Guidelines for the Offense- Order the iBook, Practice Baseball to Win
A. Initial preparation
This is an excerpt from the iBook, Practice Baseball to Win
When you enter the ballpark begin to become familiar with the surroundings. Plan ahead of time how you will be able to react in each situation.
1. Which way is the wind blowing?
2. Is there a sun problem?
3. How is the outfield set up?
4. How much room is there in foul territory?
5. How do the foul lines slope? Roll balls down each line in the infield to see if bunts roll foul or stay in play.
6. How will overthrows bounce?
7. How will wild pitches react?
8. Is the field fast or slow?
B. Pre Game Activities
1. Get your equipment in order and be prepared to learn as much about your opponent as possible before the game starts.
2. Watch your opponent take batting practice and plan how to pitch and play each player.
3. Observe how the ball bounces on each area of the field, how the fly ball carries, and how the ball bounces off of the fence.
4. Carefully watch the opponent’s infield practice. Check the arms both for strength and accuracy.
5. Carefully observe the opposing pitcher for speed, movement, release point for each pitch, and accuracy. Try to get a feel for his motion and work mentally on your timing for his motion. I call it mental batting practice.
C. Game time
1. Dugout behavior
a. Pay attention to the game and how you can help win. Speak only to our guys, never to the umpires or opponents.
b. Get familiar with the opposing pitcher. Confirm what you saw in the bullpen. Try to find a way to read his pitches. Does he play with the ball more on the breaking pitch? Does he raise his hands higher on the fastball? Does he do anything different on a particular pitch? Study the movement of the ball and visualize your approach to hitting this guy.
c. Study the pitchers pick off move. Try to find the first indicator that he is either going home or to first. Get a feel for his timing. Visualize yourself on first and how you will get a jump to steal a base.
d. Watch for the signs and always know what is going to happen. Always picture yourself and how you will react when you are involved.
e. Team up with a partner and try to steal the opponent’s signs. Try to figure out when they are going to steal, bunt, or throw a breaking pitch. Stay alert to the game and be at least one step ahead.
f. When you are in the hole, that is when you are the next to be on deck, get your equipment ready and be prepared to go on deck as soon as the hitter leaves the batters box. Make sure you are ready to take the sign as soon as the play is over.
2. On Deck
a. Know the situation and make sure you have the sign.
b. Study the pitcher to confirm what you have already seen from the dugout.
c. Anticipate each pitch for patterns on each count. Try to predict each pitch.
d. Be especially aware of the timing of the pitch and the pitchers motion. This is the next best position to being up to bat for observation of the pitcher. Again, take mental batting practice. Feel yourself hitting each pitch.
e. Be ready to help base runners score. You are the home plate coach. Be in position to tell the runner whether to slide or where to slide. Also, if the bat or catchers mask in the way of your guy trying to score, it’s your job to get it out of the way.
f. On bunt plays be ready to let the batter know that if they charge too hard he should slash.
g. As soon as the play is over, be ready to take the sign. You are now at bat.
3. At bat
a. You have the sign. Take the time as you approach he batters box to plan how you are going to get the job done. Enter the box with a purpose and situate yourself in the best position to accomplish the planned task. For example, when bunting you should be in the front of the batters box. You are aware off the type of pitcher you are facings situate yourself in the box accordingly.
b. Basic Rules
1. If the hitter ahead of you walks on four pitches, you are to take a strike unless you receive a verbal like black, black, from a coach. This means the automatic take sign is off and you can hit.
2. With a runner on second and no outs, you should take a pitch or two to get one that you can hit behind the runner. The preference is that you hit the ball to the right side. If you feel that too difficult you should drag or push bunt that way or sacrifice. This rule is in effect only when the game is close. For example, you would not sacrifice late in the game if you are way ahead or behind by several runs.
3. With a runner in scoring position, you should be an early count hitter. This means that you hit the first pitch that will give you a chance to drive in the run. You’re not looking for a perfect pitch to hit out of the park. You do not want to get to two strikes. The last thing we want is a strike out. Taking a third strike with runners in scoring position is a major offense.
4. Do not bunt, without a sign with a runner in scoring position, or with two outs and no one on base. Exceptions may be late in the game when you need more runs than you have runners of base.
5. On the hit and run you do not swing at the pitch if the catcher has little chance of throwing the runner out. Hit the ball where it is pitched. The right side is better, but don’t give up a double down the left field line to fist a dribbler to the right side.
6. Choke up on your bat and widen your stance with two strikes. Put the ball in play.
7. When you are ahead in the count, look for a pitch and drive the ball. Get a good pitch to hit!
8. With a runner on first and less than two outs, think of a drag bunt to avoid the double play.
9. When the bunt sign is on
10. 1. Bunt only strikes
11. Listen for the verbal sign. Thirty, bunt toward first, forty, bunt toward the second baseman, fifty, bunt toward the third base man.
13. Runner on first, but to first.
14. Runners on first and second, make the third baseman field the bunt. If he charges hard, you should fake bunt slash. If you see the rotation play, it should be an automatic slash.
4. Running to first
a. No matter what, you are expected to get to first as fast as you can. If you walk you are expected to hustle, but not a sprint. All ground balls should produce your best 90-foot sprint. Run hard, touch the front edge of the bag, immediately turn you head to the right to look for an over throw. If you see the ball and no one backing up, go to second.
b. If the ball goes to the outfield, start your turn about 20 feet down the line. Move in an arc about 4 feet off the line and concentrate of touching the bag. As you approach he base, keep your head down and watch your foot hit the bag. You should never miss the base. Expect to go to second and only stop when someone has the ball in a position to make you stop. Round the bag hard and force the outfielder to make a good play to make you stop.
c. If a runner ahead of you is advancing, watch the throw carefully to see if the outfielder misses the cut off man. If he does you should get to second. If there is a runner trying to score you should go to second if there is a chance he will be thrown out.
