Thursday, February 24, 2011

Becoming a Spectator

My strength and conditioning coach in high school, Rick Camilletti, always let us know, “if you are standing around, you’re wrong.” He was right then and he is absolutely right in the game of baseball. 

The two positions that are usually guilty of standing around and watching the play around them are outfielders and pitchers. But there is always something that can be done, on every play, to help your team in some way. There are four things every player – not just outfielder and pitchers – should ask themselves as a play is happening.

Can I make the play? Is there any way that you will be able to get to the ball and either make and out or prevent the base runner from advancing farther?

Can I cover a base? If the infielder that would typically cover a base has to make the play, will the base be covered? The three most common scenarios are a ground ball to the first baseman – the pitcher should cover first base, a short fly ball in left field that both the shortstop and third baseman run out to catch – the pitcher should cover third base, and a bunt down the third base line that the third baseman fields – either the pitcher or catcher should cover third base. 

Can I get involved in the play? Is there a potential for a rundown? If so, you better get into a position to jump in to prevent the runner from reaching a base safely. 

Can I back up a throw? Typically, the outfielders and pitchers standing around fall into this category.
There is always a throw or at least the possibility of a throw that can be backed up. Outfielders have to be aware of the possibility of a stolen base attempt or the catcher trying to pick a runner off. Infielders should realize that there will be a throw to the pitcher after each play – whether the catcher after each pitch, the first baseman after a pickoff attempt or the third baseman after a base hit. 

Pitchers, on a hard hit ball that you know the runner will get a double for sure, you have to back up third base in case the runner tries to pick up an extra base. Or if there is a chance a runner will score – either from second base on a base hit or third base on a sacrifice fly – you have to back up home plate in case the throw would get away from the catcher. 

Even catchers can get in the act. If there are no other runners on base, a catcher should trail the runner towards first base, running against the fence or dugout. If the throw gets past the first baseman, hopefully the catcher is in position to prevent the runner from advancing to second base. 

There are thousands of situations and I can’t go through each one here. But stick to the four questions on each play and you won’t be caught standing around.

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