Obstruction and Interference

Written By Coach Dalton

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Don't you just hate those dreaded orange cones. You know the ones that are always in the way when you are headed somewhere important in the car and don't have a lot of time to spare. But they are . .. blocking your chances of arriving on time. Usually they are surrounded by workers just standing around apparently on a break.

What does that have to do with softball you ask? Great question! Actually thinking about a “construction” zone was the best way I could think of to try and help you remember the difference between obstruction and interference.

Obstruction is kind of like a construction. It's when a fielding player who is just standing around without making a play sets up orange cones to obstruct you from getting to the next base on time. But since she doesn't really have those orange cones, obstruction occurs when she sets her body in your path to the next base instead.

Interference on the other hand is when the base runner interferes with the fielding player's chances to be the hero. Not like some parents by shouting “drop it” when outfielders are about to catch their daughter's popup. Interference happens when the base runner runs into an infielder trying to field a ball that has been hit.

Like many rules in the game it's important to know these. It's also important to understand what umpires will do about them. For example if you are at second base and nobody is at first base if someone hits the ball to the second baseman and the shorts stop gets in your way while you are running to third base, obstructing you, if you continue running to third base and the second baseman throws to third base and she tags you out the umpire will likely call you safe. Because according to the rule you are entitled to the first base you were running to when the obstruction happens. But once you reached the base you were running to after the obstruction occurs there is nothing in the rule that says you are allowed to try for home plate and if you are thrown out at home you will be called out. The rule gets very interesting for everyone if you are at second base and a ball is hit through the infield and you run home after the shortstop obstructs you. You may be called out. Or you may be told to go back to third base. It will all depend on how far “out” you were. If yo u were out by 30 feet then her obstruction wasn't the reason you were called out. If you are out by 2 feet then her obstruction was probably the reason for it and they could tell you to return safely to third base. Of course different leagues have different rules and they could end up telling you to go to McDonalds if you were called out after being obstructed and make the shortstop by for your fries.

Since my articles are geared at helping offensive players all I will say about interference is that you do your best not to make contact with an infielder fielding a ground ball so that you aren't called out. Let's face it those defensive players are ugly, and their feet smell and she'd probably make an error on the play if you just leave her alone anyway.

Now back to obstruction where we are running and see how we can take advantage of the rule. I magine you were heading to a base and the fielder gets the ball and is chasing you. A rundown situation. Pickle in the middle. Whatever you might call it at your age group. She is getting really close to you and then throws the ball. Now we have an interesting situation because you will turn to run back to the base you were running to and there is a player who doesn' t have the ball obstructing you. Technically she isn' t obstructing you until you make contact with her and you could choose to run around the orange cones, I mean the player, but why would you do that. She is trying to get you out, and your job is to be safe. I'm not saying run over and stomp on her while she's down. I'm simply suggesting that if contact happens and you are out going to your base because she obstructed you, then you will be called safe. So why make life harder than it has to be, ensure she obstructs you instead of staying in the pickle until you are exhausted.

Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for the past 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in the state of Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball.

 

First and Third

Written By Coach Dalton

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You want to know what really gets me upset? I mean really sends me over the edge. It's when I see a team with runners at first and third, less than 2 outs and I see the first base coach whisper to the runner at first. Although I'm in the stands I can hear them crystal clear saying “Just go ahead and run to second the catcher can't throw because there is a runner at third base and we will get a run.”

I want to telepathically yell back at them “Of course she can throw down to second and she will. The player you have on third takes 2 foot lead offs and immediately jumps back to the base. I know she isn't going to run unless the coach shoves her, the catcher knows she isn't going to run and the player's parents know she isn't going to run. So don't let your girl at first get hung out to dry here. ”

You probably think I'm crazy, and you may be right but truth be told you've seen it happen time after time and perhaps with your very own teams. You've worked all week on gimmick throws so in your minds the catcher “won't throw” and so the runner darts straight to second base and sure enough the catcher does throw the ball, the girl at third is hugging the base, the shortstop catches the ball and tags the runner.

