Basic Bunt Coverage #1: Runner at 1st

The next few posts will be related to bunt coverages. I will include a diagram, a description of the situation, and a position by position description of field responsibilities.  Some of these coverages will be very standard.  The intent is to post a good resource. So, here ya go:

Situation: Runner at 1st base less than 2 outs.

Description of responsibilities by position:

C: The catcher must field any bunt in front of the plate. In essence, we’d like the catcher to be able to field any bunt he can get to within reason. The catcher is the only player with momentum already going into the throw as the ball is fielded.  If the catcher does not field the ball, he needs to call the base that the ball should be thrown to. Based on positioning, the catcher has a vision advantage compared to the rest of the defense.

1B: The first baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the right side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The first baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt.

2B: The second baseman rotates to cover 1st base. This player may cheat towards first base in an obvious bunt scenario.

SS: The shortstop rotates to cover second base for a possible force play.

3B: The third baseman is responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. The third baseman must charge hard as soon as the hitter shows bunt. If another player fields the bunt, the third baseman must retreat back to cover third base.

P: The pitcher is also responsible for fielding a bunt on the left side of the infield beyond the range of the catcher. If the third baseman fields the bunt, the pitcher must hustle to cover third base.

RF: Comes in to back up any throw to first base.

CF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

LF: Comes in to back up any throw to second base.

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Baseball & Softball Fielding Drill: Fungo Baseball/Softball

First things first. Let’s define an underused word in baseball and softball circles. That word is……… FUNGO. Here is the definition from the following source:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fungo

fun·go (fngg)

n. pl. fun·goes Baseball A fly ball hit for fielding practice by a player who tosses the ball up and hits it on its way down with a long, thin, light bat.
 
Fungo bats are usually 36 or 37 inches long.  Due their thinner, lighter design, they are a very versatile tool for any coach. It is so much easier to hit hundreds of grounders and fly balls with a fungo than with a regular bat.  As well, with the prices of today’s top end bats, a $35 fungo makes more sense. Don’t dent the $350 war clubs in your bat bag.
 
They can either be wood or aluminum. I encourage you to use a wood one. If not, I will make fun of you like I do my good friend Bill Booker at LaSalle-Peru H.S. for using his aluminum one. If you choose the wood fungo, I would recommend taping the barrel.  If you hit a good number of fungoes, the tape will increase the durability of the bat. I took the tape off of one once. The barrell was like sawdust, but I re-taped it and it was ready to go.  One season, I figured it out, between the  high school, American Legion, an junior high seasons I had hit over 10,000 fungoes. Tape it up!
 
Below, you’ll see two fungo bats in comparison to a regular baseball bat.
Two Fungo Bats in Comparison to a Regular Baseball Bat  
Alright, let’s get to the drill. “Fungo Baseball/Softball” is a great drill for fielding and base running.  It’s the same as playing an inter-squad scrimmage, except the pitchers do not throw live, and the hitters toss the ball to themselves and hit fungoes where they want.  It is set up as a competitive game with an endless amount of teaching points. I really like to do this drill early in the season in order to simulate some real game like situations, and also when you’re on a hot streak and you’re looking to keep your team sharp on the little things like relays, backing up, and communication.
 
Here’s the set up: 
  1. Break your team up into 2 or 3 teams. If you do 2 teams you’ll need 8 or 9 on a team with a player for each defensive position. If you only have 8 on a team you can eliminate either the pitcher, catcher, or one outfielder based on what is a priority for your team that day.  If  you only have 12-15 players on your team break it up into 3 teams of 4-5. Then place two of the teams on defense and one team hitting fungoes. No matter what, have the teams and batting orders pre-made before practice. This will eliminate unnecessary downtime during practice.
  2. The game can last as long as you want. I recommend no longer than 45 min.
  3. You play 3 out half innings, just like a real game.
  4. Each inning can start differently in order to add a twist. I would encourage you to script it. For example:
  • 1st inning- nobody on base
  • 2nd inning- runner on first
  • 3rd inning- bases loaded
  • 4th inning- ????? whatever you want, be creative!

Offensive rules:

  1. A swing and a miss = out (you’ll be surprised how many of these you’ll see)
  2. Home run= out
  3. Foul ball= out (rules 1,2, & 3 are there to encourage work for your defense & no wasted time)
  4. All other outs are accumulated according to regular rules.
  5. Base runners are limited to a one step lead or no lead at all.
  6. No bunts. Full swings only.
  7. No stealing.

Defensive rules:

  1. Pitcher must simulate a pitch to start the action, only then can the hitter swing.
  2. In the case that an outfielder catches a fly ball in foul territory it shall count as 2 outs for the offense.
  3. All defensive players must perform a pre-pitch walk-in or “creep step” with the pitchers motion.

As I had previously mentioned, the amount of teaching points is limitless.  The length of the game will really depend on how often you stop the action in order to discuss points related to base running, backing up throws, fielding techniques, and etc.  If you have assistant coaches, have them distributed throughout the field in order to help with certain teaching points on the spot, thus eliminating full stoppages of the game.  Now get out there and start putting the “FUN” back into fungo. I know that’s pretty corny, but I couldn’t help myself 🙂

If you have any comments, suggestions, or additions to this post, please feel free to comment.
 
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Baseball Drill: “7 Point Drill”

7point drill

 

“7 Point Drill”

A little history on the drill. We were having trouble getting our base-runners to take challenging lead-offs at first base. I wanted them to find their own lead-off limits. We had tried doing drills with base-runners only, base-runners and pitchers only, and etc. It still wasn’t getting better. So, I thought, let’s make it as close to a game situation as possible. In the end, there is ZERO DOWN TIME for any player, which is what I think makes a good drill. The greatest part about drills like these is that there will always be a player that succeeds & a player that fails. It happens on every rep. Therefore, the chances for coaches to teach and also reward with praise become unlimited.

  1. Base-runners (BR) – Working on straight steal, delay steal, & etc.; reading picks
  2. Extra BR- Working on reading picks & yelling “BACK!!!” on a pick to first
  3. SS- Covering 2nd or backing up a throw on a steal; p
  4. 2B- Covering 2nd or backing up a throw on a steal
  5. Catcher(s)- Throws to 2nd base, pitch outs
  6. Pitchers- picks to 1stbase, slide steps to home, pitch outs
  7. 1B- Holding runners, tags, communicating “Runner!!!” on a steal, getting in fielding position after a hold

 

You can include CF & RF for backing up throws. It really depends on the size of your roster. Also, eliminate one of the points if need be.  For example, if you’re looking to give your catchers’ arms a rest, modify the drill.   Also, I recommend using cones as starting landmarks for the SS an 2B. The middle infielders will have a tendency to cheat if you don’t.  

The extra base-runners need to be LOUD. For me, that’s the only punitive aspect in the drill.  It doesn’t take much physical effort to use your mouth, but I do expect a big mental effort while they are waiting to be the runner. A few push-ups will usually cure that scenario. I want the same mental effort in the dugout during the game.

This drill can be done with one coach if the team is disciplined correctly, but I usually don’t place it in my practice plan if I don’t have at least 2 other coaches that day. The 1st time it will take 30-40 minutes to set up and run.  As the season progresses and expectations of the drill are clear, 20 minutes will be sufficient.

Softball Modifications:

  1. 1B- Covering snap throws from C
  2. Base-runners- getting a good secondary lead from 1st & 2nd base, variety of steal options
  3. OF- should always be included
  4. C- snaps to 1st  or 2nd