Saturday Secrets to Great Baseball Coaching

Must Execute Baseball Plays

My major league manager, when I played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, use to mention the word execution a lot, as being the key to winning baseball. As far as I could tell, he did not mean execution of the deadly kind, but he was right in saying that teams that executed key baseball plays, during games and over the course of the season, won more. This is true at every level of baseball, as long as the talent level of teams are mostly equal.

The ability to perform on offense and defense, gives teams the best chance at winning, especially for those close one and two run games. At the youth level, coaches must teach players the correct “execution” of defensive baseball plays in a way that is less complicated than at the higher levels of baseball. There is no need to have a great number of plays, or elaborate trick plays, but the ability to execute simple defensive plays will suffice at the youth baseball level. Around the age of thirteen, and as field sizes grow, having more options and  performing them the major league way becomes more necessary.

Key Defensive Baseball Plays to Coach Youth Baseball

Bunt defense with runner on first base

First and third baseman charge, along with the pitcher as the second baseman covers first and the shortstop covers second base. Extra baseball coaching tip: Coaches must remind the third baseman and catcher that one of them must cover third after the throw to first.

Bunt defense with runners on first and second

The standard baseball play here is to have the third baseman stay back and cover their bag, as the first baseman and pitcher cover the lines. Extra baseball coaching tip: The third baseman must learn to come in on hard bunted balls in their direction.

Cutoff and relay baseball plays

Key coaching tips on cutoffs and relays:

  1. The defenses number one priority is to stop the play, which generally means lining up and throwing to the lead base of the front base runner.
  2. Coaches must teach outfielders the necessity of hitting the cutoff man, even when the outfielder believes they can make the throw all the way to the base.
  3. Coaching players to line up directly and the correct distance from the player and the base is crucial for completing baseball plays. Extra coaching tip: point number one above bears repeating, when in doubt players should line up to stop the lead runner and outfielders should learn to throw ahead of runners and not to the base they easily attain.

First and Third Double Steal Defense

The play, where coaches try to “steal” the extra run from third base on a double steal, is common at the lower levels of baseball. Until players become more advanced with strong arms, the best defensive play in this situation is simply the fake throw by the catcher to second base, hoping to catch an over anxious runner at third base. With this play, the worst-case scenario is pitching to the batter with runners on second and third, without just giving the offense the extra run. Extra coaching tip: having catchers practice making this fake throw, in order to really “sell it,” often works at the lower levels of ball and gets teams out of jams.

Steal of second

To keep it simple at the youth level, it is best to have the same player cover on all steal attempts, instead of alternating based on game situation and pitches. Extra coaching tip: as players advance in game knowledge, they can have the second baseman cover on steals with right-handed batters and have the shortstop cover with left-handed batters.

As mentioned, keeping defensive baseball plays simple and to a minimum is best for youth baseball, but continual practice of them is necessary for great execution. Introducing more elaborate defensive baseball plays, as the double cutoff and timing pick off plays, are necessary baseball coaching responsibilities, when players advance to higher-level baseball.

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