Shortstop is one of the most difficult positions to learn and play at the Little League level. There is a lot of decision-making at the position not to mention the fact that a shortstop needs a great deal of range to be able to cover the assigned area properly. Let’s take a look at some Little League Coaching Tips for Situational Responsibilities of the Shortstop.

#1 Runner on First

With a runner on first base, the shortstop will usually throw over to second to force the runner for the out. If the shortstop bobbles the ball then they may have to throw over to first for the out. If the ball is hit to the right side (second baseman or first baseman) then the shortstop will have to slide over to cover second for an attempted play there.

#2 Runners on First & Second

With two outs and runners on first and second, the shortstop can throw to third or second to record the final out. The easiest play is usually to second unless the ball is hit to the shortstops right in the “hole” which would then make the easiest play to third base. The shortstop will usually not throw over to first base in this situation (a rushed throw to first could allow the runner from second to score). With one out, the shortstop could choose to force out the lead runner at third or begin a double play by throwing over to second. However, poor execution of the double play could allow the runner from second to score. With no outs, the shortstop should force out the lead runner at third. Attempting a double play in this situation is probably too risky. *A ball hit up the middle that the shortstop can field will make the proper play at second which could turn into a double play. If the ball is hit to the right side of the field then the shortstop will have to slide over to second for an attempted play there.

#3 Runners on First & Third

With two outs and runners on first and third, the shortstop will want to throw over to second for the final out. With one out, the shortstop will want to start a double play by throwing over to second base. With no outs, the shortstop should look back the runner on third before throwing over to second for the force out. The look back will probably eliminate the chance of a double play. The shortstop can also choose to try to trick the runner on third with a fake throw to second base. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner from third base then the shortstop can throw over to third base for the pick off or to start a run down. *A ball hit up the middle that the shortstop can field will make the proper play at second which could turn into a double play. If the ball is hit to the right side of the field then the shortstop will have to slide over to second for an attempted play there.If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the shortstop may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring.

#4 Runners on Second & Third

With two outs and runners on second and third base, the shortstop will want to ignore the runners and simply throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the shortstop can look back the runner on third base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first base. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off third base then the shortstop can throw over to third for the pick off or the start of a rundown. The shortstop will all but ignore the runner on second base unless the shortstop has a chance to tag the runner quickly possibly due to a base running error.If the ball is hit to the right side of the field then the shortstop still might have to slide over to second for an attempted tag play there (runner attempting to return to second base due to a possible base running error).
If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the shortstop may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring.

#5 Runner on Second

With two outs and a runner on second, the shortstop will want to ignore the runner and simply throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the shortstop can look back the runner on second base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off second base then the shortstop can throw over to second(second baseman covering) for the pick off or to start a rundown. If the ball is hit to the right side of the field then the shortstop still might have to slide over to second for an attempted tag play there (runner attempting to return to second base due to a possible base running error).

#6 Runner on Third

With two outs and a runner on third base, the shortstop will want to ignore the runners and simply throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the shortstop can look back the runner on third base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off third base then the shortstop can throw over to third for the pick off or the start of a rundown. If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the shortstop may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring.

#7 Bases Loaded

With two outs and bases loaded, the shortstop should be playing at regular depth and can force the runner out at second or third for the final out. With one out, the shortstop can play at regular depth and play for an inning-ending double play. At the Little League level, this is a risky play if the intent is to prevent the run from scoring. The other option with one out is for the shortstop to play in on the infield grass with the play being at the plate. With no outs, the shortstop has to play in on the grass and the play is at the plate. If the ball is hit to the right side of the field then the shortstop will have to slide over to second for an attempted play there.

#8 Hits to the Outfield- Cutoff’s

The shortstop will be the cutoff man on balls hit from left field over to center field. The shortstop will cover second base on balls hit from right field over to right center.

#9 Base Stealing Attempts at Second & Balls Hit Back at the Pitcher

The shortstop will cover second base when a runner on first attempts to steal second. The shortstop will also cover second in a force out situation when balls are hit back at the pitcher.

#10 Pop Up on the Pitcher’s Mound & Behind Third Base

The shortstop must be ready to make a play on a pop-up near the pitcher’s mound. In MLB, pitchers rarely call for the pop-up and usually allow one of the infielders to take it for them. This is because most pitchers are not great fielders. At the Little League level, a team’s best athletes might be the pitchers( who also play other positions). However, the shortstop should still be prepared to take a pop-up near the pitcher’s mound just in case. A pop behind the third baseman is actually the shortstop’s ball if they call for it and they should most of the time. The reason is that the shortstop will actually have a better angle on most pop ups behind the third base bag.

#11 Holding Runner’s at 2nd Base

This is a key skill at shortstop and involves the pitchers attention as well. The shortstop should try and be in position at the time of the pitcher throwing the ball to home plate. That’s going to require communication from the pitcher and possibly 2nd baseman too. All of our jobs as defender’s is to not allow this runner at 2nd to make it to 3rd base. Make noise w/ your glove, talk to your pitcher and make sure he’s not throwing to the batter before you are able to get back into your position and get ready for a ball in play. Here’s a video that dives deeper into the process of holding the runner on.

Conclusion

The shortstop will have quite a few responsibilities on the baseball field that require some thought. When teaching situational responsibilities at the Little League level, it is important to start with a foundation of basics and then build on those basic concepts. It is also especially important with a position like shortstop(which is complicated for a young player) that fundamentals of the position like situational positioning(knowing where to be and when), applying tags, receiving throws(good and bad throws) and throwing to bases from different spots on the field are worked into every practice. The best way to teach a challenging position is to drill the fundamentals at every practice and then challenge the player beyond the basics (like practicing fielding balls in the “hole” with bases loaded).

Learn More

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Infield Basics and Fundamentals

Advanced Infield Skills For Team Defense

Infield Defensive Strategy and Player Positioning

Defensive Situational Responsibilities By Baseball Positions

Essential Equipment for Your Baseball Player

 

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