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Hitting...Dropping The Rear Shoulder: A Common
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Sliding
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Base Running, Youth Baseballís Tenth Man
Marty Schupak


Anyone who saw the 2000 World Series saw one of the worst exhibitions of base running ever. Especially in game one when the New York Mets literally ran themselves out of a rally which cost them the game, and quite possibly could have changed the whole outcome of the Series. Who could forget when Timo Perez of the Mets was on first base and after the batter hit the ball deep to left, slowed down while running between first and second only to be thrown out at home because the ball ended up being in play?
Or how about when Todd Ziele hit a slow grounder to third and didnít run it out because it was in foul territory, only to have the ball kick fair before it reached third. Ziele was thrown out while almost standing in the batterís box.

Then there was Jay Payton hitting a three foot roller in front of home plate and he thought it was foul and stood in the batterís box. The Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada picked it up and tagged out Payton while holding the runner on second. We also saw Mike Piazza being picked off first base in the same game.

What can we teach our youth baseball players from this? Base running has always been very underrated in baseball. In youth baseball, some coaches (including myself) claim you can get one to three extra runs per game with aggressive smart base running.

One year my team won the league championship and a few months following the season I picked up my score book and after going through it, discovered that my team had been thrown out at home 13 times during the season in the course of 23 games - probably a record that will never be broken. During the season I didnít realize that we were thrown out this much but we must have scored about 25-30 extra runs by being aggressive and smart on the bases.

Iíve learned over the years that my fastest base runners arenít necessarily the smartest, and the slow base runners can make up for their lack of speed by being smart. But can a team practice smart base running? Are there drills to help even the slowest base runners?

There are and in a one hour practice I always devote ten to fifteen minutes to base running drills. There are numerous base running drills we practice. The first drill we practice is with a man on either second or third with less than two out and a ground ball is hit to the left side of the infield. We want the runner to advance to the next base when the fielder lets go of the ball. I have a coach play first base and have a shortstop and second baseman. The players (or base runners) line up at second. The coach stands at home plate and hits a ground ball to either the shortstop or third baseman. The runner at second will bounce off the base and once the fielder lets go of the ball on his throw to first, puts his head down and sprints to third. The next base runner at second and the player who is at third will be the runners on the next ground ball. This a great drill and goes quick. The player who was at third and goes home, goes back to the end of the line at second.

A couple of teaching points and things to remember. Teach the base runners that if they are at second and the ground ball is hit to third, they can bounce off further. Same thing with the runner at third; if the ball is hit to shortstop they can bounce off further than if it was hit to the third baseman.

Another teaching point is that the base runner at third always slides at home. There should not even be a question about it. Also in this drill have a signal with the fielders like scratching your head, and that signals the fielder to fake the throw and catch the runner off the base. This is very effective and the base runners learn from this if they are tagged out.

Base running is a part of baseball that does not get a lot of attention in practice. The best base running teams are those that drill their players in practice. Another added benefit for the younger players if a coach puts an emphasis on base running is that they will tend to pay closer attention to the game when they are on base.

Drill your team in base running and you will actually see how it can become your tenth man on the team. You will be happy with the benefits.

 

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Sliding
Tom O'Connell

In starting these drills, it is assumed that no one has had formal instruction in sliding, that the players are poor sliders, amateur sliders and even "afraid" to slide. Basic to beginning instruction is finding a comfortable side for sliding, knowing how to land and using the bent-leg slide insuring safety so that injuries do not occur. A few ballplayers will find they are just as comfortable on either side; therefore, they should practice and perfect all their slides from both sides.
Drills and methods used here can be employed with equal success indoors or outdoors. At no time is the sliding pit used for teaching sliding. The bed is too soft and the player cannot slide into the base. As a result, he learns to take off too close to the base and never learns to land properly.

Indoors - Use the gym floor with sweatpants and sliding pads over them.
Outdoors - Use the outfield grass, preferably wet grass (sprinkle with water beforehand).

In the beginning, use no shoes. Inside, remove sneakers. Outside, remove spikes. Later on as the ballplayer becomes proficient, he can wear his shoes.

When to Slide
1. To avoid a tag.
2. To stop at the base.
3. To break up a double play.
4. To get back to base.
5. Always when play is close.

Length of Slide
15' or two body lengths from base.

Direction of Slide
1. Sliding to right side, usually use right foot as takeoff foot.
2. Going to left side, use left foot as takeoff.
3. As takeoff occurs, the arms are thrown up, the upper body is extended backwards and the feet forward, all somewhat close to parallel to the ground.

Landing
On buttocks, head up, arms out for balance and toes upward.

Bent-Leg Slide
1. In addition to above, tuck left leg or right leg in a bent position and place under other leg.
2. Use the bent-leg position to teach the beginner to insure that the boy will slide and injury will be avoided. Thus, he develops confidence and aggressive baserunning techniques.


DRILLS


All players sit on the floor or grass and alternate placing one leg straight and the other in the bent-leg tucked position (Caution: remember, have them remove shoes and have pads on over pants).
By putting hands behind themselves while in the sitting position, they push their body forward on floor or grass.
Here they are getting used to the position and finding out which side is comfortable. Sliders can be left or right so far as which side is more comfortable in the sliding position.
All players from a standing position practice the fall into the bent-leg slide (Caution: We use no steps, as yet). Player should concentrate on his landing and direction and getting the bent-leg tucked in underneath.
All players practice from a standing position with three walking steps. Players that are comfortable on either side should practice both; however, others should perfect their best side first.
All players practice drill from a standing position with a running four-to-five step start.
During drills, coaches can correct faults by checking landing position, hands out, body extended with head up, bent leg and tucked underneath and toes up. Buttocks and calf of bent leg should show the wear of absorbing the force of the slide; otherwise, the person is landing incorrectly.

OTHER SLIDES
Bent-Leg Straight In
As previously explained.

Bent-Leg and Pop-Up
As you slide, place foot of extended leg on base, throw weight back and raise body in one motion. Continue running to next base.

Bent-Leg and Breakup Double Play
Raise foot of extended leg to bother footwork of pivot man.

Bent-Leg and Hook Slide
Slide right or left of bag three-to-four feet, depending on player's size. When approaching base, bend extended leg (top leg) back, and it will hook bag when sliding by. Remember, the left foot hooks the bag sliding to the right, and the right foot hooks the base sliding to the left.

Real Hook Slide
Same landing position as previously discussed; however, both legs remain extended toward the bag. As the bag is contacted, the toe of the inside foot will hook the base and the knee will bend at the same time. The outside foot will continue past the bag and off the ground. On the hook slide, if sliding right, hook with the left foot and leg, keeping the right leg extended and off the ground. If sliding left, hook with the right foot and leg, keeping the left leg extended and off the ground.

 

Dropping The Rear Shoulder: A Common Hitting Error

According to Jerry Kindall, coach of the U. of Arizona baseball team, dropping the rear shoulder at the start of the swing is one of the three most common batting errors.

This mistake results in poor visual contact with the ball-especially during the final, critical 20 feet to the plate. It also produces a weak, upward swing path.

Why? Because dropping the back shoulder causes the front shoulder to move upwards and away from the pitch. It also lifts the head, producing a loss of focus on the ball. Finally, the back elbow drops with the shoulder, resulting in a weak, pushing, upward swing path.

How to Correct

If your batters are having this problem, instruct them to lift their back elbow a little higher while waiting for the pitch. And tell them to keep their front shoulder pointed towards the incoming ball as long as possible before starting their swing.

These corrections will help them to keep their shoulders level and their head motionless for better eye-focus on the ball.
 

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