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S.R.T.: sprint, read, and tag; Three ways to get your base runners into scoring position.

High school baseball coaches who'd like to increase their chances of putting their base-runners into scoring position would do well to teach them to S.R.T. It stands for Sprint! Read! and Tag!

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We used to spend a great deal of time on our base-running. We always felt that it was a facet of the game that we could control. On days when other parts of our game, such as hitting, pitching, or defense were not jelling we could always go to our constant--base-running.

From the offensive side of baseball, the most crucial element of the play takes place at home plate. If you don't produce at the plate, you certainly aren't going to pose any threats elsewhere.

What is often overlooked are the strategies that can be used after swinging the bat or drawing a walk that can put the players into scoring position (second base). This is where all your drilling on the three simple elements of sprint, read, and tag will maximize your ability to get to second base.

SPRINT

The first thing to tell your players is to make an instant change from hitter to runner.

1. When the ball is hit on the ground:

* Sprint toward first base, don't run. What is the difference between sprinting and running? By sprinting, you not only can reach first base faster, but you can also pressure the defensive execution.

Any mishandling of the baseball, or slowness in footwork, or off-line throw into the dirt by the infielders will enable the runner to make it safely to first base.

Teach your runners to sprint whether the ball is hit sharply or simply beaten into the ground. Sometimes that slugged ball can give the fielders more trouble.

* Remember to Sprint through the base, not to the base. That will prevent any loss of speed or momentum. After touching first base, the runner should quickly widen and chop his running steps (what we call "Breaking down") after reaching first base.

This will allow the runner to come to a quick stop and make a move to second base if the ball is overthrown. The base runner should also look to the right after hitting the bag to locate the ball and his base coach.

2. When the ball is hit out of the infield.

* Sprint toward first base, don't run. Whether you prefer your players to belly out immediately or to run a third of the way down the line and then "belly out," have them sprint. While "bellying out," have them locate the ball. Teach them to touch the inside corner of the base. Don't worry about which foot touches, just have them maintain their stride.

* Drill your base runners on rounding first base with a purpose. Many players touch the bag, then come to a halt after a step or two. Let the baseball and the outfielders tell you how far to round first base. Sprint as far as you possibly can! That means sprinting to a spot as far from first base as possible and returning safely when the outfield fields the ball cleanly and relays to the infield.

This again puts pressure on the defense and allows the base-runner to stretch that single into a double if the defense mishandles the ball in any way.

Of course a ball in right field will mean a shorter turn at first base, but why not have the base-runner maximize his turn when the ball is in center field or left field?

How many teams look to make a defensive play behind the base-runner in that situation? Not many, so teach your players to sprint and take as much as they can get!

READ

The second thing to tell your players is to study the catcher and the baseball while on first base.

3. When taking a lead at first base.

* Read the catcher so you can maximize your secondary lead. Just as we said when rounding first base, go as far as you can possibly go, allowing yourself time to dive back safely into first base on a good snap throw from the catcher.

Teach your players to watch and see what the catcher does after receiving the ball. Is he alert and ready to throw or is he nonchalant in his actions? This can mean the difference in gaining an extra step on the secondary lead.

The good secondary lead allows the base-runner to:

... get to second base quicker on a sacrifice bunt attempt,

... make the force at 2B more difficult for the defense on a double-play ball,

... move up more easily on a wild pitch,

... get a better jump on a first to third type of base hit and maybe turn that first to third type of base hit into a scoring opportunity.

Read the ball during your secondary lead. Emphasize to your players how important this is in moving up a base. Read the ball when the sacrifice bunt is on. Don't teach the old adage "make sure the ball is down on the ground" before you break to second base. Read that the ball is on a downward flight off the bat and then break. It is an extra step.

Read the pitch into the dirt. Drill your players that if they see this--Go! It is tough to ask a high school catcher to block, locate, and throw the ball to a catch a runner sprinting to second after reading that the ball is going into the dirt.

TAG

The third thing to tell your base-runners is that fly balls can be used to move a runner from first to second. In fact, it can be done just as efficiently as moving a runner from second to third.

How often is this done by most teams? Rarely, if ever, but it can be done. My squads used to practice this and they averaged one successful tag (from first to second base) every two games.

Give them the scenario of a high, deep, fly ball and the base-runner knowing that the outfielder has tracked the ball and is going to be in position to make the catch. The runner should then sprint back to first and tag up.

Depending on the depth of the fly ball, this can be a long and difficult relay for a high school defense to execute by a sprinting base-runner.

Note: Many times you will catch the defense napping on what is ordinarily a routine out.

Baseball is a game of statistics, but coaches know that the most important statistic of all in games is whether you scored the most runs.

Try the S.R.T. Three ways to get your base-runners into scoring position.

By Steve Nealer, Former Baseball Coach, Weedsport (NY) Central High School
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Title Annotation:BASEBALL
Author:Nealer, Steve
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:1128
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