In baseball and softball, one phrase you may hear from time to time is that a team is running from station to station. This may be a little confusing if it’s your first time hearing this phrase, especially because this is not a phrase that gets thrown around too often. What is station-to-station in baseball?
In baseball and softball, station-to-station baserunning is a strategy where players advance one base at a time. Generally, teams utilize this strategy as a way to minimize the risk of getting thrown out or as a way to move around the bases by acquiring bunts and steals.
Even though station-to-station baserunning means a team is advancing one base at a time, there are actually multiple meanings of this phrase in baseball and softball. Two of the meanings are the exact opposite while another meaning is simply a method for structuring practices. I’ll define each of those meanings in this article.
Station-To-Station Baserunning For Playing Small Ball
Some coaches like to play small ball when facing certain teams. When a coach chooses to play small ball, they tend to use the station-to-station baserunning strategy.
When playing small ball, teams have the goal of getting runners on base and purposely advancing those runners into scoring position. When coaches use the station-to-station baserunning strategy for playing small ball, they will utilize bunts, base hits, and steals as a way to advance base runners one base at a time.
For an example of the station-to-station baserunning strategy, imagine your team just began the inning and the leadoff batter safely made it to first base. If a team is using station-to-station baserunning, the runner could steal second base and then the batter would hit a sacrifice bunt to move that runner to third base.
Once on third base, a base runner has a better chance of scoring (especially with less than two outs). So a team that can successfully use the station-to-station base running strategy has a good chance to eke out a victory in those close games.
Station-To-Station Baserunning to Reduce Risk of an Out
Using station-to-station baserunning to reduce the risk of an out is completely opposite of the previous example. In the previous example, a team uses the station-to-station strategy to purposefully move runners into scoring position with bunts and steals. With this example of reducing the risk for an out, a team is relying on base hits to advance one base and they are not utilizing steals.
Sometimes a team will play another team that is great at defense. The other team may have a catcher with a great arm or some outfielders with great arms, which makes it more difficult for base runners to advance.
In scenarios where the defensive team poses a risk to throw out base runners, coaches can opt to use the station-to-station base running strategy to reduce the risk of base runners getting out.
When a team uses the station-to-station base running strategy to reduce the risk of getting out, their base runners are advancing one base at a time whenever the ball is put in play. Even if the base runner thinks they can make it to the next base, the coach will hold them up because they don’t want to risk an out.
Station-To-Station Baserunning When a Team is Winning By a Lot
Another reason a team moves from station-to-station on the basepath is that they are up by a lot of runs. From experience, I can say that this is probably the most common reason a team uses the station-to-station baserunning strategy.
In baseball, there are a lot of unwritten rules and one of those unwritten rules is to not continue scoring too many runs when your team is already up by a lot. It is generally thought to be unsportsmanlike to run up the score on a team, so in those scenarios, a coach will let the team know that they are only allowed to run one base at a time.
When a team only advances one base at a time because they are winning by a lot, they are said to be running from “station-to-station”. This strategy is implemented by a coach to prevent their own offense from running up the score on the defense.
Station-To-Station Baserunning in Small Ballparks
Another, less common, reason a team may use the station-to-station baserunning strategy is when they are playing in a small ballpark.
Not all ballparks are the same size which means that some ballparks are fairly small. When playing in those smaller ballparks, it’s easier for the defense to throw out baserunners.
Smaller ballparks don’t only mean the outfield fence, it can also mean the backstop is shorter or the space from the foul line to the fence is shorter.
When the space from the foul line to the fence is short, a passed ball does not always mean that a baserunner can advance to the next base. The same is also true for a shorter backstop.
For a shorter backstop, passed balls from the pitcher does not mean that base runners can always advance. The catcher is more likely to get a good bounce from a passed ball and throw out the runner. If a team is playing on one of these shorter fields against a good defense, the coach may have the team use the station-to-station baserunning strategy.
In any case, a smaller ballpark means there is less room for a ball to travel. When a ball has less room to travel, baserunners don’t have as many opportunities to advance more than one base and the coach can opt to use the station-to-station base running technique.
Station-To-Station Hitting Drills For an Efficient Practice
While the other methods above describe how a team can use station-to-station as a baserunning strategy, one additional way that coaches can use a “station-to-station” approach is to set up different hitting stations in practice.
This method of practice is a great way to get in reps for players in a short amount of time while also keeping players engaged in practice. Below is an example of how a coach can use a station-to-station approach to run an efficient practice.
If you’re looking for additional hitting drills, feel free to learn more about these 7 hitting drills for youth baseball players or these 6 fun hitting drills for youth baseball players. And if you’re looking for additional tips on running practices, feel free to learn how to run an efficient baseball practice from my previous article.
Station-To-Station Hitting Drill Example
For this example practice plan, we will set up four different stations and divide the team into four groups. Even though this example covers four stations, coaches can add or subtract stations depending on how large the team is and what they think the team needs to practice on.
Station #1: Tee Work
Tee work is used to work on a player’s mechanics. Ideally, a coach would be at this station so they can provide some tips on how a player can improve their batting mechanics.
To add in some variety, coaches can also have their players perform specific tee work drills. But the overall goal of tee work would be for players to improve their swing mechanics.
Station #2: Soft Toss
Soft Toss is also used to work a player’s mechanics, but players now need to hit a moving ball in order to improve their mechanics.
Check out the video below for an example of how to perform proper soft toss.
Station #3: Front Toss
To perform the front toss drill, a coach or a player needs to stand behind a net that is positioned about 10-20 feet in front of a batter. The pitcher behind the net will underhand toss the ball over the plate so the batter can make contact.
The underhand toss doesn’t need to be fast, but it does need to be a decent speed to where the ball isn’t dropping too much before it reaches home plate.
The front toss will still allow players to work on their hitting mechanics, but players get the added benefit of hitting a faster target that moves.
Station #4: Coach Pitch
This last hitting station is where players get to see semi-live pitching. The coach should be throwing batting practice speed from a reasonable distance so players can gain some experience seeing live pitching.
The goal with coach pitch is to get comfortable hitting a baseball off of a live pitcher.