5. On first
a. Immediately after you stop going to second, return quickly to the base. If you did a good job rounding the base after your hit, there may be a chance to be picked off. After you get there look first for the sign for the next play.
b. After you get the sign, find the ball. Do not leave the base until you locate the ball.
c. Check the defense to see where they are positioned. For example, if the right fielder is playing on the line you can get a jump on the ball in the gap. If he is off the line, you can get a jump to go to third on a line drive down the line.
d. Next, get a preliminary lead of 8-10 feet.
e. After the pitcher comes set increase your lead to as close to 13 feet as possible.
f. If the steal sign is on, have your weight on the left foot and be ready to break. If the pitcher picks behind you, continue to second and try to beat the first base mans throw. Run inside the baseline and slide to the outside of second.
g. If the steal is not on, have your weight on the right foot and as the pitcher moves, give some ground toward first. Never get picked off unless you are stealing second.
h. When the pitch is on the way, shuffle or fake break to extend your lead. Your objective is to be moving toward second with your left foot on the ground when the ball is in the hitting zone.
i. If the ball is in the dirt or the catcher goes to his knees, maintain your momentum and go to second. Only continue if you have maintained your momentum. Remember to take a chance only with 2 outs.
j. Get a good jump on a ground ball, but start back to first on a line drive. Never get picked off on a line drive low enough for an infielder to catch unless it is behind you. If the line drive is behind you, you might as well think go to third. If the first baseman catches it, you are out anyway.
k. Tag up on a fly ball to the outfield only if you can advance after the catch, or if there is a possible play on a runner ahead of you who is tagging. Only tag if you intend to advance. This is a hard and fast rule. Only tag if you intend to advance. If in doubt, extend you lead as far as possible and be ready to advance if the ball is dropped. Make the outfielder think he may be able to pick you off. With runners on first and third, and less than two outs, you should both tag up on all fly balls and pop-ups and force the defense to decide who to defend. If ether runner can draw a throw, the other should advance.
l. With two outs and a runner on third, you should, if you think you have to, to beat the throw, run through the bag as if it were first. If you can run through and beat the throw, you score the run. If you are out later, the run has scored.
m. When stealing, or on the hit and run, you should turn your head to the hitter to see where the ball is hit. In this case you continue to run on the line drive at infield height, but you should react to the fly ball to make sure it’s going to fall.
6. Running to second
a. On ground balls in the infield, stealing, or balls in the dirt (B-I-Ds) get to second as fast as possible. Do a bent leg slide, pop up and find the ball. The exception may be, as in the NCAA, you have to stay down on the double play. Your league may have different rules.
b. When rounding the bag, if the ball is in front of you, it is your decision whether to go to third. The basic rule is to take a chance with one out, little chance with no outs, and absolutely no chance with two outs. Never make the third out at third unless it is late in the game and the tying run is behind you.
c. If there is a play on the runner ahead of you at home, read the throw, if the outfielder misses the cut off man, you should get to third.
d. If you round the bag, go as far as you can until someone with the ball makes you stop. When you stop, quickly return to the bag, check the sign and the defense.
7. Runner on second
a. Find the ball before you leave the bag.
b. Get a short preliminary lead while the catcher is giving the signs. Look for patterns in an effort to get the message. If you can decipher the signs, they should subtly be relayed to the hitter.
c. Extend your lead as far as possible as the pitcher comes set. Watch the pitcher and listen to the third base coach.
d. As the pitcher delivers, extend your lead and be moving hard toward third when the ball enters the hitting zone. You should again have your left foot on the ground when the ball is in the hitting zone and you should maintain momentum toward third if you if you get an opportunity to advance. If the catcher catches the ball, you should have to hustle get back to second.
e. If there are two outs, or if there is a runner on third, you should get behind the line about four feet to improve your turn at third.
f. The tag rules apply. If the lead runner tags, he is going to move up. If there is apt to be a play on him, you should tag also, unless there is no chance to throw out the lead runner. In that case the next runner becomes the key to tag. In this case you tag only if you intend to move to third.
g. If you are not forced to run on a ground ball, you should make the one in front of you get through the infield before you go to third. In this case, when the ground ball in front of you may be caught by the shortstop or third baseman, you should retreat to second until the player has to throw to first. Do not get picked off. The exception here is that when the third baseman moves to a position where you could beat him to the bag. You should advance.
h. Make sure. Especially on a ball to the shortstops right where he has no other play except to pick at second, that you retreat to the bag. Do not get back picked.
8. Running to third
a. If the ball is in the infield, go as hard as possible into the bag with a bent leg slide and find the ball. Do not round the bag with the ball in the infield with out the coach’s instructions.
b. When rounding the bag, use the same method a rounding first. Be aware of the coach for both physical and verbal signs. If he’s holding you at third and suddenly yells, bingo, you should continue home
c. Run hard until you are forced or told to stop.
d. Hustle back to the bag, get the sign, and check the defense.
9. Runner on third
a. Get verbal instructions from the coach
b. Go on all ground balls with a runner on first.
c. Go on all ground balls with one out unless told otherwise.
d. Always go with two outs
e. If the infielder is back, go home on ground balls.
f. Get back on line drives. Never get doubled off on a line drive.
g. Be aggressive on passed balls with two outs, less so with one, and careful with no outs.
h. Get a walking lead just outside the line; be moving home when the ball is in the hitting zone. If the catcher receives the ball. Step into fair territory and hustle back to third
i. Tag rules apply. Only tag if you intend to run home.
j. Always hustle hard to home. Score as fast as you can. And, Most Important, make sure you touch the plate.
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