Here is a fun and competitive full team drill that is excellent for teaching aggressive base running, which does not come naturally to young players. There is no better drill to teach your players to round the bases, which puts them in position to take an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. This is also great drill to finish a practice - your players won’t be able to wait for next time! Best of all this drill works even on those early spring days when the infield is too soft for a scrimmage. I will even do this inside on a gym floor during winter conditioning or when rain prevents outdoor practice.
In the outfield grass, throw down four heavy rubber bases 30 feet apart in a square, and designate a base as home plate. Split up into evenly matched teams of four. Team 1 puts defensive players with a glove at each base. Team 2 puts offensive base runners WITH HELMETS at first, second, and third base. Team 3 puts players with gloves well behind each base to back up passed balls. Place base coaches in their boxes at first and third (a good spot for the extra player from Team 2), while an adult coach serves as umpire calling safe and out as each play occurs. Any additional players or coaches should grab a glove and help backup a base. CRITICAL: DO THIS DRILL ONLY WITH A SAFE-T-SOFT (RIF 1) BALL to reduce the chance of injury. When setting up indoors, use duct tape to secure the bases to the floor.
The object of the game is for the offense to try to score five runs before the defense gets five outs. Runs are scored by the offense each time the base runner that STARTED AT FIRST BASE crosses home plate (call them the "scoring runner"). Outs are achieved by tagging any runner while off base.
Play is started by tossing the ball to the defensive player at home plate, who must then make a throw to another base once the coach/umpire calls "PLAY BALL". Base runners are allowed to lead off, which is the situation in youth league games any time the ball is in play. Runners are also allowed to run THROUGH first and home. Following an out, the runner is allowed to remain on the closest base to where the out was made. Outs made on the “scoring runner” at home plate do not count as a run.
Backups are not allowed to make outs, only retrieve passed balls and throw to a base. The umpire loudly calls "SAFE" or "OUT" on each play, announcing the score on every time it changes. Coaches and umpires can call "TIME" to instruct or otherwise stop play. Coaches may put a limit on extra bases after an overthrow if the situation calls for it.
When one team wins, rotate – backups become basemen, basemen become runners, and runners become backups. Due to more accurate throws and catches, advanced or teenage teams must allow the offense to score a run for EVERY runner that crosses the plate.
Base runners want to draw the throw by leading off their base as far as possible, while maintaining a balanced athletic position to get back to the base if needed (diving back to a base is legal and encouraged). The base runner furthest from the ball is able to take the biggest lead. The key to the offensive game is for trailing runners to "dare the throw" in order to take the focus off the lead runner so they can advance and score.
Runners must decide to either return to their base or take off on the throw, trying to gain the next base. Runners must SLIDE OR AVOID if there is going to be a play at the base (otherwise by baseball rules they are called out). The base coaches directions are essential as runners heading for a base usually cannot see the ball coming. Base coaches call and signal either "DOWN DOWN DOWN" (if there is to be a play at the base), "ROUND AND LOOK" (if they want the base runner to round the base then look for the ball before advancing), or "GO GO GO" (if they should take the next base without delay).
If there is no throw to the base, runners (especially trailing runners) should round their bases aggressively, taking as big a lead as possible towards the next base and once again trying to draw a throw to the base behind them. Lead runners should be more conservative (since they are closer to scoring) and let the trailing runners sacrifice themselves if necessary in order to trade an out for a run.
Inexperienced runners typically slow down and stay too close to a base they have already gained, so I find it takes constant prodding by the base coach to take an effective lead towards the next base.
There is a lot of sliding in this drill. Sliding is a skill that needs to be taught through repetition as doing it properly (and safely) does not come naturally to most youth players. It pays to have worked specifically on sliding before attempting this drill.
In order to get the upper hand, the defense must remain focused on preventing the lead runner from advancing to home. Smart trailing runners will take large or even huge leads to draw the throw behind them or otherwise distract the defense, allowing the lead runner a good chance to score. Smart defensive players may pretend to be distracted but are ready to throw home when the runner at third breaks.
Basemen must position themselves to make the catch well inside the baselines to avoid obstructing base runners. This can take a lot of reminding as most players seem to act as if their leg is stuck to the base. Both thrower and receiver need to be on the same side of the baseline, creating a “throwing lane”. Advise defensive players if they want the ball thrown to them they must appear ready to catch the ball by having their hands up. Throws must be accurate and catches made, as passed balls result in every base runner taking extra bases while the ball is retrieved. Target basemen can help by squaring themselves to the thrower, in an athletic position that will allow them to get to an offline throw.
Basemen must concentrate on making the catch first, then make the tag on the incoming runner. Show basemen how to straddle the base once they have caught the ball to safely make the tag as the base runner slides in between their legs.
Backups are key in this drill, but must constantly be moving if they are to be in position to successfully back up a missed catch. Most young players underestimate how far back they need to be to field a passed ball. Emphasize that backups can make game saving plays if they are ready, and praise their efforts whenever possible. Being a good backup takes a lot of hustle.
Make sure defensive players know the easiest and most reliable way to freeze a runner in their tracks is to run at them with the ball. Teach players who have a base runner in a rundown to force them back to the previous base, rather than chasing them to the next. Youth players seem to think the more throws the better in a rundown situation, but every exchange increases the risk of a dropped ball. Encourage your players to throw only once or twice if possible. Let them know that forcing a runner back to the previous base is a successful outcome for a rundown play.
This drill takes some repetition for players to figure out, but once they get it your players will ask for this drill again and again. Strategically, aggressive base running gives teams a way to make the most of their on-base opportunities. Runners learn that they can actually put pressure on the defense by forcing them to decide between getting the out or giving up a run. Even if you don't favor aggressive base running for your team, this drill will prepare them to deal with any team that does.
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
February 01, 2010
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