Many Youth Baseball Coaches often overlook base running. The coaches are usually busy enough trying to keep kids focused during practice. Smart base running by all your players regardless of speed or talent will help make your team a winner. This article is an advanced article on stealing bases. Be sure to read it, even if you players are not stealing bases yet. Keep it filed away with your notes, this is very good stuff. A good base running team puts the other team on notice right away; we came here to play!
Stealing Second Base
Too many kids are picked off because they are looking at their coach give signals while standing off of the bag. The Cardinal rule as a base runner when not on the bag is Keep your eye on the ball. Instruct your runners to get signs from the coaches with their foot on the bag, always!
Your players should always watch the pitcher when taking a lead. Why? Because they have the ball. Coaches have taught that your lead should be a body length and a step and this became the standard. Now this is a good reference point, but there are plenty of kids out there who have never ventured beyond this point! Do this with all your base runners, go with the body length and a step, wait for a pick-off attempt, and evaluate your lead. Encourage your slower players to try this in practice or scrimmages to show them they can steal bases too. You may have to tweak their lead length, but keep pushing them to get as big of a lead as their talent allows. Some pitchers have quick moves, while others are rather slow. Good base running teams take advantage of every opportunity. Show your players how to begin watching pitchers right away to find out their tendencies.
Keep your players taking shuffle steps when leading off at 1st base Your more advanced, faster players can employ a cross over step with left foot behind the right, then 2 shuffle steps. The player should take their lead at the front edge of the bag. In other words, the runner should be as close to the pitcher as possible while still being even with the base. Pitchers who aren't concerned about the base runner will soon find the base runner no longer on first base! This will give the perception to the pitcher that your runner is closer to bag that they really are. Try it it works! Good base running techniques also train your pitchers what to look for when they are on the mound.
Getting a good jump is absolutely the most important aspect of stealing a base. If a player does not get a good jump, they will be out most of the time. Players who are aggressive with their jumps will have far more success. When you give the steal sign, too many youth base ball players think they have to go on the next pitch. Tell your players to steal only if they get a good jump. Here are several options to getting a good jump no matter what your player's speed or talent level.
For right-handed pitchers only, focus on their feet.
This is a basic technique used in stealing second base. Pitchers have three options once they are in the set position. They can pitch, pick, or step off. When the pitcher delivers to the plate, the first part to move will be the left heel. When a pitcher is not going home with the ball, the first part to move will be his right heel. A well-coached base runner is able to focus on both feet. They must learn to react instantly. Left foot go, right foot back. Good pitchers will have ways to disguise this. So start studying your opposing pitcher from the 1st pitch.
Look at the front shoulder.
Another basic tactic to show your players is to watch the front shoulder. When a pitcher delivers to the plate, the front shoulder will “close" towards third base. If they are not going home, it will open towards first. Well-coached youth baseball pitchers will have tricks to disguise this.
Possible pitcher tendencies to look for.
The tendencies listed below, as well as numerous others, are things a youth base runner should look for. Remember to tell your players that well-coached runners does not have to wait until they are on base to pick up on tendencies. Good base runners study the pitcher as soon as there is a base runner. That is your job as a youth baseball coach, to keep your players focused. This technique is for the aggressive style coach and player; not everyone will be able to use it.
Most youth baseball pitchers will be prone to some of the following.
- May take a deep breath before delivering to plate.
- They only try to pick when set
- They only throw to base as they come down to set.
- Pitcher always goes to base on a certain time count.
- They only try to pick one time.
- They will not throw over after being set for more 1 or 2 seconds.
- Only throws over on way up to the set position.
Here is a method can be used at all levels of youth baseball that allow stealing. Timing the pitcher. It is directly tied to pitcher habits. Say your coach's notice that a pitcher will come set for the same amount of time on every pitch. Relay that information to your runner. A well-coached, focused youth baseball player is ready to use this. Hopefully your base runner is storing this information from the dugout. Will your runners get thrown out sometimes? Of course they will. Your players will not improve if they are not taking risks and trying to reach the next level. This method used properly, will be successful far more than not. It must be practiced a lot however. Use it at scrimmages to polish it.
Have a sign that allows coaches to relay timing information to runners such as tapping the brim of the cap 2 times to signify pitcher has a two second delay at set position. Coaches can touch their shoulder to alert runner to watch shoulder of pitcher. Be creative and have fun with it.
How to get back to the base.
When the runner has the stealing on their agenda, the base runner should always be “diving" back to the bag. If your runner can get back standing up, then the lead was not big enough. The dive back is a simple crossover and a headfirst slide to the bag. It important to note that when going back to the bag, the runner isn't actually diving. The goal is to get as low as possible as soon as possible to avoid the tag. Instruct your players to stay low and not launch themselves up into the air as they get back. This only gives the defense a better target to tag them out with. As soon as the runner gets back, they should get up right away, walking up the bag, that is, not breaking contact with the base. Some pitchers are taught to get the ball and quick pitch if your runner lies on the ground too long. Furthermore, they should always be looking for an overthrown ball.
When your runner is not “diving" back to the bag, their movement should be a crossover, followed by a step to the left side of the bag. The runner should continue their momentum and open the shoulder out towards the right field foul line. Always be on the look out for an overthrown ball.
Here is an advanced base-running tip for your heads up players who really want to make something happen. Oftentimes, a pitcher will make a lazy lob pick to first base. When your smart, well-coached base runner realizes that the pitcher is making this sort of pick, teach your base runner go straight to the bag, in front of the first baseman and pop up tall to obstruct the 1st baseman's vision and create an overthrow. Your runner should use a cross over step so they have their back to the pitcher to protect their face, and make it far easier to see an over throw.
Get your youth baseball team moving on the bases with these tips. This good way to jump-starts your offense and gets some excitement going for your players. You might get thrown out once in awhile, don't let slow you down. If you practice, and plan your running game using some of these tips, your youth baseball team can't help but get better. Thanks for your time. Coach Chip
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