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Guest Blogger Kyle Provost breaks down the importance of taking the proper lead off third base.

leading off third base













Game Scenario

Imagine being just ninety feet away from scoring the tying run of the biggest game of the season. The game has been well played with stellar defense and great small-ball baseball strategy. The pressure mounts for the hitter, who faces a full count with the game on the line. With the pitch on the way most would argue that the game is solely on the shoulders of the hitter at the plate. As is often the case, the importance of sound baserunning is forgotten. We’ll get back to our game situation in a bit. First…some general advice on taking your lead.

Know The Situation

As a baserunner it is crucial to be aware of your role in dozens of situations. It could mean sliding to one side of second base to break up a double play or knowing the outfielder’s arm strength in case you need to advance on a fly out. Baseball seems to be full of surprises, and you need to be ready for every possible scenario.

Taking Your Lead

It is important to take all of the precautionary steps when leading off of a base, while at the same time adding some calculated risk to gain that competitive edge. Take your lead far enough to be a distraction for the pitcher, but within a hangnail’s reach of getting back on a pick-off attempt. Also, make sure you increase your lead when the pitcher commits to throwing home. This is most commonly referred to as the secondary lead. This will give you a greater chance of advancing to the next base if the situation arises to do so. A secondary lead can mean the difference of scoring from second on a single, getting home on a wild pitch or passed ball, or even increasing your chances to break up a potential double play.

Leading the Comeback Charge!!

Back to our game…The runner at third began his lead in foul territory of the baseline, which proved crucial to what was about to transpire. With the game on the line, the hitter roped a solid groundball down the third base line, hitting the runner directly in the foot. Because the runner took his lead in foul territory, the ball is considered dead on contact. The runner would have been ruled out if his feet were in fair territory.

The batter had new life, which resulted in an RBI single and an eventual win for a smart base-running squad. In the end, it was a matter of making the right decisions on the base paths that allowed for some heroics.

Bonus Tip

Once a ball hit to third has passed the runner in fair territory, the runner should move to the inside part of the base path to block the third baseman’s throwing lane to the catcher. If the ball strikes a runner on any throw, then the ball is still considered live and no outs are recorded.

Blogger Bio

Kyle has been around baseball for the past twelve years of his life as player, manager, league owner, and even radio broadcaster. Kyle played for North Middlesex High School until he began his radio career in 2002.  He was a play-by-play personality for Franklin Pierce University, Keene State University, and the New England Collegiate Baseball League in NH. After departing from NH, Kyle focused his efforts on creating one of the newest Boston-area based baseball leagues.

Along with his brother Jason Provost, Kyle formulated the Royal Rooters Baseball League, which was named after arguably the most famous Boston fans of all time. The RRBL is housed in mostly Boston suburbs including Reading, Cambridge, Wakefield, and Medford. The competitive woodbat baseball league is marketed as great baseball for weekend warriors. The league has grown to nine teams since its creation in 2005 and looks to add a tenth team in 2010.  The players come from all over New England with experienced playing backgrounds ranging from former High School standouts, to former and current Division I, II, and III studs. You can find more information on RRBL’s website at www.royalrooters-baseball.com.

BrandonPhillips

After the Reds-Royals game, Brandon Phillips was disciplined by Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker for ignoring a take sign on a 3-0 count. Phillips popped up to end the inning. Baker claimed it’s the first and last time it will ever happen to him as a manager. Phillips claimed he was trying to break his team’s offense out of a slump.

Should you disregard your coach’s signals? NO. Should batters swing on a 3-0 pitch? SOMETIMES. There are situations where it makes sense and others when it’s not worth the risk to give batters the green light. Every coach has their own risk tolerance for 3-0 counts. My observation is that power hitters tend to get the green light more so than other batters in the line-up. Do you agree with this observation? And…should power be such a dominant factor in this decision?

I understand there is a greater upside with a guy that has a higher likelihood of hitting a homerun or a gap double for you. On the flip side of the coin, power hitters could have a stronger likelihood of over-swinging or chasing a bad pitch compared to my singles hitter who has that consistent swing and disciplined approach at the plate.

