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Directing the Baserunner
Nothing is more frustrating than to get the runners on base and then take yourself out of the inning by poor base running. As hard as we work on hitting mechanics, pitching mechanics and fielding, sometimes we tend to underestimate the importance of baserunning and the communication between coaches and players that is crucial.
Many times mistakes are caused by runners who attempt to make too many decisions on their own, or are confused by the coach's instructions. After living through some of these frustrations, we decided to implement baserunning drills into our practice conditioning workouts. The results have been immediate and impressive.
When we run our drills, we never use a ball. Hitters either start at home plate or runners are at first base and they must listen to the first base coach. The coach's directions will either be, "get here, get here," which means run on through the base or "round it."
If the coach sends the runner to second base, half way there the runner should pick up our third base coach who will continue the call. The third base coach may say "get down," "round it" or "go three." At third base, once again, the coach will direct the runner. We have eliminated words such as "go" and "no" because they can easily be confused. We prefer words like "score!," "round it, get back, "get down," or "you're up."
On simulated tag up fly balls, we tell the runner when to leave. By having no ball actually in play, the runner must rely on our directions. This drill can be a lot of fun. Coaches should try to use hand signals, along with verbal commands when sending or holding a runner. Circling the arm when sending the runner home works well. Also, when we want a runner to slide, our coach will push down with both hands, even to the point of dropping to the knees.
On-deck hitters also have to get involved by directing the runner at home plate by telling the runner to slide or stand up coming into home. If the players work hard at this drill, it can also be great conditioning. A little imagination with situations that you want to practice can go a long way. Our players have a lot of fun with this drill and it has really helped our communication process between coaches and baserunners.