Practicing Rundown Scenarios

By doconnell •  Updated: 08/18/14 •  13 min read

Baseball Coaching Tips for Practicing Rundowns

Rundowns are 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.

Things That Must Happen in a Rundown

1. The baserunner cannot advance to the next base.

While getting an out in a rundown is best, the defense cannot let the runner get to the next base under any circumstance.

2. It is better the runner returns to the previous base.

Because we do not want the runner to advance to the next base for any reason, it is best to throw earlier when chasing the runner toward the next base. It is better to have the throw too early and the runner return to the original base than for the throw to be too late and the runner is safe advancing to the next base.

3. The lead runner cannot advance.

If the baserunner in the rundown is not the lead runner, the priority becomes not letting the lead runner advance to the next base, especially if that means they score a run!

4. Make the baserunner commit to turning and running hard to a base.

The best thing you can do as a fielder with the ball in a rundown is to run fast enough at the baserunner to commit fully to running toward the opposite base. Once the runner commits to running toward the other base, they cannot see the fielder throw the ball so it should be easy to get the ball to the fielder covering the base in time to tag the runner out.

How Do You Practice Rundowns?

Here are the steps of the practice progression to become excellent at rundowns so your team can avoid mistakes and get outs.

#1 Handling the Baseball in a Rundown

Keeping the baseball secured and visible by a fielder during a rundown is extremely important. You should start by practicing that basic skill.

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 run the risk or losing grip on the ball and are not advised in basic rundowns.

No Throw Rundown Drill

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 the proper route with the ball secure in the throwing hand in a rundown.

#2 Short Throws & Receiving in a Rundown

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.

Short Throws & Receiving Rundown Drill

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 in a Rundown

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.

Covering Bases Rundown Drill

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 in a Rundown

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.

Rundown Runner Drill

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.

Starting a Rundown Drill

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.

Final Thoughts on Rundowns

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!

Frequently Asked Questions About Rundowns

How do you practice rundowns?

Practicing rundowns is a great addition to any practice. I like to do it with younger players at the beginning of practice – it’s a good warmup and consumes a bit of that extra energy they have at the beginning of practice. With older players, I like to practice rundowns at the end of practice because it will drain the remainder of their energy.

I like to start a rundown drill with no runner and the team split into two lines, approximately 50 feet apart. Work on running toward the other line on the players throwing arm side of the imaginary baseline. That gives them the best angle when there is a runner in the middle of the two fielders.

The player should throw the ball when they are about halfway between where the players started. The receiving player should start moving towards the ball before they catch it and start tom run fast toward the other base.

It’s a quick paced drill and players can get lots of repetitions in a short amount of time. Once I feel like they are executing those skills, I like to add the outfielders as runners. The should be faster players.

How do you defend in a rundown?

The successful rundown defense will have one of two outcomes – the runner is out or the runner returns to their original base. The thing you cannot let happen is the runner advances to the next base.

What should the fielder with the ball do to begin a rundown?

Run directly at the wayward runner. Make the runner make the make the first move. If they are halfway between bases, if the fielder runs at them, it should be easy to get an out.

How do you get out of a rundown in baseball?

If the fielders on defense properly execute a rundown, the runner should get an out. However, the best way for the baserunner to be successful in a rundown is to buy time and let the defense make a mistake. Try to vary running speeds and quick changes of direction until the defense makes a mistake.

Why is a rundown called a pickle?

Ha, great question! As far as I know is the old slang of “getting in a pickle” meaning “getting in a sticky situation”.

How do you practice pickle in baseball?

Same as practicing a rundown, it’s the same thing. Though I am pretty fond of calling it a pickle. It’s more fun!

How do you defend runners on first and third?

Good question because that could end up in a rundown if not executed correctly. That depends on several factors. How fast are the baserunners? How quick does the catcher throw to second? How quick goes the pitcher deliver the pitch to the catcher?

But the short answer is you defend a first and third situation by under no circumstances letting the runner on third score.

Can a baserunner run into a fielder?

Depends on whether the defender is making a play or not and it is a judgement call by the umpire. It is obstruction if a defender with no opportunity to make a play on the runner interferes with a runner. It is interference if a baserunner interferes with a defender making a play on the baserunner.

What happens if two runners are on the same base?

There are two situations with different outcomes when two runners occupy the same base. Here are the rules.

7.03 (a) Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 7.03(b) applies.
(b) If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced.

Who covers in a baseball rundown?

With one runner on base, everyone that can get there should help out. Hopefully, the team is good at rundowns and gets a quick out with just one throw. With more than one baserunner, the safest thing to do is have the catcher stay covering home plate and the third baseman stay at third base.

For example, if the runner is caught between first base and second base, the two middle infielders, the second baseman and the shortstop, should start at second base and the first baseman and the pitcher should start at first base. That has four infielders attempting to catch the baserunner which should be enough players to get a quick out in the rundown.

Should the fielders fake a throw during a rundown?

If a fielder does what they are supposed to do – run hard at the trapped baserunner and get the runner to fully commit to running hard toward a base – faking a throw should be unnecessary. The goal is to run hard at the runner and run on your throwing arm side of the baseline for the best angle to throw to the player covering the base.

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