Hot Box, a kid's game & How to Perform a rundown in baseball are identical. Maybe you knew that, maybe not, but playing that game was a precursor to learning one of the more difficult plays in baseball to execute, difficult that is if you don’t know how to perform it properly.
We've touched on this subject before, but repetition is the best teaching method known. We’re going to learn how to do it correctly … right now.
Number one, any run down in baseball requiring more than 1 throw, 2 depending on what you count as a rundown throw, was not performed correctly.
Let’s use some specific examples of rundowns involving specific players and bases, which you can actually relate your playing position to, and note a couple of important Cardinal Rules to remember when performing a rundown in baseball.
Rundown in Baseball - Practicing The Pay
Basic Rule (1.) In a haste of the moment, most people don’t realize, the first thing you want to accomplish when performing a run down in baseball, is Stop the Runner from Advancing to the Next Base.
Therefore, the initial throw should always be to the base the runner is attempting to advance to. In other words, Always force the runner to run back to the base he came from, if there is a botched play, you lose the put out, but at least the runner doesn’t advance into scoring position.
Basic Rule (2.) You’re the first baseman who just received a throw from right field, the runner who was coming back to first base, deciding he couldn’t advance to second safely, stops dead in his tracks and is now trapped between you and another infielder, probably the second baseman. What now?
Instinctively most younger players, or poorly coached players, will immediately throw the ball to their team mate as soon as the runner reverses direction and begins to run away from him, but that is normally the beginning of a fiasco. Why, because the runner is not at full speed and because the throw was made so quickly, he has time to stop and reverse his direction, again.
Runner Can't Reverse His Direction Quick Enough - Rundown in Baseball
What should have happened … the player with the ball, instead of quickly throwing the ball, should run as hard as possible towards the runner, which forces him to run hard away from you, which with his weight and forward momentum going forward, it’s literally impossible for him to stop his momentum and reverse his direction.
That’s when you flip the ball to your team mate, who is closing in on the runner from the opposite direction, and makes the tag for the out.
Let’s look at some specific action which will explain in detail how to perform a rundown.
Situation: and Rundown in Baseball
The Runner on second base is attempting to steal third base, but stumbles and falls before reaching the base. The catcher who either saw the runner take off or was notified by his fielders yelling “He’s Going”, came up throwing to the third baseman. Now the runner, who has regained his footing, is trapped between 2nd and 3rd base.
At this point, the third baseman should run as hard as he can towards the runner forcing him to retreat to second base, his original starting point. As he runs the third baseman should hold the baseball up and out away from his body where the second baseman has a clear view of it in his hand.
Professionals Performing Wrong - The Fielder Should Be Clearly Displaying The Baseball
Rundown in Baseball
Never make a throw which goes over the runner’s head, because the ball is hidden from the other fielder’s view until it pops over the runner’s head, he may not even know you threw the ball until it’s either on top of him, or whizzes past him.
Always attempt to run slightly to the left or right of the base runner so your team mate can clearly see you, and most importantly, the baseball.
Back to Action:
At this point there are two things which could occur for a successful rundown.
The third baseman is faster than the base runner and simply runs him down and tags him out. OR:
The third baseman forces the runner into an all out run back to second, then throws to the second baseman. The runner will not be able to stop, reverse field and be able to outrun the second baseman who will tag the runner out.
Because this play is flubbed, even at the major league level, let’s do a quick review of what we’ve done.
(1.) The runner is caught in between bases, the third baseman runs at the runner as fast as he can, which forces the runner to run as fast as he can away and back to second base to avoid being tagged out.
(2.) The third baseman either catches the runner and tags him out, or while running and keeping the ball in clear view for the second baseman, he throws to the second baseman when he decides he can not catch the runner himself.
The runner can’t stop, turn and run away from the second baseman who will be moving towards the runner in the opposite direction. The second baseman tags the runner.
One Throw … two if you count the throw from the catcher to the third baseman and the runner’s out.
Catcher Putting On The Tag
No fuss, no muss … get the out quickly and efficiently. As an addendum to this particular situation, the pitcher should be backing up the third baseman and the shortstop should be backing up second base.
Another Rundown Example: and Rundown in Baseball
(1.) There’s a Runner on third base with a slight lead off, as the pitcher toes the rubber and begins his motions to go into the stretch position, the runner takes off for home plate.
We’ll assume the runner was planning on stealing home and mistook the pitcher’s actions of going into a stretch, as starting his full wind-up, or he just flat messed up.
The pitcher should immediately disengage from the rubber stepping backwards off the rubber, and break his hands, which should freeze the runner in his tracks, as he realizes he’s caught in no man’s land.
Because the runner is more or less stopped half way between third and home, therefore there’s no advantage or necessity to throw to one fielder or the other, the pitcher must force the runner to return towards third base.
The proper method for performing this rundown in baseball is:
The pitcher should run straight at the runner, running at a slight angle towards the runner’s right shoulder, left as the pitcher’s looking, which will essentially herd the runner back towards third base. Always Force the Runner Back to the Original Base.
There are many times the runner will be so confused as to which way to run he won’t be able to move or makes a move at the last moment, which will be far too late to avoid the tag out.
Should he begin to start towards home, run in a slight circle, like a dog herding a cow, and herd him back towards third base, or should he continue to run to home plate, throw to your catcher then continue to run ending up behind him and back up the play should something go wrong.
Should the runner attempt to return to third base, simply use basic rundown in baseball tactics and run hard while chasing him, preventing him from being able to reverse his field and throw a strike to the third baseman for the tag out.
Should the runner continue to run towards home plate after you have stepped off the rubber, throw home to the catcher, who should have stepped out of the catcher’s box, as if calling a pitch out, moving slightly up the third base line, giving you a target away from the plate and batter.
Remember, you don’t worry about throwing a strike over the plate, as at this point the throw is not a pitch, but a throw as if any other fielder was making the throw.
There you have it…the proper method of performing a rundown. A little practice and you’ll have your players performing this drill like the professionals.