Here's an outstanding baserunning drill that my assistant coach brought to me.
The focus of this drill is to make our runners very aggressive and not be afraid to get dirty! It also gets players practice sliding and diving properly, which will hopefully keep us from injuries and out of court. It also tends to develop players who want to work hard and get dirty.
Runners start at home plate. Take a swing, round first properly taking a wide, aggressive turn and dive back into the first-base bag. Runner gets up quickly, takes an aggressive lead, and takes off to steal second base, sliding into the bag. Next, the runner gets up, takes an aggressive secondary lead and dives back into the bag. He then steals third repeating the slide, getting up and taking an aggressive lead off third.
Be sure that the third base lead is in foul ground, and that the dive back into the bag is coming back on the foul line in line of the catcher's throw. Finally, the runner is to get up and sprint home (no slide at plate). The next runner takes off from home when the previous runner completes his/her dive into first and touches the bag.
I've been ending practices with this drill for many years. It works with either baseball or softball.
The drill allows for every baserunning situation to be executed, allows the coach to check running mechanics and proper turns, and helps build stamina with short bursts. It's much more helpful than having the players continually circle the bases. You will find that the runner scoring from second will often chase the runner tagging from third home, making for a good game-type situation.
Split the team in half and form two lines at home plate, one staggered ahead and inside the other. The coach stands at the pitcher's circle with two bats. When he/she hits the bats together, the lead runners in both lines take off. One runs straight through first base as if she is beating out a groundball, the other makes a turn and continues into second.
You now have runners at first and second and two lines of runners still at home. At the next crack of the bat, the drill continues in the same manner but the runner on second now rounds third and scores while the runner on first takes third. Now every base should be occupied.
It continues again, with the runner on third tagging up and scoring. Two runners will now score each time the bats are hit together. They will then return to the end of the opposite line and the bases will always remain loaded.
The coach can gauge when the team has had enough and end the drill when the last player on line crosses home.
Batting Practice Baserunning
One of my favorite ways to teach and develop great base runners is to incorporate base running into batting practice.
Players should take their actions seriously. They should wear helmets. They must go back to the bag after each pitch to simulate getting the sign and taking a new lead. If they need to, they can skip a couple of "BP" throws to catch their breath and get ready for their next move.
The two players running the bases should make sure to "stagger" themselves so that they will not run up on the next runner. This is a great drill to teach base running savvy, awareness and alertness. It is also a great way to condition. Make sure that each player stretches and warms up before doing this drill.
Another thing you might consider is those young players who need additional base running work may be ran extra during batting practice if they need it. Teach them to be aggressive.
Another great point is to teach them to anticipate the "pitch in the dirt." If they get a "dirt ball read," they should break. They should develop confidence in their own decision-making ability and learn to "trust their eyes."
This can be done easily by dividing your players into groups of four to take batting practice. One player will hit. The next hitter will warm-up on deck.
The 3rd and 4th players will run "circuits" on the bases. These circuits are designated circuits that are listed and attached to the first baseman protection screen. Players will always run after they hit. We normally hit three times with at least 10 swings each.
The circuits are:
Circuit 1 - At first base, fake steal and read the contact to get to second base. Once at second base, get a two-out lead and score on a base hit.
Circuit 2 - At first base, hit & run. Stop at second base. Then take a regular lead and read contact to get to third base. At third base, call for a squeeze by the batter.
Circuit 3 - At first base take a straight steal second base. At second base, fake steal and read contact. At third base, tag and score on a fly ball
Between Home And First
I have used this drill for many years to get my players safe on first base, and find it to be a great tool to teach:
- Running through the base.
- Rounding a base.
- Taging the base with the left foot on the left corner of the bag, and
- Watching and listening to the base coach.
Players line up at home plate. One at a time swing a bat and drop it saftly as if a hit. They then become a runner and runner to first base watching the coach.
If signaled to second they round the turn and go to second. The coach may stop them and have them slide back into first, send them to slide into second or have them overrun. The coach should alternate his calls to keep the players guessing and watching.
Divide the players equally among the four bases. One at a time from each base will be running, with the others waiting their turn. At 'go' from the coach, the four take off. Proper technique is a must and the goal would be to do a certain amount correct consecutively before going on to something else.
Player at the plate: simulates a swing; takes off as if hitting a double and possibly a triple; makes a good turn at first; picks up the third-base coach half way to second; rounds second hard; 'picks up the ball' and returns to second quickly.
Player at first: from a lead, goes from first to third; picks up the third-base coach half way to third; makes a hard turn at third then returns quickly. Player at second: from a lead, goes from seconfd to home; picks up the third-base coach and makes a good turn; runs hard through the plate. Player at third: from a lead, goes back to the bag to tag; takes off for home, rounds it, then takes off for first as if beating out a single. Looks inside toward the first-base dugout as he crosses the bag for possible overthrow.
A big part of our baserunning program is "reading ball in the dirt."
This drill helps the players learn how to read the trajectory of a pitched ball that will bounce in the dirt.
Players are set up at all three bases. They are independent of each other because different bases have different rules for a ball in the dirt. A coach pitches from the rubber and mixes in strikes and balls in the dirt to the catcher. Any time the ball is about to bounce the whole team must yell "DIRT."
This helps you make sure everyone is paying attention. Baserunners on first should automatically go when they know the ball is going to bounce. If they leave after the ball has bounced, they left too late.
Runners on second need to react to the ball in the dirt and then decide if they would be safe. We tell them to read and decide. If the ball kicks away from the catcher they should've gone. If the catcher blocks the ball in front of him the base runners should stay. The runner on third base is similar to the one on second. He takes his lead, gets a good crow hop as the ball nears the plate and reacts to the ball in the dirt. Again, he reads and decides.
Coaches should emphasize that each base is independant of each other. Just because the runner from first goes to second doesn't mean the runner on second has to go. Coaches should also emphasize good secondary lead technique. It also helps if you have at least two catchers. You don't want one catcher getting tired and picking up bad or lazy habits.
The Art Of Catching!