Base Running, Youth Baseball's Tenth Man
Marty Schupak Anyone who saw the 2000 World Series saw one of the worst exhibitions of base running ever.Especially in game one when the New York Mets literally ran themselves out of a rally whichcost them the game, and quite possibly could have changed the whole outcome of the Series.Who could forget when Timo Perez of the Mets was on first base and after the batter hit the balldeep to left, slowed down while running between first and second only to be thrown out at home because the ball ended up being in play?Or how about when Todd Ziele hit a slow grounder to third and didn't run it out because it was infoul territory, only to have the ball kick fair before it reached third. Ziele was thrown out whilealmost standing in the batter's box.Then there was Jay Payton hitting a three foot roller in front of home plate and he thought it wasfoul and stood in the batter's box. The Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada picked it up and tagged outPayton while holding the runner on second. We also saw Mike Piazza being picked off first basein the same game.What can we teach our youth baseball players from this? Base running has always been veryunderrated in baseball. In youth baseball, some coaches (including myself) claim you can get oneto three extra runs per game with aggressive smart base running.One year my team won the league championship and a few months following the season I pickedup my score book and after going through it, discovered that my team had been thrown out athome 13 times during the season in the course of 23 games - probably a record that will never be broken. During the season I didn't realize that we were thrown out this much but we must havescored about 25-30 extra runs by being aggressive and smart on the bases.I've learned over the years that my fastest base runners aren't necessarily the smartest, and theslow base runners can make up for their lack of speed by being smart. But can a team practicesmart base running? Are there drills to help even the slowest base runners?There are and in a one hour practice I always devote ten to fifteen minutes to base running drills.There are numerous base running drills we practice. The first drill we practice is with a man oneither second or third with less than two out and a ground ball is hit to the left side of the infield.We want the runner to advance to the next base when the fielder lets go of the ball. I have acoach play first base and have a shortstop and second baseman. The players (or base runners)line up at second. The coach stands at home plate and hits a ground ball to either the shortstop or third baseman. The runner at second will bounce off the base and once the fielder lets go of the ball on his throw to first, puts his head down and sprints to third. The next base runner at secondand the player who is at third will be the runners on the next ground ball. This a great drill andgoes quick. The player who was at third and goes home, goes back to the end of the line atsecond.