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Baserunning basics

Posted by John Reed on

I went to my first home opening day baseball game yesterday—Rockies @ Giants. Much extra ceremony beforehand celebrating last season’s World Series win. Rockies won 2-0.

There was a passed ball where the Giants pitcher covered home and appeared to tag the runner from third out. But he was called safe. They showed the replay, and the umps confirmed the safe call. The home crowd howled at he call, howled again when the saw the replay, and howled again when the umps confirmed the call after looking at the replay.

I said to the college classmate I went with, “The only way he’s safe is if the ball came out.”

The ball did come out. The umps ought to have a microphone connected to the PA system like in the NFL to explain the call. Today’s paper said the runner kicked it out. The hell he did.

The runner had no clue how to slide—a professional baseball player. The sliding technique that I teach in my baseball coaching books is the figure-4 pop-up slide. In that slide, you extend one leg straight with a slight bend at the knee. The heel of that foot touches the base. If you’re going to kick the ball out, you do it with that foot. The other leg is bent to about 85 degrees and tucked under the extended leg. If you looked at it from overhead, it would look like a figure 4.

The Rockies moron had both feet pointed at the third base dugout when he hit the ground. The first part of his body that would have hit the base, had he not started his slide too far away from the base was his ass. His body was perpendicular to the base line. Supposed to be parallel. He was sliding sideways on his butt. He looked like he was flailing at the pitcher’s glove with his hands. Indeed, the still photo in today’s paper shows his hand still in the pitcher’s glove with the ball on the ground, not his foot kicking it out.

Speaking of asses, the Rockies manager is another one for not having made sure all of his players, especially his starters, knew how to execute a slide. As my books say, it takes about 2/3 of a Little League season to get all of your players sliding correctly. You have to practice on cardboard with no shoes on at every practice AND every pre-game to achieve that.

One of the mildly amusing things in my coaching career has been the enemies I made because I embarrassed the opposing managers by outcoaching them still feel occasionally compelled to compliment me on my coaching. After a game where we mercied the opponent in four innings, both my son and I and the opposing manager and his son went to the adjacent Burger King for lunch. He said to me there, “One of your guys slid into third in front of me. When he got up he had a stripe of dirt on his right outer lower leg and dirt on both butt cheeks, and nowhere else, just like the training films of a perfect slide show.”

Yup, Two-thirds of the season to achieve that with every single player.

But we weren’t going for style points. That is the BEST way to slide. My guys went into the base hard and fast because they were not afraid of getting hurt. Had the Rockies moron manager, who gets paid a lot more than I did to coach Little League, made sure his players knew how to slide, the runner would had been safe by simply causing his heel to touch the plate before the tag was applied.

He could have avoided the arguably illegal street fight to take the ball out of the glove after the tag. My guys slid in safe under high tags in almost every game in Little League.

The Giants pitcher tagged the runner with only his glove hand. The correct way is ball in bare hand and bare hand in glove and tag with both. Maybe the Giants manager did not want one of his pitchers to involve his pitching hand in a tag play at the plate. Anyway, the game featured a collection of extremely high-paid prima donnas who can’t be bothered to use or coach or demand correct sliding or tagging technique.

That’s why my books say that if you want to take your son or team to a game to learn how to play correctly, take them to a college or minor league game, not a MLB game, because the big leaguers do NOT use correct technique.

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