Good Baserunning Begins With the Basics

Good Baserunning Begins With the Basics

There’s a lot more to burning up the basepaths than simply having sublime speed. And while the fleetness of foot so many players yearn for definitely helps with beating out grounders and stealing bases, things like anticipation, proper technique, and swift first steps also play a part in the ability to cover 90 feet fast.

For professional athletes -- in this case, Major League baserunners -- perception is often reality. Simply being known as a guy who’s quick, opportunistic, and always hustling can unsettle opposing pitchers and take fielders out of their comfort zones, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make mistakes.

One way to become a baserunner with a reputation is to master the fundamentals and put them on display in every game you play. This includes things that may seem second nature, such as running hard on every batted ball, rounding first on the ones hit past the infield, and maximizing lead offs from first, second, and third.

Consistency is Crucial
Even your average Little Leaguer knows that these are essential aspects of good baserunning, but it doesn’t mean high school, college, and even Major Leaguers don’t need an occasional reminder: that running the bases is as much about effort and awareness as it is about natural ability and skill.

The latter is easy to bring to the ballpark every day: Randy Johnson never got shorter between games and Mike Trout will never forget the importance of patience at the plate. But players do occasionally forget about the former, experiencing lapses in concentration and waning work ethics.

So let’s take a look at a few of the things that baserunners should never forget, to help them take extra bases and put pressure on opposing defenses.

Bursting from the Box
For both lefties and righties, getting out of the batter’s box fast involves shifting from a somewhat contorted post-swing position to one that aligns you with first base and puts you in place to sprint. This requires a “driving” first step, which can be developed through resistance sprint drills and by simply remembering that it’s a critical part of your at-bat routine.

Flying Past First
Whether a slow infield roller or a lazy pop fly to centerfield, you should run hard to first on every ball in play. And don’t slow down as you’re nearing the bag either, because you never know what might happen. This applies to home plate as well, especially with two outs, as a batter who’s thrown out stretching a single before you touch home means your run won’t count.

Taking Turns
There’s a right way and a wrong way to round first base, and the right way demands a bit of multitasking. Hitters become runners once they start that first driving step out of the box, and they become sprinters once they know the ball is headed to the outfield. At that point, their path should stray into foul territory so they can shoot past first base when visions of doubles appear.

Catching Sight of Coach
Turning doubles into triples or cruising from 1st to 3rd on base hits often calls for a bit of help. Third base coaches are a runner’s eyes as they chug and churn around second, so one thing baseball’s youth must develop is a habit of finding those extra eyes. This could be while rounding first, or while heading into third -- will you be coasting in or sliding hard?

Overall Awareness
Besides picking up signals from third to help you take the extra base, being aggressive successfully is possible only if you’re aware of everything going on while the ball’s in play.

This includes reading the trajectory of balls hit into the air so you know whether to run, and whether you’ll be able to score from second; knowing when to “take one for the team” and slide hard to break up a potential double play; concentrating on every pitch so you can move up when balls squirt away from the catcher; and realizing where the defense is set up so you don’t have to glance back at outfielders to know what’s happening behind you.

Some of these base running tips may seem self-evident, but the truth is that they become habit through repetition and hard work. And that’s what Rick Strickland Baseball’s elite training is all about: helping young players acquire basic baseball skills and giving them the opportunity to truly hone them. Give us a call today!

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