Monday, October 12, 2009

Baseball Coaching Digest - Deep Lead in the Outfield Base Running Play

By Nick Dixon

This offensive play is called "Deep Lead in Right Field". The play is run when a team has base runners at 1st base and 3rd base. The play is used to put pressure on the defensive team in an attempt to force an error that will allow the runner at 3rd base to core.

Name- "Deep Outfield Lead at First" or "Skunk in the Outfield"

Type Play- Offensive

Situation- "Runners at 1B and 3B"

Objective- The offensive team will run this play to do the following:

1. Use as a "Safety Steal" to safely steal second with less chance than getting thrown out.

2. Force a defensive "blunder" and score the runner from 3rd base.


The unique thing about this play is where the 1B runner takes his lead. The 1B runner will take his lead in the outfield. Do not confuse this play with the typical "cat and mouse" or "get in a rundown" play often ran by offensive teams to score a runner from 3rd. In this play the 1B runner will take his lead 15-20 feet out on the "outfield grass" half-way between 1B and 2B. The runner will simply turn and sprint to this "spot" when he takes his lead.

The 1B runner will "hold his spot" until a defender, with the baseball, approaches him and is within 15 feet. He should make sure that when he makes a move, he goes directly toward 1B or 2B. He must not take a step back under any circumstance. A step backwards will make him in violation of the "base path rule".

The "base path rule" is not enforceable until a runner is attempting to avoid a tag or play by the defender. If a runner leaves the base path to avoid a tag or play by a defender, he is out. Many people misinterpret this rule. This rule in no way restricts where a runner may take his lead. He can legally take his lead anywhere he wishes. The runner's base path to 1B or 2B is determined by where he is when the defense begins to make a play on him.

If the defense makes no play on the 1B runner, he will sprint directly to 2B as quickly as he can on the next pitch. He has used the play to easily steal second safely. If the defense makes a play on the runner he will not panic but will rather hold his spot and break at the last moment. The 3B runner will take a safe but aggressive lead and will read the actions of the defense. When the 3B runner or coach feels that the defense has moved out of position or has taken the ball too far out to make the play at home, the 3B runner will break and attempt to score.

How do you stop it? There are several options that the defensive team has to choose from when they are faced with this play. Any of the following three options may be used:

1. Ignore the Runner - This is the fastest way for the defense to react. Do not "take the bait". The defensive team will simply let the 1B runner do whatever he wishes. They will let the runner take second base or do whatever he wants without making a play on him. The defense will concentrate on the batter and forget about the runner. Coaches must remember that the pitcher can not hold the ball or try to "wait the runner" out because the "20 second pitch" rule that gives the pitcher a time limit in which to pitch the next pitch.

2. Play the Runner - The defense may be in a situation where they feel like they have to make a play on the 1B runner. The best method of playing the 1B runner is to "give the ball up" or throw it quickly to the shortstop or second baseman. The defender with the ball will then walk toward the runner while keeping his feet and body turned in a position to make a throw to home if the 3B runner breaks. The defender will actually walk backwards toward the 1B runner. The defender should never drop the ball from the "cocked throwing position" and he should never take his eyes off the 3B runner. If his teammates have to "talk him" to the 1B runner then they should do so. Good communication between defenders is crucial. The defense may also wish to use the right or center fielder as the "tag man".

3. The "Huddle or Covey Play" - This method of defending the play is the most "creative" approach that I have seen. The defensive team's shortstop, second baseman, first baseman, and pitcher will "huddle together behind the pitcher's mound. The center fielder will be covering second base and the right fielder will cover first base. They will huddle closely and the ball will be secretly transferred to a chosen "tag man". After the huddle and the passing of the ball, the players will each sprint to their assigned spot. The base runners and the offense do not know to whom the ball has been passed. The shortstop will sprint directly toward the 1B runner, the second baseman will sprint toward the 3B runner, and the pitcher will sprint to a spot directly between the 1B runner and second base. The "tag man" should be the shortstop or the second baseman. The safest thing to do is let the shortstop take the ball and charge the 3B runner. All of the defenders must keep both hands in their glove to conceal whether or not they have the ball.
Note: This play is a difficult play to defend. The defense must practice and be prepared should an opponent try this play. The play is very effective in putting pressure on young or inexperienced defenders.

Points to Remember:

1. The 1B runner may take his lead where ever he wishes. In this play the lead is taken in a location that prevents a pick off.

2. This play can be used as "safety steal" to allow he base runner to safely steal 2nd base or as a play to force a defensive error.

3. The 1B runner's base path is determined by where he is when the defense begins to make a play on him. He must not step backwards, but rather must go directly toward 2B or 1B, in a straight line, when the defender approaches with the ball.

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