial thing to comprehend for any base runner is how to properly round a base. Rounding the base refers to creating a small arc around the base, which will help you keep more speed and get you going to the next base much quicker than running to the base, stopping, and then proceeding to the next base.
One way that I have always tried to teach this is for a base runner to begin this arc about two-thirds of the way to the base. When first learning to round a base, a few runners will over exaggerate the rounding part and will appear like they are going to the outfield to play defense, but they will get it if they keep practicing. Try to remind them that they only need to take a few steps out of the baseline to start the rounding part and they should be able to see it take shape. For the kids good at math, they will get this exercise pretty quickly. It was weird when I first noticed this tidbit many years ago.
Another tip is to try to get the players to use the inside corner of the bag. It might not seem like much but that extra step can be the difference between making it to the next base safely or not, especially at the higher levels. I always push this detail and also try to get the players to use their right foot on the bag if they can. I don’t want them to slow down or shuffle step just to use their right foot though.
Once you are on base, you should take note of where the defense is playing because you don’t want to try and learn this information after a ball is put into play.
Don’t be afraid to take a good look at where the outfielders are positioned because it could help you get from 1st to 3rd on a hit.
For example, if the outfielders are playing shallow, the ball might need to get into the gaps to give you a good chance to make it to third. On the other hand, outfielders playing deep might give you enough time to make it to third even if the ball is hit right at them. This is exactly why you want to know where they are so you can anticipate what your third base coach might signal you to do.
A small piece of advice, if the ball is hit behind you the odds increase that you can make it to third safely. What this means is if the ball is hit to right field (behind you as you run to second) the success rate to reach third is higher because of the distance the defense needs to throw the ball to try and get you out. If the ball is hit in front of you, to left field, a good outfielder might be able to make the throw by himself to try and get you out at third.
Third Base Coach
Anytime you are on the bases your coaches are another set of eyes for you and they are there to help you with directions on where to go as well as what is going on behind you. This is especially true of the third base coach because more often than not this is where the signs are relayed as well as where you will receive instructions to try and get from 1st to 3rd base.
When players are taught to begin their rounding of second base they should be looking up and seeing what their third base coach is asking them to do. This can be a slight second glance but it is absolutely crucial because that second can mean the difference between making it or being thrown out. A key to doing this successfully is to see your third base coach many steps before you reach the base. If you wait until you get to the base your eyes are not looking to see where you step and you might miss the base completely or even trip over it.
There are drills available that will help players home in their baserunning. Many of the players that I have coached don’t enjoy these drills but they understand the importance of them.
Getting players to understand where, and when, to start rounding a base is a great start to making better base runners. For them to become comfortable it might take a few practices so have some patience. This is probably the simplest thing to get accustomed to doing but can still be awkward to perform during an actual game.
We have always practiced long and short running because the game requires your body to be prepared for both.
For the longer runs, the easiest thing you can do is just run around the entire field, including the outfield. It isn’t a race but a few minutes of doing this every practice will help build up a player's conditioning.
For the shorter sprints, running from home to first is an obvious option. Just have the players lineup behind home plate or the batter’s box. I usually have them simulate a swing and then take off trying to get to first as fast as they can. Since first is the only base you can overrun it makes a perfect pick to let the players practice running as hard and fast as they can.
Remember, speed isn’t all you need to be a good base runner; here is a recap of what you can do to do your best on the bases even if you weren’t blessed with excellent speed:
- Practice your footwork around the bases. Hitting the base on the inside, without breaking your stride or slowing down, is a great way to become a good base runner.
- Go out and do some jogging or running. It isn’t much fun but you will be glad you did when you are still going strong in the late innings of a game and everyone else is exhausted.
- Watch professional games, even highlights work. Watch how that great base stealer gets his lead or how the pros run the bases. You might see them do something that you think might work for you or help you understand what your coach has been telling you.
A perfect example of getting out and jogging to help you build up your endurance is what our high school son did this off-season, he joined the soccer team. This was the first time he played soccer, ever, so at times he looked incredibly lost on the field but the conditioning helped get his legs in the best shape of his life. He occasionally plays on my men's softball team and the last time he did he was running around the bases like he was being chased by a rabid dog.
I was impressed at how fast he has gotten and how efficient his movement was as he advanced around the bases. Naturally, as a coach, I started envisioning how we could implement this in his next season of high school ball. Who knows, he might be able to steal some bases for us this year.
© 2012 David
baseballbrains on October 22, 2014:
Very nice! I was reading this article trying to think of something to add and just ended up being plain impressed. I love how you said not to slow down or stutter step in order to hit the bag with a specific foot. I too like the right foot to hit the inside of the bag, but slowing down to do it has never been worth it in my opinion. Baserunning might be a little boring in practice but scoring from second on a base hit to put your team ahead is awesome!
David (author) from Idaho on December 27, 2012:
Marcy - Glad they are a help because I enjoy putting them together.
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on December 27, 2012:
I've learned quite a bit from your sports hubs - sure to appreciate them! Voted up!
David (author) from Idaho on December 17, 2012:
teaches12345 - Sometimes it is the smallest details that mean the most.
Dianna Mendez on December 13, 2012:
This is art form in sports! I didn't realize there was so much to rounding a base.
David (author) from Idaho on December 12, 2012:
Nettlemere - You would think it would be simple, just go from point A to point B, etc but that is just the start. Hopefully this will help players get better on the base paths. Thanks for commenting.
David (author) from Idaho on December 12, 2012:
BeyondGS - The game contains so many little details that get easily overlooked and base running is one of them. I'm surprised to see players that have been playing for years not know some of the finer details about rounding the bases and keeping their momentum. Thanks for the comment.
David (author) from Idaho on December 12, 2012:
billybuc - Good thought, they seem to be stuck in neutral right now don't they? At least they are almost assured to not be in the cellar in 2013, the AL West gets the Astros.
Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on December 11, 2012:
I'd never have guessed this could be such a crucial part of the game. You've given some nice and clear instruction about it.
BeyondGS from Ohio on December 11, 2012:
Great tips! It's amazing how something like base running can seem easy, but once you break it down it's more involved. Still, it can be simple but so many people ignore or don't understand the simple aspects of being effective. Like you said, even the big leaguers make mistakes but these are good reminders for anyone who plays baseball. Good hub!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 11, 2012:
I wish someone would teach my team, the Seattle Mariners, how to run from 1st to 3rd....might help us score a few more runs. :)