Although it’s an important part of the game and something that all baserunners need to be able to do, sliding technique may be the least practiced skill in baseball. One of the reasons for this may be the threat of injury.
But players should be aware of not only how to slide correctly but of the different types of slides and when they should be used. In this guide, we will cover some different types of slides and also when they should best be used.
Bent Leg or Feet-First Slide
Also referred to as the “figure four” slide, this is clearly the most common slide in baseball and probably the safest. Players using this slide with lead with their dominant leg and tuck the other leg under. They should slide on the side of the calf and hamstring and not the buttocks.
The players using this slide should slide directly into the base without going through it. They should also keep their hands and arms in a safe position when sliding to avoid injury. Players should keep their head up when sliding. The tuck and lead legs should form a figure-four.
Head First Slide
Many players don’t feel comfortable with this slide while others do. It is actually a hands-first slide as opposed to a head first one. Players using this slide will run towards the base at full speed and dive towards the base landing on the palms of the hands first.
Some players will slide headfirst into first base on a close play but there is some debate whether or not this is actually faster than running through the base. Many feel however that a headfirst slide is faster than a feet-first slide since the upper body is already falling forward towards the base.
The pop-up slide is very similar to a standard feet-first slide except that the runner wants to be able to get to their feet quickly to advance on an overthrow and move quickly to the next base. The front part of the base is hit at the same time the base runner is already coming up.
This slide involves the touching of the base later by sliding to the side and past it to avoid being tagged. Many times this is done when the ball arrives just before or at the same time as the runner. The runner will hook the bag with his toes as his body moves away from the bag.
The backdoor slide is used when the ball has beaten you to the bag and the defender is ready to place the tag. Players will execute a standard feet-first slide that angles away from the base. They will then try to reach back with their hand and touch the base and hopefully avoid the tag. Should the defender try to tag your hand rather than the body, try to pull that hand away, roll over and try to tag the bag with your other hand.
Hands-First Slide at Home Plate
Anyone who has watched baseball has seen this slide. The player needs to be aware of the catcher and what side of the plate is most covered. Most catchers will try to block the plate with their body. To execute this slide, the runner heads toward the side of the plate they will slide to and dive far enough away from the catcher and the plate so they can reach the plate with their hand while avoiding the tag.
Those are some of the basic slides that players should be aware of. Practicing is also not easy due to the fear and possibility of injury. One way to practice for youth players is to use a large heavy cardboard box that can be flattened out to make a smooth sliding surface. Put in the outfield grass and have players run towards it from about 60 feet away and slide onto the box.