Well Coach Dalton what's the solution? So glad you asked I' d love to share a pretty neat solution with you. But first I need to interrupt the regularly scheduled good stuff, with a brief boring interlude to explain the difference between the base line and the base path.

The base line is that invisible line that runs between the bases. You know the ones that you run on because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. (Yuck math stuff.) Well that base line may be the shortest distance but in this situation and you are the runner at first base you aren't in any hurry to get there. You aren't stealing. That's where the base path can prove to be much more beneficial. If you know what the base path that is.

The base path is that invisible path that you define between the bases. But Coach Dalton if we run more than 3 feet out of the base line we will be called out. Wrong answer but thanks for playing. Imagine a player who is really fast rounding the bases. They go way more than 3 feet out of the base line but they aren't called out. It's because you are allowed to make your own path, but once you establish that path you are obligated to stay within 3 feet of your base path. Meaning you can run 12 feet from the base line, but once you start on that course if a fielder wants to tag you with the ball you aren't allowed to say “just kidding I much prefer that path over there.” a fielder wants to tag you with the ball you aren't allowed to say “just kidding I much prefer that path over there.”

Ok now that you understand the difference between the base line and your base path lets talk about how you can choose a smart base path in this situation. In the video you are going to see our runner Kady running on the base line. Catcher does make the throw and she is tagged out. I hate it when that happens. If Kady were smart she'd turn around and run back to first right? I do see runners do that but the SS has no problem chasing her and yet still keeping an eye on the runner at third. If the runner ever does get shoved off the base, she is actually closer to the plat than she was at second base, and bam she throws the girl out at home. You will see the fielder Lauren has no trouble handling Kady in either situation.

But when Kady makes up a base path that is about 1 0 feet from the base line if the runner doesn't go and Lauren has to turn for the tag, guess what, the run was longer for Kady so she isn't right there for an easy tag. When Lauren makes the instinctive decision to go after her since she is 1 0 foot from the base line she turns her back on the runner at third. Not kidding you at all. I've seldom seen players with eyes in both the front and back of their heads who can turn to chase a runner more towards the outfield and still see the runner at third. That's a really positive thing for us.

The runner at third is likely in a panic mode thinking “they have a sneaky play up their sleeves and they will get me.” When she sees the shortstop turn her back to her and running further away it gives her the confidence that she can go. Unless you are of the mind that scoring runs is over rated that's a really good thing. Instead of the runner from first getting tagged out because of her teammates panic and then yelling in the dugout “Why did you just stand there? You are supposed to go if they throw? What's wrong with you?” She pulls the short stop away from the play, whichtakes the pressure off the runner so that she can score.

Back to Kady though who is now coming to second base from her base path and the short stop Lauren does make the throw home. Kady cruises into second base right? That's the way it's supposed to work. But why? Who says that in that situation Kady has to stop at second base? The “first and third base runner situation police?” She is now running full speed in a position where she can easily round second base and head straight to third. It's going to take her about 3 seconds to finish that trip. In order to stop her in that same amount of time the catcher is going to have to make the catch, make the play at home, keep her head in the play and make a throw to third base. Considering that the runner at third has watched my diving videos she is going to back of the plate and the catcher will either have to turn for a tag.

Turning her back is probably all she needs to distract her frorn remembering that she has another runner who is very actively doing her job. And if she doesn't forget the odds are really strong that the third baseman will be watching the play and not standing at her base to protect it from a diving Kady. I don't even consider that a gamble. I consider that a pretty safe bet if you wanted to put your money on Kady being safe.

But hey feel free to run straight to second because after all it's not like the catcher is really crazy enough to make the throw. No sense working up a sweat with all that extra running on your own base path and going to third if the catcher does throw. After all it's not like runs are important. Now go GET DIRTY!!!

