INSTRUCTIONAL FRIDAY – RUNDOWNS
Very few situations in the game of baseball can turn a seemingly mundane event of execution into a circus quite like the rundown. For the offensive team the episode quickly turns to survival until hopefully the defense makes a mistake. The defense should then look to end the opportunity quickly with an out, thereby negating the likelihood of those mistakes that often result from multiple throws.
Thus, the theme becomes the longer the rundown lasts, the worse the scenario can be for the defense. Plans to execute the rundown in the least amount of throws should be considered the best. Defenses are served to practice rundowns based on the position of the runner in relation to the ball, regardless of the situation.
Establishing the plan and practicing the execution should be done in a drill setting, perhaps in the outfield, irrespective of where the rundown will occur or how it came to exist. This allows for the defenders to focus simply on their tasks. Implementation into specific scenarios can be introduced once the plan is successfully achieved by the defense.
Absolutes for the defensive players:
- The player with the ball must position himself on his arm side of the runner to create a clear flight path for the ball to be delivered to his awaiting teammate.
- The player with the ball must sprint at the runner when in close proximity to the runner. Tags that can be made without additional throws are best.
- The player with the ball must hold the ball out of the glove and high when in pursuit of the runner. No faking throws while sprinting.
- The player with the ball must deliver with a firm, dart-like throw while sprinting when commanded to throw by the receiving player.
- The player that has delivered the ball while sprinting at the runner must exit the “base path” so to not be an obstruction to the runner attempting to change direction. Once the ball is given up, that player should continue to the same direction and serve a as back up or a next participant if the rundown continues.
- The player anticipating to receive the ball must match his position on the side of the runner as the player with the ball.
- The player receiving the ball must step to the ball as it is received.
- The players receiving the ball must not wait too late to command a throw by a teammate sprinting at the runner. Ideally, the throw will be received as the runner has changed direction upon realizing the ball has beat him to that direction. And an easy tag is then made.
- Tags should be made with the ball in the glove and secured with the throwing hand.
The 3 situations for the defense to consider:
- RUNNER IS CLOSE TO THE BALL … Here the player with the ball will sprint at the runner forcing him to flee in a direction toward a defensive teammate that can receive the ball. Once the distance has been narrowed and the runner’s momentum has created a commitment, the receiving defender calls “BALL” as he steps to the oncoming throw from the sprinting teammate. If the defenders can force the runner to commit by sprinting and time the transition of the ball to the receiving player, this should result in a one-throw rundown.
- RUNNER IS BETWEEN THE DEFENDERS … Here the runner is at a relative halfway point between two defenders, one of which has the ball. The player with the ball has two options.
- OPTION 1 … Give the ball up to the defender on the other end of the rundown immediately and follow that throw to close ground to the runner. As the defender now with the ball moves to the runner, the initial defender is positioned to call “BALL” at an opportune time to execute a one throw rundown out.
- OPTION 2 … Full-arm fake a throw to the accompanying defender. The player with the ball must read the runners reaction. If the runner makes a move to him (a result of thinking he is going away from the fake throw), the defender with the ball should sprint immediately and begin to treat the situation as a RUNNER IS CLOSE TO THE BALL rundown. If the runner freezes, give the ball up to the opposite defender and execute as prescribed in OPTION 1.
- RUNNER IS FAR FROM THE BALL … Here the defender must give the ball up to the defender on the other side of the rundown immediately with a crisp, accurate throw. Once the throw is made, that defender will close ground to the runner and be in position to receive a throw from his teammate who now executing a rundown based on the RUNNER IS CLOSE TO THE BALL situation.
Executing rundowns with precision takes practice and relies on the defense not only recognizing the situation, but also reliably positioning themselves in a manner that supports the team’s objectives. Throws MUST be accurate and delivered with characteristics that allow them to be received in seamless transition. And perhaps above all, the defense cannot be static in its attempt to perform a rundown. The defenders must MOVE; particularly the players receiving the throw. The avoidable mistakes often are the result of poor anticipation due to not enough practice, or poor execution due to poor mechanics of the process.