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Obviously…every player has a unique profile of characteristics and decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis. But… in general…are coaches too quick to dismiss the idea of giving a singles hitter the green light on a 3-0 count?

At the end of the day, your strategy should be formulated in a way that gives you the best chance to score runs. If there are men in scoring position and a single will likely score my team 2 runs…why should I not consider giving the green light to one of my contact hitters?

Coach’s Tip

When thinking about giving a green light on a 3-0 pitch, consider the following factors:

  • Urgency of the at bat
  • Discipline of the batter
  • Pitcher’s track record of control
  • Recent performance of hitter and pitcher
  • On deck batter and other batters due up that inning

Touch ‘Em All

RyanChurch3rdbase

In Monday’s Mets-Dodgers game in Los Angeles, Ryan Church made a baserunning gaffe that Mets manager Jerry Manuel could not comprehend. Church’s 11th inning run was erased when he missed 3rd base and the Dodgers correctly appealed the play. After the game, Manuel remarked,

“It’s hard to miss third base. I don’t know if I ever remember seeing anyone miss third base in a situation like that. I don’t have any explanation for it.”

I concur with Manuel that I cannot recall a major leaguer missing third base. But, it certainly happens from time to time at lower levels of baseballs. Church claimed he did not realize he missed the bag. But, what if he knew he missed the base? What’s the best advice for a baserunner in that situation?

If you are not sure if you touched a base, return to the base and then advance as the situation allows. There are too many people (fielders, bench players, over-involved parents etc.) watching the play to get away with it. 

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There are exceptions: The major exception is if the act of returning to the base would likely result in being tagged out.

Here’s another exception that will make you think:

Bottom of the 9th inning. Your team is batting and down 1 run with 1 out. Runners at 1st & 2nd. Line drive to leftfield. The runner at 2nd holds up to make sure the ball is not caught. The runner at 1st is running hard the whole way. The ball is over the outfielder’s head and both runners are being waved home by the third base coach. The runner who represents the tying run misses third, but the runner behind him is right on his heels. You are the tying run. What do you do?

You need to continue running to guarantee the game will be tied. Don’t you agree? Not to mention, turning back would likely result in the 2nd runner passing the 1st (an automatic out).

Are there other situations when a runner should not return to the base he missed?

Joe Murphy writes about how to properly care for your glove.

Joe is the CEO of Glove, Inc., a company in the greater Boston area that repairs and restores gloves.

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In taking proper care of your glove, the first thing you have to remember is that your glove is made of dead skin. The hide is off the animal. There is no more blood or oxygen getting into the fibers of the skin, keeping it moisturized and alive. Your glove is a dead thing!

So, you are involved in a race against time, so to speak. You want to get the most wear and take the best care of your glove, before it inevitably breaks down to the point where it’s unusable. Most of us neglect our gloves and by doing so we accelerate the deterioration process. Unfortunately, most ballplayers don’t think a lot about how to care for a glove.  We’re too busy thinking about more important things like, “What’s this guy throwing? How’s his change-up? Is my belt in my bag?”

Here are some tips on how to best take care of that prized possession:

– Always rest your glove on its thumb and little finger, preserving the shape of the pocket. Makes sense, eh?

proper way to store glove

– After playing ball, wipe your glove off with a clean, moist cloth. Get all of the obvious surface dirt off of it. I also recommend getting a small brush and going over the laces, removing any trapped dirt.

– Keep your glove out of the sun. Don’t store it in a plastic bag. Keep it away from any heat source. All of these things will dry the natural oils out of the leather.

– Don’t let it sit in your bag in between games. Find a shelf to rest it on.

– If your glove gets really dirty, I recommend washing it with Saddle soap, wiping off the excess with a cotton cloth and letting it dry naturally. Don’t leave it in the sun to dry. Don’t put it in a microwave or in an oven to dry – you might as well get a gun and shoot it.

