Basic Base Running Technique

Basic Base Running Technique

How many plays are decided by one or two steps? The team that runs the bases more efficiently will more often than not be the team that wins. Simplicity is the key throughout all areas of baseball

What you’ll learn

  • Why base running deserves your attention as a coach

    Smart coaches carve out enough time to practice base running with their teams.

  • What aspects of base running you should be focusing on

    There’s things that are really important and things that aren’t. This will help you not waste your time.

  • Taking a proper lead

    A simple way to make sure your players do it correctly every time.

  • How to teach a secondary lead

    Explanation of what a secondary lead is and how to do it properly.

  • Diving back

    How to protect your players by teaching them to dive back properly as well as maximize your primary leads

  • Reading the batted ball

    This gives teams a huge advantage if done correctly

  • Tagging up

    This is one thing that’s constantly done wrong at the youth levels.

  • Rounding the base vs. on the base

    An important section to avoid silly outs on the base paths.

  • Stealing bases

    Tips and tricks to teach your players the most effective ways to steal bags.

  • How often to practice

    Tips and tricks to teach your players the most effective ways to steal bags.

  • Common flaw reference guide

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  • Verbal cues

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Drill Explanation



Why base running is important:
Baserunning is one of the easiest and best ways to ensure your team is not only taking advantage of all mistakes made by the defense but also ensuring that when your players reach base they are not running themselves into additional outs. Even in the major leagues, the majority of mistakes made in baseball are made running the bases. By learning and teaching the basic principles of baserunning you will set your team up for success.

Where to focus:
While running the bases it is imperative that base runners keep their eye on the baseball. There are a few instances where this will not apply however in general, players should always be aware of where the baseball is at all times. The only object which can get you out in baseball, is the baseball. Therefore if players know where the baseball is at all times they will be in the best position to remain safe from unwanted outs on the base path. When giving signs to the baserunners it is important that they know to keep their left foot on the occupied base while receiving signs from the third base coach. Many young players tend to forget this note and will drift off of the bag prior to receiving signs, place their attention on the third base coach and not on the baseball only to be picked off by an attentive pitcher.

Taking your primary lead:
This varies by base but the general footwork is fairly similar. Remember to stress; eyes stay on the baseball even while taking a lead.

First Base: Starting from the back half of the base players should take their lead in a straight line towards second in four steps: Right – Left – Right open up and one Shuffle to replace your feet. This is basically three strides followed by a shuffle. This is your base. From there it is on players comfort and the current situation as to whether or not they should increase or decrease the length of their lead. Starting out it is best to think short and reassess from there. Leads need to be at least one step and a dive away from the base or it will become an awkward distance when diving back into the base. If a player dives back into the base on a pick-off attempt and they are too close to have to reach for the back half of the base then they should increase their lead on the next pitch. Use hand signals to motion a bigger distance to add on to their lead, smaller distance for them to shorten up a lead that is too large.

Second base: The traditional footwork will be the same, however players should add an additional shuffle to their primary lead. Therefore the foot work will be: Right – Left – Right – Shuffle – Shuffle. Due to the fact that the middle infielders will be off of the base we can get a bigger distance on 2’nd and 3’rd base. The third base coach should be communicating with the runner on second base according to the movement and distance of the middle infielders. The best wordage to use in this situation is simply “good” for an additional step and “back one” to take a step back towards the base. “Back – Back – Back!” should be your wordage when a middle infielder cuts to the base for an attempted pick-off.
3’rd base: This lead is a very similar lead however the secondary lead will vary as compared to first and second base. From third, the secondary lead is best to refer to it as a walking lead. The base of this lead will still be a: Right – Left – Right – Shuffle. From there players should add or subtract steps depending on the third baseman’s distance from the base. As a general rule of thumb it is safe to be as far off of the base as the third baseman is. If the fielder takes a step towards the base, the runner follows. If the fielder takes one away from the base, the runner should be safe to do so as well. The last important note from third base is the runner should be sure to be in foul territory (outside of the foul line). This does not need to be a large distance but the player should be in foul territory in case a batted ball comes directly down the line in his direction. In foul territory they should have a good view of the batted ball and be safe from touching the baseball, in fair territory they will be directly in way of a base-hit down the line.