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Slapping Part III

Written By Coach Dalton

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We began by working on the footwork, followed by the concept of soft hands and fast feet for drag bunts. This month I will be concluding my series on the art of slapping by focusing on slapping the ball and I warn you now it may be rather complicated so try and focus as you follow along.

We call it a catch when you … Catch the ball. We call it a throw when you … Throw the ball. We call it a dive when you … Dive.

So what do you think you do when you “slap the ball?”

A. Load up and crush it.

B. Swing through it.

C. Slap it.

If you guessed A or B you might have been taking lessons with someone else, or you might have watched someone else who is a slapper or maybe you just never really thought about it. To me the simplest explanation is to just keep it simple “Slap it.”

Put your right hand up on your shoulder like you are holding a bat and pretend you are at the plate as a leftie. Take a full swing and notice the path that your right hand travels along. That's called a “swing.” I know pretty complicated huh? Stay with me. Now put your right hand up on your shoulder like you are holding a bat but this time imagine that the shortstop has said you are ugly and that your feet smell so in this situation I give you full permission to slap her. Go ahead imagine that you are slapping the shortstop, not swinging at her, through her, just slapping her. Notice that you have a completely different motion and hand path when you “slap” than when you “swing.”

A “slap” is shorter, quicker and more compact than a “full swing.” it is also very “directional.” Which is exactly what we are looking for. More often than not the desired path is what is called the 5-6 hole. That space on the field between the 3rd baseman and the shortstop (positions 5 and 6 when you are keeping the scorebook.) We want the ball to be far enough to the 3rd baseman's left side that they either can't reach it fast enough or would have to dive in order to get it, and we want it far enough to the shortstops right side that she will have to move and make a back hand play to get it. Very specific area wouldn't you say?

This would be used when the 3rd baseman plays way up in order to stop you from trying a drag bunt right up the line like we worked on last month. If she is playing back, then there is no reason to ever do anything but that soft bunt right up the line. The other big key for execution is that we slap the ball into the ground we aren't trying for a line drive. That's more of a “power slap” or better translated “real swing while our feet our moving.

The best way to practice this is by using a batting tee and simply drawing a line on the infield that goes right to that 5-6 hole. Same footwork as always, but instead of dragging the ball you want to imagine that you are slapping that line you drew because rt said you were ugly and your feet smell. You will want to practice that over and over and over until you feel like to “slap” the ball along the line regardless of where the pitch comes in at. You'll see in the you are the Queen of the World and aren't missing that line by more than a few inches either way. At that point challenge yourself a little more. Graham demonstrates a great two tee drill in this month's video. Watch rt, and try rt yourself … the beauty is that you can't cheat that drill. If you've been slapping but have problems hitting the ball back to the pitcher, this drill ensures that you keep your hands back until you need them.

Your goal is to be able video that I challenge Graham with tosses that are way inside. As you practice with tosses or off a pitching machine ensure that you aren't just slapping the perfect outside pitch all the time. Force yourself to adjust your hands to “slap” at that line.

The other key location for slappers is the 3-4 hole, between the 1st baseman and the 2nd baseman. This is used if the 1st baseman is playing way up to stop you from trying the drag bunt up the first base line. You want to ensure that the “slap” is sharp enough that it gets past the 1st baseman and forces the 2nd baseman to field the ball. Who covers 1st base in that situation? The slow first basemen who only has a 10 foot lead on you by the time she realizes the ball is past her and she has lunged to her right side? How's that going to work out for her? If the 2nd baseman didn't cheat to cover first base thinking it would be soft and stays “home” to field the ball there still isn't anyone on the field who will beat you to first base.

The last thing I want you to consider this month is that the rules of the game don't change just because you are a slapper. Successful teams know that you “don't hit in front of the lead runner.” Which means the worst thing you can do with girls at 1st and 2nd is to hit the ball to the left side where it would be easy for the SS to simply toss the ball to the 3rd baseman. That's insane for hitters, and equally insane for slappers. But it's awesome for pitchers. So that sneaky little Barbie doll on the mound is likely going to entice you to do just that by pitching you a lot of low outside pitches, the ones you love to slap to that spot.

