This infield defensive skill may not occur in every game but it happens enough so that your team should become extremely proficient at it.
We feel that the mind-set is important. Your defense should take on the attitude that they will get the out every time a base runner is caught in a rundown situation. The offense has made a mistake and you will record an out every time; no mistakes.
WHEN: When and where do rundowns most commonly occur?
- Pickoffs at first base.
- Runner at first base breaking on first movement on a LH pitcher.
- Pickoff at second base.
- Runner at third base going on contact and a ground ball is fielded by the pitcher.
- Any base running mistake when the runner takes too wide a turn and the ball is thrown behind him.
- Don’t make faking motions with the ball. You may fake out your teammate.
- Don’t jog toward the runner. Run at him at controlled speed. Make him commit to the next base.
- Don’t circle back after a throw. Step out of the baseline.
- Don’t hang around in the baseline after a throw. If a runner runs into you without the ball you may be called for obstruction and the runner will be awarded the next base.
- Don’t throw over the runner. Throw to your teammate’s glove side.
- Don’t take too many throws to execute the rundown. The more throws; the more chance for error. The ideal rundown occurs with only one throw.
HOW: The basics for a successful rundown are:
- Run full speed (under control) at the runner. Don’t hesitate. Get the runner going full speed at a base. You want the runner to commit.
- The off infielder MUST close on the advancing runner. This is the key to a successful rundown. By closing, both infielders will cut down on the runner’s distance and limit his ability to maneuver. The idea is for the closing infielder to receive the ball at the opportune time and make the tag. If the infielder does not close the runner will be able to maneuver and multiple throws will occur, increasing the chances for error.
- The ball is held shoulder-high in an ‘L’ and tossed from that position.
- The ball must be thrown at the right time. By closing on the runner the infielder puts himself in an optimum position. He then (and this timing is the part that should be concentrated on at practice) calls, “BALL, BALL!” He receives the ball from his teammate and makes the tag on the runner. He should call for the ball when the runner is very close to him. He may even make the tag as the runner is going by him, trying to get to the base. The timing is crucial. Do it over and over until everyone is comfortable with it.
- The infielder makes a one-hand catch and tags with one hand. No ‘two hands’ here. (We have always reminded you there are many plays that a defensive player must make by catching the ball with the glove only. This is another one. Why not do away with, “Catch the ball with two hands!” That is not effective coaching.)
There are two types of rundowns.
- The runner is picked off and runs toward the next base at full speed.
- The runner is hung up in the baseline and freezes.
- The key here is to immediately throw to the next base. For instance, if the runner is picked off at first base he will be running full speed toward second. The first baseman should immediately throw to the infielder covering second base. He moves to the infield side and makes a strong ¾ (4-seam grip) throw to the middle infielder.
- The middle infielder receives the throw. He may then:
1. Tag the runner if he has advanced that far.
2. Run the runner back towards first base. (If he is close enough to the runner he may tag him without a throw. He will Run Him Down; hence the name.)
- When the first baseman makes his throw he then closes on the runner by moving under control toward second base.
- The pitcher follows his throw to cover the base.
If the runner is hung up he will hesitate, waiting for the defense to make a move.
- The infielder with the ball runs at the runner, forcing him toward the next base. It does not matter which base that is. Do not think that it is always correct to run the runner back toward the base he came from. The rundown does not always happen that way.
- The off infielder “closes” toward the advancing runner, receives the ball at the right time and makes the tag.
Baseball Excellence has always tried to use drills that include multiple skills. So when we practice rundowns, most of the time we will do it from pickoffs. That way we can include pitcher pickoffs skill work in with the rundowns. You can practice both types of rundowns. Have the runner either break full speed to second base and have him freeze in the baseline.
It is important for the pitchers to get involved in rundowns as well. So you can practice ‘comebackers’ to the pitcher with a runner at third base. The runner goes halfway on contact and freezes in the baseline. Again you have two skills; comebackers and rundowns.
- The pitcher fields the ball and sees the runner stopped in the third base line.
- He runs full speed (under control) directly at the runner, forcing him to make a decision about which direction to run. Sometimes the runner will hesitate too long and the pitcher may get close enough to the runner to make the tag himself, without a throw.
- Once the runner commits to a base and the pitcher cannot tag him he throws to the base and follows his throw to cover.
- Then the rundown becomes routine. The off infielder closes, receives the ball and makes the tag.