– Re-moisturize your glove with a product.  I highly recommend Doctor Jackson’s Hide Rejuvenator. I know, it’s got a wacky name, but it is the very best stuff I have ever used on baseball gloves. It is a bee’s wax, along with other light oils, that seeps into the pores of the leather, keeping the glove moisturized without weighing it down.

Have fun, play ball and hit ’em where they ain’t.

Blogger Bio

Joe has been repairing and reconditioning baseball gloves since 1983. He has played amateur and semi-pro baseball for 21 years, and has coached on the college level. Over the past 25 years, he has worked on and restored thousands of gloves. His work has been endorsed by hundreds of ballplayers, from Little League to the Pros. He reconditioned the glove Dennis Eckersley used in the 1989 World Series. He worked on gloves of former Red Sox Trainer, Charlie Moss, right in the Red Sox Club House.

Dan Jalbert gives us some key catching tips that will make you a better catcher.

Blocking the “bad ball” has always been my forte and something I have taken tremendous pride in. I feel that throughout my career, I have been as good or better at blocking pitches in the dirt than any catcher I have played against. For me, it is primarily a mental attitude that no matter where the pitch was or what type of pitch it was, I was going to keep it in front of me and thus keep runners from advancing a base. This attitude again gives the pitcher the comfort knowing that he can throw a pitch in the dirt and not worry about a runner from third scoring or allowing a runner on first to get into scoring position.

catcher-blocking-ball

First, while in our “man-on stance”, the catcher drops the glove to the ground and keeps it open as wide as possible.

Second, the knees hit the dirt on either side of the glove, and try not to allow any holes in between where the ball can squeak through.

Third, take the right hand with finger together in a slightly cupped position and put that between your glove and right knee on the ground. While you drop the glove, and then your knees to the ground, you should tuck your chin into your chest protector, keeping your head down and eyes looking down to the ball. Bend slightly at the waist and round your shoulders so that if the ball does hop up, your rounded position will help to funnel the ball back in front of you near the plate. If possible, try to close your feet together in the back so that if the ball does sneak past you, your feet will keep the ball from going to the backstop. Remember, the main goal of blocking the pitch in the dirt is to “block” it from going behind you, not catch it. If the ball does go in the mitt, that is a bonus, but the purpose is to keep the ball in a small area in front of you so that you can jump on it quickly and prevent runners from advancing a base.

More catching advice from Dan.

Blogger Bio
Dan Jalbert, now 33, has been catching since the age of 11. He played baseball at Danvers High and St. Lawrence University, and has played since 2000 in the Boston MABL, Yawkey League, and MSBL. He won the Tony C Comeback Player of the Year Award for the Rockies in the Yawkey League in 2008. He still plays for the Rockies as a Catcher/DH, is the head coach of the AAU 13U Scorpions, and does catching and hitting lessons at Extra-Innings Woburn. He also was a baseball player extra in Fever Pitch.

Cleveland Indians Scout, Phil Nicoletti gives some great insight into what he looks for in an aspiring major leaguer beyond baseball skills.

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Nick coaching the Atlantic City Surf

1. As a MLB scout when I attend a game I am not always looking for the potential prospect to shine. Yes, it is always nice to see a player that you are looking at go 4-4, but you already know this guy has tools or you would not be looking at him. But, how does he handle failure? I personally want to see a player fail before I make my final write-up on a guy. I want to see how a guy carries himself after going 0-4 with 3 K’s. Does he hang his head? Does his temper get the best of him? Does he take his failures at the plate with him to the field? All of these things are critical questions I ask myself before writing a final report on a guy.

2. One thing that I have always believed in, and one thing I have always been taught is RESPECT for the game… I have written off potential prospects on this factor alone… I do not care if a guy has all of the talent in the world… if he does not respect the game, his opponents, teammates, and umpires, I do not want him. Nobody is bigger than the game, and I always tell players, ” You can’t cheat, or disrespect the baseball Gods… they are always watching.”

