Monday, August 10, 2009

Double Play Danger - Sliding at Second Base During a Double Play

By Mike Posey
I was recently watching a baseball game on TV between the Cardinals and Cubs. The Cardinal pitcher was running at first base with one out in the inning. A ground ball was hit to the second basemen in what looked like an easy 4-6-3 inning ending double play. But the throw from the short stop struck the runner in the hand of the pitcher as he was sliding into second base.
At first glance it looked like an inadvertent throw, but after the replay was shown several times it was evident that the pitcher extended his arm upwards with his palm out in an attempt to distract the throw. I was amazed at two things. First, that this occurred at the major league level and exposed the pitcher to injury. Second, that for some reason it was never called interference and ruled a double play by the umpires. In full speed it must have been hard to tell if the pitcher had his hand up on purpose or not.

I began to think about the hard slide at second base and how it's not taught properly at the youth level. There also is confusion about when interference occurs during the slide at second base. Youth players should be taught how to break up the double play avoiding injury or interference.

At the youth level the rule is simple. The runner must slide directly into the base. Sliding away from the base towards the infielder will result in interference and an automatic double play. Also, during the slide the runner can not interfere with the fielder throwing the ball by raising their hands or by popping up at the end of the slide. Doing this will also result in interference and the out at first is awarded regardless of the outcome of the throw.

Many coaches and umpires interpret this rule at the youth level to also mean no contact can occur. If the middle infielder turning the double play is in the middle of the bag when the slide is made there will be contact. A runner needs to slide hard directly into the base and expect the fielder to avoid the sliding runner by moving away from the bag or jumping over the runner.
At the college and professional level a little more flexibility is given in sliding away from the bag. Umpires will usually allow the runner to slide towards the fielder as long as the runner can reach the second base bag with their outstretched hand.

Youth coaches should not be afraid to teach the hard slide at second base. Teach your players to avoid raising their cleats up and to slide hard directly into the bag with their hands down.

Mike Posey "CP"Expert Baseball Tips Baseball tips from a championship coach's perspective and experience, offering creative insights into helping others learn the game of baseball.

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