Teaching Youth Baseball Players to Run the Bases
Most parents and coaches have witnessed some ridiculous baserunning blunders from young ballplayers. Kids forget to drop the bat, they run down the third base line, and some forget to run at all. While baserunning confusion can be expected from the youngest of players, it becomes a more serious strategic part of the game as the competition gets stiffer.
Baserunning is an often overlooked baseball fundamental (link). Today, we will review the fundamentals of baserunning, the rules of baserunning, how to get young players into great physical shape, and how base coaches can help their players navigate the paths.
Understanding the Rules of Baserunning
Baserunning is actually fairly complex when taking all of the potential scenarios into account. For simplicity’s sake, let’s ignore issues like the infield fly rule, sacrifice bunts, and so forth and focus on the basic rules. All young players should strive to understand the following:
Force rule - Runners may be “forced” to advance a base when the ball is hit. Baserunners are only forced if they need to vacate their base to make room for another baserunner AND the ball is not caught in the air by a fielder.
Getting back to the base - In the event of a caught ball (fly ball or line drive caught in the air) all baserunners must return to their starting position. The defense may throw the runner out by beating the player back to their original base.
Never pass on the base paths - At the youth level, this is a genuine concern. Players must keep an eye out for any baserunners ahead of them which may halt their progress. Two baserunners may not simultaneously occupy the same base, nor may a trailing player ever pass a player ahead of them.
These are extremely high level explanations. For more detailed information, try leafing through the official MLB rulebook.
Baserunning Fundamentals in Youth Baseball
Much like the previous section, there is no way to adequately cover the many fundamentals of baserunning in a short article. Instead of trying to cover it all, we will key in on some teachable fundamentals which can be taught at any age.
Run through first base on an infield hit. When runners are trying to beat out a throw, they should be taught to run in foul territory in a straight line through first base. If they turn into fair territory at any time, they may be thrown or tagged out.
Make a “banana turn” on an outfield hit. If a player hits a ball which could potentially be extra bases, they should take a sweeping “banana turn” in foul territory at first base to make the angle easier towards second.
Take leads and secondary leads. After every pitch, each baserunner should take a few steps towards the next base, see if the ball is hit or gets past the catcher, then return safely if not.
Work with base coaches on the field. Above all else, youth baseball players should look and listen out for base coaches to direct them where to go during the game.
Conditioning Work for Speed and Endurance
The rules of baserunning are all well and good, but they won’t help your team win if your young players can’t run. Conditioning work for youth baseball is often not a high priority. We do recommend some sprint and long distance work for athletes of all ages to keep them physically fit and able to round ‘em all should the occasion arise.
The best way to condition for bases is probably to have your kids run the bases. This can be done by setting aside dedicated baserunning time or ensuring that other drills encompass plenty of running. A simple idea is to have players run all the way around the basepaths at the end of every round of batting practice.
Youth Baseball Base Coaches
Earlier, we touched on the importance of baserunners communicating with base coaches. So how can base coaches prepare themselves for game time situations?
Establish hand signals and verbal cues. Common hand signals include: two hands up means stop, windmill means run hard, and pointing at the bag means players should slide.
Have base coaches practice working with the youth athletes during practice. Mimic real game scenarios to get some reps in and work on communication.
Base coaches should also familiarize themselves with the speed and baserunning abilities of their baseball players.
Talking before the pitch is often more effective than trying to communicate once a ball has been put into play.
Last but not least, all coaches should understand the rules of the game and pass that information along to their players.
Improve Your Baserunning Acumen with Hustle Training
Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.