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~ Baseball Rundowns: The Fewer Throws, The Higher Your Success Rate ~

Jackie Robinson in charge of a rundown against the New York Giants

The image above is a wonderful look at what a tremendous baserunner Jackie Robinson was, managing to keep from being put out long enough that 5 Giant players became involved in this rundown. As a defensive team your goal is to keep your rundowns with 1,2 or 3 players. The fewer players and throws the better for the defense.

Baseball rundowns, a fun and exciting activity from your back yard and neighborhood park days. In your youth, often referred to as a "pickle".

What is involved here is a base runner, who by various means has managed to get himself caught up between two bases. This base running dilema immediately engages two or more infielders, in an attempt to tag the errant runner out.

rundown, in this case between home plate and third base

In the above picture, the base runner has become stranded between third base and home plate. Regardless of the location, I was always taught, and thus have always taught that the method is the same, no matter which base you are in between.

There are generally three schools of thought:

  1. The first, never run the base runner to the base ahead, always run him to where he came from.


  2. The second, it doesn't matter which base you run them to, except between home and third, then you always want to run them back towards third.


  3. The third, it doesn't matter which base you run them to, no matter where you are.

Let's Look At The Theory Behind Each Baseball Rundown Method



Never Run The Base Runner To The Base Ahead

The basis of this rundown theory is that, should the defense make a mistake, then the runner is safe with no advancement. You lost the out; but you didn't give up a base.



It Doesn't Matter Which Base You Run Them To, Except Between Home And Third

Here the school of thought is that the defense is willing to take the chance of having the runner safe at the base ahead, except at home plate, where it gives up a run.



It Doesn't Matter Which Base You Run Them To, No Matter Where You Are

The method here is to make as few throws as possible, none, one or at the most two, believing that with each added throw comes the greater possibility of a mistake.



So Which Way Is Better?

What you like best and choose to use is dependent upon your philosophy, personality and style within the game. There is no right or wrong answer for this, except that it needs to feel right for yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, I like the third method, feeling that we are going to drill this skill hard, with an emphasis on getting on it quick and shutting it down. Execution will overshadow mistakes, more times than not.

Inside The Baseball Rundown

rundown in 1926
  1. Player with the ball.

    • Hold the ball in your throwing hand, up by your ear.


    • Run full speed at the base runner. If he doesn't turn and run, tag him out. If he does turn and run, keep running full out until your teammate on the other end calls "ball", then throw it to him, veer to the side and follow your throw to the other end, becoming a backup.


    • Veering off to the side clears the fielder from the chance of being called for interference, should the base runner be able to run into him.


    • Follow your throw and become the backup fielder at that base, in the event the rundown goes longer than anticipated.


  2. Player at the base


    • Set up approximately 3' in front of the base. This is so that when there is a play made, it isn't right on top of the base. Makes a decision for the umpires easier. Should the runner be closer to the other end of the baseline, quickly move yourself in that direction, shortening the distance of the rundown. Shortening the distance will quicken your ability to get the out and control other runners, if there are any.


    • Make a decision on when you feel it is time to call for the throw. Just before you call for the ball, start moving towards the runner, as you yell "ball".


    • Catching the ball on the move, guarantees that you can tag the runner before he has a chance to stop and change direction.


Baseball Rundown Tips ~ From the Dugout

rundown tips ~ from the dugout

Secrets To Successful Rundowns



  • Never pump fake the runner in a baseball rundown. Hold the ball steady, so you can get a quick release when your teammate calls "ball". Faking the throw only causes your teammate problems.


  • Make the base runner turn and run full speed. If he doesn't you can tag him. If he does, he will be unable to change directions on the other end, in time to avoid the tag.


  • First basemen. Many of your rundown situations come off a runner picked off at first base. You have two things to do, the first is clear yourself to the inside of the baseline, so you don't have to throw through the runner. Second is, if the base runner has turned and run, all you see is the back of his head, throw the ball to your teammate, and follow your throw. If the runner hasn't turned to run, run him full speed towards second base and your waiting teammate.


  • Infielders, pitchers or catchers: If you have a base runner stranded between bases, run hard, straight at him and make him commit to a direction. Take control of the situation and force the issue. It defuses the runners advantage, as you take charge and make him go where you want him to go.





Summary Of Baseball Rundowns

One of the hallmarks of solid baseball rundown defense is player decisiveness. It doesn't matter which rundown philosophy you adopt; but it does matter that your players execute it with decisiveness. Too many throws, players pump faking the runner, and not getting after the runner at full speed all lead to lost outs, advanced bases and runs scored.

Ultimately a team pays for the lack of execution with a big loss of confidence.




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