3. Remember you never know who is watching from the stands. Nobody likes to go to a game and see a guy cursing, throwing their equipment, or bad-mouthing the other team. I tell guys to act on the field as if they were in their own homes. I do not care to see guys wearing jewelry, baggy uniforms, pants tucked into their cleats, or pulled over their cleats. It’s a privilege to wear the uniform, not a right!

4. Hustle is another key ingredient I look for in a player. When a guy dogs it down the baseline or walks off the field, I write this down as a red flag. There is no excuse to not hustle.  I never like to see a guy walking on the baseball field. My rule is my guys must always beat the other team onto and off of the field. It should take no more than 7 seconds to come off the field.

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5. Baseball Etiquette… I believe in baseball etiquette, and very much dislike seeing guys playing catch in front of the dugout, playing with un-tucked jerseys, crooked hats, or dirty uniforms. Using the right language when on the field.. Knowing baseball terminology.. Pitchers warming up in the bullpen with jackets on, wearing batting gloves on your throwing hand, etc.. All of these things make a huge impact on scouts.. And as an aspiring professional it’s important to remember you only have one chance to make a first impression on a scout.

Blogger Bio
Phil is in his third year as an Associate Area Scout for the Cleveland Indians Baseball Organization. He also runs a pitching academy out of El Paso Texas, where he is in his first year as assistant coach for the El Paso Diablos (an independent professional team). Originally from the East Coast, Phil grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts where he attended Lynn English High School. Phil still holds the school’s all-time record for strikeouts in a game and strikeouts in a single season.

Yawkey League pitcher Sean Gildea writes about holding runners on first base.

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Sean pitching at Colby Sawyer College, where he holds the school's career strikeout record.

Blogger Bio

Sean Gildea has played in the Yawkey League for the Medford Maddogs since the team’s inception in 2004.  He has compiled a 40-12 record over his five-year Yawkey League career.  Sean played college baseball at Colby-Sawyer College and holds the school’s career strikeout, single-season strikeout, and single-game strikeout records.  In his life away from baseball, he recently placed 32nd in a World Series of Poker bracelet event.

Holding Runners on First

Holding runners and making strong pick-off moves are necessary tools in your pitching development. Controlling the running game prevents walks and singles from turning into doubles as a result of stolen bases. Here are some tips to ensure you can hold runners more effectively.

Vary Your Timing & Motion

Good baserunners will time a pitcher. This is usually the case when a runner gets a good jump. Teach yourself to throw from the stretch using one-second, three-second, and five-second holds. Also, many pitchers, left-handed or right-handed, can effectively use a mixture of timing with the two stretch motions to throw runners off. Mix in your slide step, a full leg-kick, and the different timings and runners will rarely get a good jump.

Mix Your Moves

Right-handers can step off and throw to first, spin and throw, or simply hold on to the ball. Remember that you control the game! If you want to hold the ball to throw a runner off, the batter will be forced to call time. When you use the “step-off” move, it does not mean you have to throw over but it is an effective way to remind the runner that you know he’s there. Finally,  mix in a slower spin move with a faster one and you’ll catch a runner sleeping.

Left-handers can utilize the step-off, 45-degree move, or holding the ball. Many runners typically fear left-handers just because you can use your 45-degree move. Show a poor 25-30 degree move the first time you try to pick off a quick runner, then mix in your “best move” by throwing over at 45-degrees.

Know Your Runner, Know Your Counts

Typically, 1, 2, 8, and 9 hitters are most likely to be your fast runners. When they reach base, realize that these are the guys most likely to steal and mix in your moves. 3-5 hitters are most typical to be your power hitters, and also your slowest runners.

Runners look to run on “running counts.” These are normally 3-1 or 3-2 counts because you are focused on throwing a strike and the runner knows you are less worried about him. Don’t forget your 0-2, 1-2 counts as well because these are the counts you are most likely to throw an off-speed pitch, leaving your catcher at a disadvantage.

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For a baserunner’s perspective, take a look at BaseballThink’s post on stealing against a lefty.