Don't fall for her tricks. There is no reason at all that you can't “slap” 10 of those pitches in a row foul up the 3rd base line. You aren't bunting, you are slapping. If you've practiced slapping along that line even on high inside pitches, then you can certainly control can certainly control the head of the bat well enough to slap her outside pitches foul and force her to try and “fool” you with an inside pitch. When she gives you that inside pitch “slap” rt to the right side of the field and advance your runners. Just like a hitter would do.

Always remember the keys to the art of slapping are proper footwork that gives you a balanced base, soft hands and fast feet and “slap” the ball instead of trying to kill the ball. Go cause some havoc out there kid and be sure to GET DIRTY!

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Slapping Part II

By Dalton Ruer

Fastpitch Softball Books

Do you want to hear my answer, their answers or the right answer? Oh sorry if you are just joining us for the first time this month we are in the middle of a 3 part series on slapping. The question of course is “How should a slapper hold the bat?” I'll skip the silly answers from me and them and jump right to the right answer … slappers should hold the bat where it allows them to have the most control.

The reason so many coaches yell “choke up a little bit” when players have two strikes on them is that the closer your hands are to the head of the bat the more control you have. That principle applies to slappers as well. My recommendation for players learning to slap is to have their hands choked up as high as they need to. As the player gets more advanced they can slide those hands back down to a normal grip.

Hopefully after a month of working on the footwork we discussed last month that part of the skill is already muscle memory. If you didn't read last months article be sure to go back and do that, everything else is going to be based on good foot work. This month we are actually going to put the bat on the ball. Well almost, we are going to catch the ball with the bat and set it down, where we want, as softly as we can. Our goal is to have “fast feet and soft hands.” I stole that phrase from a dear friend of mine named Shawna Norris who said it often to help players visualize the separate and distinct actions that they needed to in order to perform a “drag bunt.” Basically the same kind of bunt that a normal batter would attempt, you are just doing it while moving about 100 miles per hour.

Stand in position with the bat ready to go. Slide your right foot back, as you've been practicing. As you take that step with your left leg, that will get you into your track star starting position.Slide your left hand up to the barrel of the bat. Hopefully that right shoulder is automatically staying in by now over your left foot. Now bring your left foot back into position, and as you do, put the bat back on your shoulder. Just as we practiced that footwork by itself last month, you should practice those steps now, learning how to slide that hand up and down the bat in rhythm with your footwork.

“Ok enough of this constant footwork … wanna start slapping.” I hear ya. I hear ya. Well then go grab your bat, your batting tee and some rolled up socks. Set your batting tee up as though it will be a very low, very outside pitch. And start practicing. Your goal isn't to drive the socks across the room, it is to touch them just hard enough to make them fall off the batting tee. In other words “soft hands.”

Once you've practice indoors you are ready for the field. At the field be sure that you set that tee up way low and way outside. That's the worst pitch for slappers so you might as well practice it as you get started. It will force that right shoulder to stay in, and will keep you from pulling away from the ball and trying to run up the first base line. At the field it is important that you have complete control of where the ball goes. Your first target is going to be right up the third base line. You want to take advantage of a third basemen who may be playing to far back, and your goal is to keep it close enough to the line that she has to turn her back to first base to field it, or she has to take extra steps trying to round the ball. A controlled, soft drag bunt up the third base line is a great way to start having success as a slapper. One secret that I have all my players try is to keep their eyes on the ball until it is actually on the ground. Your feet keep moving but you keep those eyes on the ball.

