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Softball Coaching Bible

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NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week: "Sleeper Rabbit"

I first saw the "sleeper rabbit" play as a catcher in college during the early 1980's. It wasn't a new play then. I later found out that it was a ploy used by the daring Ty Cobb on the bases during his career (1900-1920). Here is how the play works.

Baserunners are on second and third. On the pitch, the runner on second base breaks for third as thorugh it were a straight steal, even though the base is occupied. The runner stops three-fourths of the way to third base and begins to retreat back to second base with her own team yelling from the dubout, "Get back! Get back!" This simply aids in selling the play. As the runner retreats back toward second base, the runner at third is slowly inching off the base toward home. Two things will generally happen when the catcher sees this play for the first time:

1) The catcher will attempt to throw out the runner going back to second base. As soon as the ball leaves the catcher's hand, the runner on second breaks for third and the runner on third breaks for home.

2) The catcher will run directly at the runner in beteen second and third base. She is doing exactly what many teach in that situation -- run directly at the runner who is hung up. As the catcher vacates the plate, the runner at third breaks for home behind her.

The play utilizes the element of surprise. It is most effective against a young, inexperienced catcher. But unless defensing the play has been covered in practice, even the veteran catcher is susceptable to making a mistake.

When to you use the play offensively?

*With your team ahead;

*With two outs in an inning;

*When you have a weak hitter at the plate, generally behind in the count 0-2 or 1-2 and you want to steal another run.

How do you defense the play?

Have your catcher throw the ball directly to third base. The runner on third will either get back to the base, get tagged out or end up in a rundown. The runner on second will go back to second base and you will never see the play again from your opponent.

Over the course of a season, you may run the play only a few times, but it could help you win a game. Over the past six seasons, my teams have run the play only nine times, but with a 9-for-9 success rate in scoring the run from third base. Twice, the runs were game-winners.

Even if you don't use the play offensively, you better prepare for it defensively. You never want your team to encounter a situation in a game that you haven't already seen in practice.