January 21, 2011 Teaching Force outs vs Tag outs
We’ve all seen it. A ball is hit to the second basemen, he smartly sees that the runner on first is going to second and throws it to the short stop standing on second base. As a coach, you’re happy alot of things have gone right so far, and are greedily wondering if the short stop has enough time to throw to first for the double play! Then your short stop starts running after the oncoming base-runner and tags him. ><
Figuring out what a force out vs a tag out is a tough thing for little guys/girls. I’ve found its easy to start this lesson with just a short stop, second baseman, and a batter. Explain the options that the batter has when he hits the ball. The batter has no options, they HAVE to run to first base no matter what. The batter is FORCED to run to first base.
Ok, now we have a runner at first. When the ball is hit, what kind of possible hits can it be? Grounder, Pop-Fly, Line Drive – all hits fall into those categories. If there is a runner on first base, and the batter hits a:
Grounder – the runner is FORCED to run to second base, while the batter is FORCED to run to first. There is a force out at first and second base if the ball is hit on the ground with a runner on first. (obviously the force is nullified for the lead runner if for some reason the defense gets the force out at first, and the runner isn’t to second base yet. This is probably not in the scope of what we’re trying to teach here)
-if the runner decides he’s going to keep going past second base and head to third base – that is his OPTION. He’s not forced to run to third in this situation, so the defense needs to TAG the runner with the ball to get him out (tagging the base means nothing)
Pop-Fly – the runner has 2 options. He can run to second and hope the defense misses the ball, or he can stay at first base in case they catch the ball. Since he has options, there is no force at second base UNLESS the defense misses the pop-fly. Then as soon as the ball hits a the ground – there is a force out at both first and second base.
Line-drive – same as pop-fly
I don’t go into base-running skills at this point, or infield fly rules, etc. I just want the kids to understand what makes a force out. Now I just place runners on base and quiz my players; ‘What if the batter hits a ground ball into the outfield and the runner on first runs to THIRD base. Is that a force out at third or a tag out play?’
If they don’t understand it, walk them through it again and again. Have them think: ‘if the runner stayed on this base, would another runner bump into them and FORCE them off the bag’? Repetition and constant quizzing will eventually help them to realize where the force play is at on their own.
Teach them to go through this progression in their head every single batter. Have them identify the runners, and call out what base is a force out before each pitch. Quiz them during games, don’t feed them information. Make sure they know what to do with the ball if it’s hit to them. Build on this with lead-runner philosophy, 1 base at a time philosophies, etc. Soon you’ll have a smart team that’s thinking on its own!