Baseball Coaching Tips for Practicing Rundowns
The rundown is a very difficult play for a baseball team to master. It’s takes a lot of practice and team work for a team to become good at it. Let’s take a look at some tips and drills to practice rundowns.
#1 Handling the Baseball
The way in which the baseball is secured by a fielder during a rundown is extremely important. The baseball needs to be held firmly in the throwing hand and above the shoulder. The reason being is that you want to be prepared to make a quick throw while running with the baseball in the glove increases the risk of dropping the ball due to the running motion. The baseball needs to be held over the shoulder so that it is in clear view for other fielders to see and in a ready to throw position. The player should run with the ball outside the base line allowing for a clear throwing path to his teammate.
Note: Pump fakes risk losing grip on the ball and are not advised in basic rundowns.
A simple drill to practice this concept is lining players up with a baseball. On command, the players can run from one base to the other using the proper technique and where to run. Eliminating the throw, the runner and other players from this drill makes it easy to focus on the proper way to run and throw the ball.
#2 Short Throws & Receiving
The next step in learning the rundown is teaching players to focus on short throws to contain the runner. Players will also have to practice receiving the short throw at a short distance. These skills are tougher than they appear and need to be practiced to perfect.
Place a fielder at second base. Place another fielder at first base with a baseball. On command, the fielder with the baseball runs and makes a short throw to the fielder covering second base. Fielders take turns covering second base and starting with the baseball at first base. Fielders are focusing on proper technique, the short throw and receiving the short throw.
#3 Covering Bases
Now that the fielders have practiced simple rundown fundamentals, they can now move on to what to do after they throw or receive the baseball.
Go Where You Throw!
After throwing the baseball, the fielder is going to simply keep going in the direction they threw the ball. For example, if the fielder throws to second base then that is the base they will go to cover. After receiving the baseball, the fielder will either apply a tag or running after the fleeing runner. It is important after getting rid of the ball to not interfere with the runner or he will be called safe.
Simply have fielders practice the rundown without a runner. It is similar to the previous drill. However, instead of stopping with a throw to second base, the fielder will run back towards first base and make a short throw there. The drill can begin on command and then end on command. Fielders will focus on technique, the short throw, receiving and covering the proper base.
#4 The Runner
The object of a rundown is to first contain the runner to a small area and then record the out. The runner is going to do everything they can to keep the rundown going and eventually reach base safely. Players who have mastered the basics of rundowns can pull a trick from their hat when the need to quickly record an out in a rundown. When a fielder is chasing the runner, they can “pump” the baseball or fake a pump to confuse the runner and get him to run into the tag.
Just use one of the two previous drills but use a live runner. The runner can be instructed to “take it easy” so the focus can be simply on the fundamentals.
#5 Starting a Rundown
Starting a rundown is the most difficult part of a rundown. The best way for a fielder to initiate a rundown is to run at the stuck runner. This will force the runner to run toward a base and shorten the area and hopefully the duration of the rundown.
A rundown may start with two long throws out of necessity. The fielders must attempt to transition from long throws to short throws and pursuit that will contain the runner.
The coach will set up a natural rundown situation. For example, a runner gets too far off first base and the catcher throws down to first. Again, the runner should be instructed to “take it easy” so the fielders can work on fundamentals. The focus will be on transitioning from long throws to short throws. Then the focus will be on the previous rundown fundamentals.
#6 Rundown Drill
Now it’s time to put everything learned together and perform a live rundown drill. The coach can turn it into a fun competition by timing the rundown and keeping count of how many throws it takes to record the out. The fielders can challenge themselves to achieve better times and fewer throws.
#7 Rundown with an Additional Runner
After getting a grasp of the rundown fundamentals, the coach can challenge the fielders further by adding another runner to the mix. In this type of rundown the focus won’t necessarily be on the lead runner. It is usually on the runner who is closest to being put out. However, if a vital run is going to score then the focus would shift.
#8 Rundown with Multiple Runners Drill
The coach will put multiple runners on base. The first few rounds, the runners can take it easy so fielders can get a feel for the rundown involving multiple runners. Then the drill should be run at live speed. The coach can place runners on different bases so fielders can practice the different scenarios.
#9 Rundown After Fielding a Batted Ball Drill
A runner is placed on a base and instructed to get caught in a rundown after the ball is fielded. The coach can make this more challenging by not announcing where the ball will be hit. For example, a runner is placed on third base. The coach hits the ball to the first baseman. The first baseman records the out at first and throws home. A rundown forms between home and third base.
#10 Rundown After a Pickoff Attempt Drill
Similar to the previous drill but a runner will get too far off of a base which will begin a rundown. The pitcher should run at the runner if possible to get the player headed toward a base before deciding to throw the ball.
The rundown can be broken down into smaller steps and drills. Players can learn the rundown one step at a time. This will help build their confidence with each skill that they master. Before they know it, fielders will be performing successful rundowns during their baseball games!