For the most part, baseball is one of the few American sports without a playbook. Football is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with playbooks appearing more like phonebooks. Yet baseball does still have its fair share of plays. While set plays are certainly not essential for youth baseball players, they can be fun to learn and bring your team together as a unit. We recommend practicing a handful of plays in practice and trying them out in appropriate game situations.
Without further ado, here are a few simple baseball plays to try with your youth squad this season.
Suicide Squeeze Play in Youth Baseball
Notwithstanding the morbid name, the suicide squeeze is a perfect play for youth athletes to perform. You might want to refer to this as simply “the squeeze” or “the squeeze play”. The only requirements is a batter who is able to lay down a bunt and runners who can move around the bases.
The suicide squeeze is generally performed with a runner on third base where the runner is not forced to come home. In other words: a runner on third, runners on second and third, or runners at the corners. It is possible to perform a squeeze with the bases loaded, but the chances of getting thrown out at home are greater.
As soon as the runners are legally able, they should begin to steal their respective base. The batter should lay down an aggressive bunt towards the first or third base line. The key to the squeeze is the runners getting a good jump and the bunt getting far enough from home plate to be effective.
How to Perform the Hidden Ball Trick
This one comes with a catch: if your league does not allow leads before the pitch, it may not be possible to pull off the hidden ball trick. For leagues which do allow leads, this play can be a cheeky way to steal an out.
Throw over to the base with a pick-off move.
The player with the ball will keep the ball in his or her glove.
The player with the ball will pretend to throw the ball back to the pitcher, keeping the ball in the glove hand.
The pitcher will act like he or she has received the ball.
The player with the ball will wait for the baserunner to take a step off the bag.
The player with the ball will tag the runner out.
Youth Baseball Hit and Run Play
Hit and run used to be a staple play at all levels of baseball. With major league players striking out at historic rates, the practice has fallen out of favor for a power-first approach. However, we still believe this play is a great way to incorporate a team strategy at the plate while giving your youth baseball team a good chance to win.
Runners should perform a delayed steal. For leagues which do not allow a lead, this can just be a straight steal. For leagues which do allow a lead, the steals can be performed as soon as possible without risking getting picked off. In other words, runners should be certain the pitchers is throwing home before running.
The batter’s responsibility is to make contact no matter what. Unless the pitch is in the stratosphere, the batter should swing. Worst case scenario is a pitch which is unhittable, but a swing will still help the runners successfully steal. For this reason, hit and run plays are generally called on zero strike counts.
Teaching Kids to Turn a Double Play
Double plays are not so much a set play as they are a natural part of the game. Yet they require defensive teamwork and should be practiced in the same way a football team practices a halfback toss. While typical double plays involve the middle infielders, there are dozens of potential double play situations in youth baseball. Here are some of the most common double play varieties:
4-6-3 Double play - a ground ball to the second baseman, flipped to the shortstop, then thrown over to first. This is your bread and butter double play.
Outfield assist on a runner coming home - when a runner on third tags on a fly ball, there is a potential for a double play at the plate. For youth athletes, this play will likely require the use of a cutoff player as well.
Strike em out, throw em out - Steals are frequently attempted with two strikes. When the pitch is strike three and the baserunner is caught stealing, that leads to one of the most satisfying double plays in baseball.
1-2-3 double play - youth baseball coaching sometimes neglects to drill situational defense, but youth baseball probably has the highest amount of strange situations than any other level. When the bases are loaded with less than two outs, a ground ball directly back to the pitchers should be thrown straight home, then there is a chance to double up the batter running to first.
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