I remember this drill from when I was a wee lad playing in the dusty baseball fields in Iowa. I grew up a huge fan of baseball history, stats and lore, with Ted Williams emerging as one of my all-time favorite hitters.
I was determined to develop a consistent smooth swing, even as a young kid.
So here’s a drill my dad gave me, which really did create a level baseball swing and allowed me to become a solid hitter. The idea was not only to swing a wood bat, but perhaps even swing with all kind of bats. My dad set up a baseball tee so that the seat of an outdoor folding chair was facing it.
The ball was basically sitting nearly even with, or a little bit below, the back of the chair.
I would then take up my batting stance and attempt to hit the ball off the tee. Obviously having any semblance of an upper cut would be futile.
This is one of those drills that help because you get instant reward or failure, depending on your swing. It didn’t take long to eliminate that pesky upper cut and develop a nice smooth even swing.
We’ll tackle another hitting drill soon.
Effective Baserunning in Baseball
Understanding how to hit the ball is the most critical offensive skill in the sport of baseball. Knowing what to do once the ball is hit, however, can be just as important in determining a hitter’s success.
Below are several tips to help young players embrace effective (and, more importantly, safe) baserunning.
While this is not a comprehensive guide to running the bases, the tips and recommendations should serve as a start to understanding the fundamentals.
When the ball is hit in the infield, particularly a ground ball, the runner is taught to run in a straight line sprint to first base, where they can overrun the base (remaining in foul territory once past first base).
Two additional tips that may help:
- The runner should focus on first base, but also pay attention to the first base coach. If a fielding error occurs (e.g., an overthrow on a fielder’s choice at second base) that may allow the runner to potentially advance, the first base coach may signal the runner to round first base versus running straight through.
- A tip that may be helpful to young baserunners is to envision the “finish line” of their sprint 10 feet beyond first base. This will encourage them to run aggressively through first base, and may help them resist the temptation to slide into first on a close play.
It may also keep them from making a long final stride into first base that may result in a turned ankle or other injury, particularly for young runners. The young player should, again, always be reminded to stay in foul territory when overrunning the base, as crossing over into fair territory with both feet puts them in a position to be tagged out by the first baseman.
When the ball is hit into the outfield, the runner is taught to round first base rather than run in a straight-line sprint. This puts the runner in a position to advance to second if the ball creeps deep enough into the outfield or if a fielding error occurs in the outfield.
A few additional tips to keep in mind in this situation:
- The runner should pay attention to first base (as the initial destination), the first base coach (who will signal to advance to second base or “hold up”), and the location of the ball. Being mindful of all three will sharpen a runner’s baserunning instincts, providing a complete understanding of what they should be doing in relation to the location of the ball.
- Once the runner has rounded first base, they should take three to five short but aggressive strides past the base if the first base coach has instructed them to “hold up,” while focusing their eyes squarely on the location of the ball. Rounding first effectively is important, as a few strides past the base and eye contact with the ball and the fielder may encourage the fielder to rush an attempt to get the ball into the infield (leading to a potential error and the opportunity for the runner or any lead runners to advance).
- When running from first base on a ball hit in the infield, there are many factors for the runner to be aware of and several ways to maintain safety while advancing on the basepaths. We will not cover stealing bases in this post, as the rules for allowing base stealing vary across age levels and leagues.
- On ground balls in the infield, the runner should listen to the first base coach while taking off from first and heading for second base. Since the runner cannot overrun second base, he will have to slide if the infield is attempting a play at second. In this case, it’s important to focus on the base and the player covering that base as well as on the location of the ball. The runner now must depend on himself to judge the situation, as they are in the middle of the action and the first and third base coaches are on the periphery.
If there is a play at second, the runner should prepare to slide. The runner should always slide feet-first with their back to the ball to maintain safety. While proper sliding techniques are a separate topic, this is a rule of thumb for runners to keep in mind.
The runner should keep his feet down and, at this level, slide directly at the bag. If there is a play at second and the fielder covering second is attempting a double play, the runner may have to slide, or at least duck, well before they arrive at second. This will allow the player to avoid being hit by the ball as it travels toward the first baseman.
The runner should never slide head-first into second base (or any base at this level of play) to avoid injuries to the head and face, as well as fingers, hands, and arms. (The only acceptable situation for a player at this level to slide head-first is on a pick-off attempt where the player has no momentum from running and must dive back to the base.)
On an infield ball where there is no attempted play at second, the runner should advance to second and stay on his feet, slowing down when close to the base. He should only round the base slightly if the ball is within his sightline (i.e., to the third-base side of second).