As you get more and more comfortable, start moving the batting tee to different locations and different heights. Each new position will force you to adjust your hands and the angle of the bat. At this point you are still always trying to softly move the ball off the tee in a direction that rolls right near the third base line. After you feel that you have done that enough to do it with your eyes closed, then you are ready to move on to the next step. Drag bunting the ball right up the middle into an area that will force the third basemen, Pitcher and first basemen to communicate in order to figure out who is supposed to take it. As always you are trying to do this softly. If you poke the ball back to the pitcher then it will be obvious that the ball is hers. If you don't have control and it goes clearly to one side or the other the 38 or the 1B will know it's their's.

Our final step, and the bunt that works 99 times out of 100 (when it's executed correctly) is the drag bunt up the first base line. Notice I put the phrase “when it's executed correctly” in brackets. The hardest part of doing this bunt has to do with the angle your bat comes to the ball. If your hands just naturally come all the way around from your shoulder to the ball to try and get it up the first base line then the bat will have a lot of speed on it. Yikes!!! We want “soft hands” and “fast feet” not “fast hands.” A fast bat means a sharply hit ball that is going right at the first basemen. Easy out. A trick that has worked out well for my students for years is to bring the bat off your shoulder into the position that you want to make contact with the ball. That's not very natural and takes a lot of practice. In fact it's not even very easy to explain in an article. Fortunately Graham is going to demonstrate exactly what I mean in the video so be sure to pay attention to the demonstration and practice it a lot. Help yourself succeed by setting the batting tee up inside initially as you are starting this.

If you have someone who can soft toss to you then that is a great next step. But your best friend is going to be that batting tee as you start mastering the art of “fast feet and soft hands.”

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Back To The Base

By Dalton Ruer

 

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Whether you are diving back to a base or going into a base she’s sure to be there. You know who I’m talking about. That big, mean, ugly girl with the bad attitude. Not sure who she is … she’s the one with the ball. She’ll try to block you. She’ll try to smack you with her glove and the ball. She might pull your hair and steal your Gatorade. Ok hopefully she’s not that mean, but she is going to try anything she needs to do in order to get you out. Because that’s her job and she is good at it.

The diving itself should be easy for you by now if you’ve been working hard but there is one part of it that might still be giving you fits. The stopping exactly at the base with your arms fully stretched out. If you go too early you probably come up a few inches or a foot short. If you wait to long you might end up with your face or chest on top of the base.

The great news is that this month I will be helping you solve both of those problems at one time. The solution is actually simple if think about. Don’t dive back to the base. Dive back to the invisible base instead. Seriously!

All you have to do is have a pinky finger touching the base in order to be safe and you can do that from any number of angles. You don’t have to go straight back into it. So are you ready to figure out where that invisible base is? Go grab two pillows because this month we are going to practice by using two pillows in the comfort of your home.

I want you to lay the first pillow down and pretend it is first base. Hold the other pillow in your left hand. Now lay down on your belly and stretch your arms both forward imagining that you are diving back to the base. Oh yeah, we don’t want to do that. So scoot yourself as far to your left as you can and still reach the far edge of the pillow with the fingers of your right hand.

Now scoot yourself forward so that instead of barely touching that corner of the pillow your eyes are even with the other edge of the pillow and your arm is stretched as far as it can go so your fingers are barely touching the middle of the edge of the pillow.

Now it’s time for the other pillow to become that “invisible” base that I mentioned. Scoot forward some more so that the fingers of your right hand can barely touch the top corner of the pillow and hold out the other pillow with your left hand.

Now stand up. Walk backwards a few steps and imagine that you have taken a lead and you are going to need to dive back. But not to the real base (that first pillow) you need to pretend you are going to dive back to that invisible base (the second pillow). If you are going to dive back to that invisible base, you are going to need to run back to that invisible base instead as well. Here is the real beauty of doing this. If you dive back a little bit early you will be in the first position where the fingers of your right hand can barely touch the front edge of the base. If you go about right your arm will be about sideways barely touching the middle of the base. If you went too far you would barely be touching the back corner of the base and your left hand would barely be touching that invisible base. Regardless of your timing you are safe and safely out of reach from that big, mean, ugly girl with the bad attitude and the ball.

