Good base running is NOT just for fast runners. You don’t need to have great speed to be a good base runner. Good base running falls under the category of paying attention to the details and keeping your head in the game, which is why Running is one of the Five Tools of the Game. Games are often won and lost on the base paths either due to players taking advantage of opportunities or making poor judgements. Every ball player (whether baseball or softball) has the responsibility to be a “good” runner rather than strictly a “fast” runner (although speed is also key). When you stand in the batter’s box, you are a hitter with the responsibilities that come with that job. Once you find yourself on base, you become a runner with a new set of responsibilities:
- Speed: Certainly good to have but not the whole package.
- Know yourself: Know your limitations and be aggressive within those limits.
- Good judgement: Pay attention and THINK. Keep foolish mistakes to a minimum. Know the game situation and what your run represents. Don’t be satisfied with just one base, but don’t be too greedy, either. Always think a base ahead.
- Know the details: While on base a runner must be aware of the game-related details; How many outs? Is there a runner ahead? Where are the outfielders positioned? (helps when attempting to take the extra base) How good are the outfielders’ arms? (learned by watching opponent’s pre-game warm-ups) Where are the infielders? (in, back, guarding the line) What is the score? What pitching & pick-off movements does the pitcher have? (helps when leading) Did the coach give a sign? Does the catcher have a cannon arm and are they accurate?
- Practice makes Perfect: PRACTICE your leads, sliding, rounding bases (touching the corners), taking the extra base, hit and runs, stealing, 2 out leads, breaking up a double-play and diving back to bases. Many times these basics are overlooked by youth coaches who are more focused on the fundamentals of simple hitting and fielding.
Don’t underestimate the importance of good base running, it is the foundation upon which many wins are built.