Secondary Lead
The secondary lead is extremely important in generating momentum towards the next base. This is one area where players tend to be lazy and fail to take a solid secondary on every pitch. Continue to stress the importance. A runner starting from a stand still position will take much more time to get to full speed than a player with a solid secondary lead.
From first and second base: when it is clear that the pitcher has committed to home plate, the secondary lead is a simple Shuffle – Shuffle attempting to have the front (right) foot plant on the ground at the same instant that the ball crosses home plate. This timing is crucial and improper timing will result in a worse transfer in momentum as well as make the base runner extremely vulnerable to catcher’s pick-offs and forced outs in the infield.
From third base: This is the lead that we refer to as a walking secondary. The first stride of the secondary will be with the right foot and generally be a Right – Left – Right with the right foot planting down when the ball crosses the plate. Anticipation is key here and if done properly players should have a great jump because their weight will be rolling into home plate. If there is no action they should simply take a step into fair territory and return to the base while aware of the baseball’s location at all times.

Diving Back
Diving back to the base should once again be a pivot and step with the right foot and a dive to the front-back corner of the base. From second base this will be two steps and a dive as stressed earlier.

Reading the Batted Ball
One thing that will help baserunners in reading a ball put into play is simply knowing where fielders are located. It is most important to know the proximity of outfielders so we know when we will have a good chance to take an additional base rather than simply advancing a single base. ie if a right fielder is playing far into the right-center gap, a ball hit softly directly down the right field line should easily be two bases for any base runner. Knowing the outfielders positioning will ensure that a player can take off without any doubt the ball will land safely in the outfield. Much of learning to judge a batted ball is experience reading the trajectory and speed.

Rounding the Base vs. On the Base
When the batted ball is far enough away from the base which the runner is advancing to he will have a small chance to advance one additional base on a bobble or mistake by the fielders. In this situation the base runner should round the base to give them a shorter distance to run and some momentum rolling into the next base if they decide to advance. How far we round the base varies directly by how far the baseball is from the base in question. If the play is fairly close just a step or two around the base will be as aggressive as we would like to be. If the play is far and there is little attention directed towards the runner then sometimes it can go as far as a third of the way to the next base. It is important to be looking to advance without becoming over aggressive and foolish. As a coach the terminology should simply be either “round the base” or “on the bag”. On the bag will be when the play is in close proximity to the runner and there is no sense in trying to advance any further.

Stealing Bases
The most important aspect to calling steals as a third base coach will be knowing your times. Times necessary for this will be the pitcher’s time from leg lift to delivery, the catcher’s pop time and your current baserunners time from their primary lead to the next base. It is important to time all aspects. If you have a general idea of your baserunners time you will easily be able to assess whether or not that player should have a good chance to safely steal the next base. The pitcher’s delivery time should be taken from the instant his front foot leaves the ground into motion until the ball crosses home plate. The catcher’s pop time is the amount of time it takes from the instant the ball touches the catcher’s glove until the instant it touches the fielders glove receiving the throw. ie if our pitcher is a 1.5 to the plate and the catcher is a 2.2 to second base: Pitchers Delivery (1.5) + Catcher’s Pop time (2.2) = 3.7. Therefore if your baserunner is typically under 3.7 from their lead to second then it is a good opportunity to steal the base safely. If however he is more of a 3.8-4.0 to advance then we may be more conservative.

How often to Practice Baserunning
Baserunning is one of the elements of baseball that you really can’t practice enough. We tend to try and incorporate at least one base running drill in practice at least twice a week. Not only will players become more efficient and more comfortable on the base paths from practicing but it will also double as relevant conditioning and running for players. You can also very effectively run situational type drills where you will have a small group of baserunners running during live assimilation. This will help all parties as it is much more productive to field with real baserunning pressure present and it is more productive to learn the baserunning with real time fielders as well. Once again, baserunning is the source of the majority of mistakes made in baseball. All the more reason to incorporate it into practice whenever possible.

Basic Drills:
Running out singles, doubles, triples. Steal jumps/dive backs. First to thirds, incorporate fungo and outfielder. Scoring from second.

The Reasoning