Feel free to take that second pillow to the field for your invisible base when you practice this for real, or something that momma won’t yell at you for getting dirty. You need to practice taking your leads and coming back to it, and practice rounding and coming back to it. The key is to have something there so you can actually visualize as a target.

The more you practice diving back the more you should realize that the faster you are going the easier it actually is. The faster you are going the more you glide across the ground and the less friction that holds onto you. That works out really well for us as we progress because where I live we don’t score runs by diving back to first base. We have to take the next bases one at a time all the way home or they won’t give us a run. They are just kind of picky like that. While you may be afraid the good news is that you can start going forward into a base the same way you practiced diving back. Start out on your hands and knees if you need to and keep going through the progressions until you are running full speed diving into second base. Practice, practice and practice.

The bad news is that although you now know it’s just as easy to dive into a base as it is to dive back to a base it is still hard to time it perfectly and there is another big, mean, ugly girl with a bad attitude that will be trying to block that base and get you out there as well. Don’t cry just yet because invisible bases are cheap and they are at second base, third base and at home plate.

If you are stealing then more than likely you will dive to the invisible base on the outfield side of second base and touch the real second base with your left hand. Start your practices just like you did at the beginning of the article. Just lay down on your belly so that you can barely touch the outfield side of second base with your left hand. Then move forward, until you are past the base reaching back to touch it. Then start trying it with some speed until you are running full speed and diving to that invisible base.

But what if you’ve hit a double then the odds are good that the fielder will be blocking that invisible base waiting for the throw from the outfielder. Rats! Now what you are going to do? Hehe the good news for you is that there is another invisible base on the infield side of second base that you can dive into just like you were diving back to first with your right arm. Again they are invisible so they are cheap. Your practice for that is exactly the same as you did at first base. The best news is that there are also two invisible bases at third base, and two at home as well. You want to practice diving to both sides of third base and home plate so you can avoid that big, mean, ugly girl with the bad attitude who has the ball regardless where she happens to be. One last thing … GET DIRTY!!!

Adding Movement To Diving

By Dalton Ruer

Fastpitch Radio Network Fastpitch Softball Website

It’s all your fault so don’t even think of blaming it on me. You know what I’m talking about. Covered from head to toe with dirt when you get to the car and your mom is screaming at you about ruining her brand new SUV. You went to the field purposely to practicing diving so you should have thought about the consequences. I might share part of the blame and say that I could have warned you to at least pack a blanket, but seriously start packing a blanket you are going to need it especially when you practice this month.

This month we are going to kick up your diving a bit and add movement to it. Not dancing kind of movement, speed. You know like you are actually running bases or something. It would be nice if they let you just call time out in a game, get in the position that we worked on last month and then dive. But they won’t, so eventually you will have to do this when you are moving at full speed and since there is no time like the present to get started …. Let’s do this.

The first step is to imagine that you have taken a big lead off of first base. Not the lead that is 2 feet from the base and you stand there going nah-nah- nah-boo-boo. And then turn and put your toe on the base. I’m talking about a huge kind of lead like you are actually an aggressive base runner trying to win games, and the catcher actually has to throw back to first. So here we go imagine you are way off first base, facing the catcher. You are in a nice athletic position with your legs, on the balls of your feet just like you are fielding a ball. Just for fun put your arms
in the air and say “Uh oh I’m busted.” You don’t really need to do that in games, but for practice that’s just plain fun.

So there you are about 10 feet off the base, the catcher has a bad attitude and a cannon for an arm so she is certainly going to make the throw to first and you better be able to dive back. Your first movement needs to be to get yourself pointed back in the direction of first base. I call that movement a pivot. Your body turns towards first base, your right toe presses into the dirt and steps back to first. Imagine the base, pretend you are now facing the catcher and you need to explosively turn back towards first and fire that right foot for the pivot and take that first step back towards first. Come back after you've practiced that a few times.

