Importance of Offensive Baseball Signs

Failing to receive and perform the correct action the coach designates with the baseball signs had grave consequences in professional baseball. Many coaches I played for in the major leagues applied monetary fines when players failed to follow the directives. Of course, at that level where every game is critical, one missed sign could be the difference between a win and a loss, it was an understandable penalty. AT the major league level, players can afford some monetary payments, but when in the minor leagues, it hurt to have to pay up as the pocketbook is quite small in minor league baseball.

In college, the punishment for missing the coach’s directives was often running laps or sprints after the game. In high school, the cost of missed communication was a benching of the player when it happened often. At all levels, a verbal berating by the coach often came because coaches tend to be very competitive and missed signs may look bad for their coaching strategy to others.

Of course, at the youth levels of baseball, fines and punishments are not appropriate, but coaching frustration is often evident for youth coaches, too. Coaches at the youth level are responsible for teaching inexperienced kids the important baseball signs, when and how to receive them. Seeing teams that learn the necessary communication skills are the sign of a well-coached team, which should be every coach’s goal.

Different Baseball Signs?

Perhaps the first thought for many people when they hear the term baseball signs, especially non-baseball ones, is to think of the many billboards that they see at the ballpark or when watching MLB games on TV. Many sponsors have huge displays at the parks now, as well as rotating baseball signs behind home plate when watching contests on the television.

baseball signs

Missed baseball signs

Of course, those familiar with the game realize baseball signs involve the many ways of communicating on the ballfield. These signals usually go from the coaching staff to the players on the diamond, although some go from player to player on the field. For example, the most obvious of these communication devices are from the catcher to the pitcher before each pitch. The sign designates which pitch – fastball, curveball, change-up, etc. – along with the location of each. Often, those pitch calls come from the bench with the team manager making the call. If one observes, they will see the coach signaling the catcher by touching their nose, ears, and face in some order to indicate which pitch to call. Furthermore, before the pitch, the infielders often communicate to each other a myriad of things like their positioning and who covers the bases on various ball-in-play scenarios. So much more strategy goes into playing the game than often meets the eye of the baseball fan. Most communication methods are completed with designated hand signals, although some come with verbal cues.

The third and first base coach also has a number of gestures that players must learn when running the bases. Signals to slide, keep going, and stop are all things that help win games. Nothing is more frustrating for coaches than having the team fail to communicate correctly and miss the baseball signs. Often, those unread signs lead to outs, missed opportunities, and game losses. Not all of the blame can go to players in these situations, as most baseball coaches do not spend enough time with practicing their baseball signs, nor do they have players practice receiving the signals enough.

Coaches must not only practice giving their baseball signs but also should spend time having players practice receiving them.

Basic Baseball Signs

baseball signsThe main offensive baseball plays for the base runner are the straight steal, the bunt, and the hit and run play, for which there must be an offensive signal. For beginners, the most basic baseball signs system for youth ballplayers has coaches touch their hat for the hit and run play, their shirt for the steal, and their belt for the sacrifice bunt. Coaches should give these signals slow at first until players are used to seeing them and then they can work to disguise them as the season progresses. When signs are too obvious, it may tip the opposing team off to the strategy, and they can employ a play to disrupt the move.

More sophisticated, offensive plays like the delayed steal, double steal, suicide squeeze, safety squeeze and batter” take” require signals at the higher levels of baseball. Coaches can add the number of touches to those areas to designate different plays than the basics. There are many ways to disguise these baseball signs, with an indicator sign or with wipe off signs, so the opposition does not pick up on them. Some communication systems are incredibly sophisticated at the higher levels of baseball that the coach has a different sign for the same desired action for each player. Unfortunately, some of these baseball plays like the hit and run and steal are being used less and less in the MLB, so the baseball signs are used little now.

On the defensive side of things, communication usually goes from the bench coach to the catcher. The catcher then messages the rest of the players for things like bunt coverages and defensive alignments. Coaches have many hand gestures that defensive players begin to pick up on over time like moving back, over, and in.

Whatever the signal system used, it is necessary that coaches practice giving them, review these signs with players before every game, and have players practice receiving them. Following are some fun and useful ways to teach them.

Baseball Signs “Drills” for Team

Drill 1 – With players sitting on the bench in front of the coach, coach flashes a sign and the first player to get it yells it out is the winner. Coaches continue to go through the signs until it is apparent all players are beginning to yell out the given sign. Coaches can award the winning player with a baseball card, if desired, to spur others to study and concentrate on the baseball signals.

Drill 2 – Coach sets down a few extra bases behind first base, so more players get to base run at the same time and practice reading the signs at once. Coaches can have a single batter at home plate also to go through the motions of the given sign.
The coach flashes the sign from the regular third base coaching box and observes how players react with the pitch. Players are not allowed to tell each other what sign if any, they received. Those that get the right sign will respond correctly, while those who didn’t respond did not get the sign. Coaches can have other coaches as a pitcher, catcher, and first baseman, or use regular players at the defensive positions, and use a ball or not.

In the above manner, players get more practice reading the baseball signs because it is difficult getting enough repetitions in game action, especially for players, who do not get on base nearly as much as others.

Drill 3 – This one is fun. After a few weeks of teaching and reviewing the baseball signs, coaches call upon a player to get up in front of the team and give the signs to the team. It is fun as some kids will go through them differently. In this way though, players learn them even more.

Drill 4 – As a follow up to the previous test, coaches assign a player to do the same thing from the third base coaching box during a practice game and allow them to give the offensive baseball signs to baserunners. This activity is fun for the kids and coaches can ask the runners what signals they received from their teammates.

Drill 5 – During an intra-squad game, coaches stand in the dugout and give defensive signals before the next pitch and have players raise their hand after seeing the message. In this way, coaches teach players to at least occasionally look to the dugout for instructions. In time, coaches will not have

Coaches must not only practice giving their baseball signs but also should spend time having players practice receiving them.

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