Although professional baseball players in the major leagues make baserunning look simple, there is a lot more to baserunning than simply running hard and fast. As someone who has played baseball since he was a kid and as someone who loves running the bases, I decided to put together a complete list of the fundamentals of baserunning in baseball. What are the fundamentals of running bases?
The fundamentals of base running include a player’s speed, sliding technique, and knowing the rules around base running. Some important rules for base runners to understand are tagging up, the infield fly rule, and when it’s appropriate to run through first base.
However, there is more to running the bases than just these few fundamentals. Keep reading to learn about the 9 fundamentals of base running, which require both physical and mental practice.
This article is one part of a guide on baseball fundamentals. Read my complete guide on breaking down every baseball fundamental for every position.
1. Running Technique
Before learning when to run bases, players should know the proper running technique used to run bases. Although speed helps, running the bases is not simply a matter of running hard and fast. Instead, it requires player awareness of the game, other players, and timing.
Players should take care to run on the balls of their feet while keeping their heads up to see what is going on around them. Be aware of where the baseball is at all times. If you’re in a situation where you’re unsure where the ball is, look towards your base coach for guidance.
When running, players should use their arms to improve their momentum by allowing their hands to go from the hips to their lips, rotating at the shoulders and not the elbows.
2. Sliding Technique
In order to safely advance bases, sliding is a technique that base runners need to master if they want to be called safe more than they are called out. There are a few different ways to slide, but the safest method of sliding is the bent leg slide. The fundamentals of the bent-sliding technique are as follows:
- Initiate a slide by pushing off the leg you intend to bend; this bent leg will be tucked under the other straight leg in a figure of four shape
- When beginning the slide, players must remember to slide on the side of their leg and their butt – not their knee
- The player’s head must be forward with the chin tucked close to the chest
- At the same time, the player’s arms should be bent at their elbows with some players throwing both of their hands up in the air
3. Run Through First Base
The one time a runner is allowed to run through a base is when they are running to first after they put the ball in play. Normally, batters will run through first base after hitting the ball within the infield.
Running through first base is quicker than sliding so players don’t normally slide into first base. If there is a play at first base that is close, running through first base gives players the best chance of being safe.
After the player runs through first base, that player needs to look to the right. When they are looking right, they are looking in foul territory for a ball that potentially made it by the first baseman. If they see the ball going by the first baseman, they may be able to advance to second base.
Remember, running through first base only applies to batters who put the ball in play. If you were already on first and you need to tag up, you are not allowed to run through first base on a tag.
4. Round the Bases After a Base Hit to the Outfield
During hits to the infield, batters will run through first base. On hits to the outfield, batters will round first base and other base runners will also round their base.
Rounding first base is a low-risk way for base runners to move a few feet closer to the next base in case of an error on the defense. If the defense commits an error, runners have less distance to cover. If the defense fields the ball with no errors, there’s very little chance the defense will throw the runner out.
5. Know the Infield Fly Rule
One of the most important rules for base runners to understand is the infield fly rule. The infield fly rule is something that can very easily catch you off guard if you are not familiar with it.
For an infield fly rule to be in effect, there must be a short fly ball that occurs with less than two outs and there must be runners on first and second or the bases are loaded.
Once the ball is hit in the air and the umpire yells “Infield fly! Batter’s out!”, base runners are not forced to advance to the next base. So even if the defense drops the ball after the umpire calls for an infield fly, runners do not need to advance.
The infield fly rule is in effect to prevent the defense from turning easy double plays. Learn more about the infield fly rule in baseball.
6. Know When to Tag Up
One of the most basic baseball rules for beginners to understand is when to tag up. Whenever there are less than two outs and the ball is hit in the air, players should wait to see if the defense catches the ball.
If the defense catches the ball, base runners need to return to their base before they can advance. This is what is meant by tagging up in baseball. If the defense does not catch the ball, base runners can advance without tagging up.
The tag-up rule is also the primary reason behind the strategy of base runners advancing halfway on a fly ball. When advancing halfway on a fly ball, base runners are acknowledging the defense will most likely catch it and they’ll have to retreat to their base. But in the unlikely event the defense makes an error, the runner is already halfway to the next base.
7. Get a Good Lead and a Better Secondary Lead
When on base, base runners need a good lead to be aggressive. A good lead will make the pitcher worry about you and potentially throw them off their game. And if you’re fast, a good lead can also lead to more stolen bases.
And just as important as a good lead is a good secondary lead. A good secondary lead will leave you in a ready position to either advance towards the next base or quickly retreat back to the base you’re on. And for fast base runners, a good secondary lead can lead to more delayed stolen bases.
Learn more about getting a good secondary lead in baseball.
8. Pick Up Signs From Your Base Coach
While running the bases, you always want to be looking at your base coach. There will be plenty of times where you will be unable to see where the ball is going and what is happening on the play, but your base coach will be watching the play and letting you know what you should do.
One great example is to look at your third base coach while you’re running to third. In this instance, your back is to the field and you’re unable to see the play. So you need to rely on what your base coach is telling you to do.
9. Watch the Pitcher
You always want to watch the pitcher while on the base. If you’re playing in a league where lead-offs are allowed, you need to be able to see the pitcher make a pick-off attempt.
In addition to pick-off attempts, you might also learn about some of the pitcher’s habits. If you can correctly time the pitcher, you can get a better jump when stealing.
Baseball history dates back to over 150 years and the rise of professionalism in baseball means that simple actions such as baserunning have evolved into complex art forms.
However, by following the fundamentals above and with ample practice, any keen athlete should be able to successfully run bases with ease!