If you are anything like me, or most players as you make that pivot your body does it but just after making the pivot your body is way to high to dive. We have to make the pivot step in order to get our bodies facing the base again, but we can’t dive from that position because it is to high and by now you’ve learned that the key is getting as low as possible. So what to do? What can we do to get lower? We could just bend down with our right leg in front after we pivot. But we don’t really want our momentum going down do we? The second key for diving is exploding forward and leaning down after the pivot would defeat that. What if we took another step so that our left leg was in front just the way you’ve been practicing since last month. As you take that step with your left foot you want to start leaning out and getting low at the same time. So for this practice you are going to start out facing the catcher again then you are going to say out loud “Pivot” so that your body turns, your right foot pushes off and takes that first step back to first and is in front. Then you will say “Get Low” as your left leg goes forward and your body starts leaning over it. Go ahead and practice that 2-3 times. Try to do “Pivot and Get Low” a little faster each time you practice.

What I’m guessing is that as you did it faster and faster your body was pretty much begging you to dive. Am I right? Last month you were afraid to dive and now after just practicing a simple “Pivot and Get Low” your body is using the simple mechanics of going forward and down and it wants to dive. The bad news is that you’ve likely outgrown practicing at home so you need to do your practices this month at home so you need to do your practices this month at the field. So bring your iPad to the field with you and let’s get moving. Once you get there … practice the Pivot and Get Low step again and then add the dive at the end. Try it 2-3 times.

Let’s face it you are really starting to like this whole diving thing. Now what you need to do is practice it by first taking the lead foam first base. You are going to take a lead off the base, plant your feet to get in that “Uh oh” position facing the catcher, explode back to first with the “pivot and Get Low” steps and then dive. If you take your lead and dive and end up with your belly button on first base you might have underestimated how far you can dive and you need to take a bigger lead. Until now I’ve just said “practice it a few times.” But now your practice involves finding out how far you can take a lead and make it back to the base by simply doing the Pivot, Get Low and Dive. Once you find that spot be sure to mark it off with a big line or something and we are ready for the next step.

Now that you have your line marked off where you are comfortable I want you to draw another line about 2 feet further towards second base because that is where I want your lead to be. Seriously! Until now you are doing what is comfortable for your body and now I need you to challenge that. I have no interest in you becoming a “comfortable” base runner, my only goal is for you to become a base running monster. I don’t want you to just turn for a simple pivot, I need you to really dig your right toes in the ground and drive yourself back to first for the picot. As you take your get low step I don’t want a step I want you trying to explode full speed like your pants are on fire. When you dive now you will have to explode out instead of just going down. Go ahead and give that a try. Don’t come back until you make it.

How good does that feel? You just dove like a beast. And guess what … you are only going to get better. Now that you have learned the next key “diving is easier the faster you are going” lets add even more speed. For this next practice I want you lay down with your toes touching first base and your head facing second base. Use your arm to draw a line where your head is. Now move your body forward and place your toes on that line with your head still facing second base. Again use your hand to draw a line where your head is. Stand up and use your foot to make that line much bigger so that you can’t miss it. If you did it correctly that line is two full body lengths from first base.

The final practice this month is to stand at home plate and pretend like you have had a solid hit to left center field. Run as fast as you can, round first base going about 1/2 way to second base (forcing the outfielder in your head to make a great throw to second base.) Then you are going to plant your feet, pivot back to first base and run back to first as fast as you can. As you approach first base I don't want you to cross the line you drew with your feet. Instead as you approach it, try to take that Get Low step (actually getting low and extending forward) so that your foot plants right on that line and then dive back to first base. Yes it is a long way, but I'm telling you that you’ve got this. If you haven’t watched the video yet this month it might be a great time to do so, and if you need to watch Meghan round first base and come back two or three times so that you completely understand this last practice go for it. Trust me, she loves getting dirty and won’t mind demonstrating it as many times as you need to fully understand what you are about to practice. We both want you to GET DIRTY!

Strike Zone Mat hitting and pitching training aid