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Monday, January 17, 2011

How to tag base runners

On the surface, it seems pretty basic.  Catch the ball and make the tag.  However, like everything else in baseball, there's a lot of little things going on under the surface if you dig a little deeper.  Here are 10 tips to make sure your tagging of runners is more successful. 

1. Footwork.  In a previous post on second base mistakes, I talked about footwork issues like getting to the base and straddling the bag.  Those same principles apply to any base.  Check it out to get keys about footwork before receiving the throw.

2. Keep it in front.  Also stated in the previous post was the idea of making sure the ball does not get past you.  A coach will not get too upset if a runner is safe at a bag.  He will get very upset if the ball gets past the fielder and all runners move up another base.  Of course, the ultimate goal is to try to make the catch and apply the tag but fielders also need to know when to cut the losses, forget the runner and the tag, and just make sure the ball doesn't get past them.  There are certainly going to be times when the throw is just too bad to stop but try your best

Evan Longoria does whatever he can to keep
the throw from getting past him.
[DIRK SHADD | St. Petersburg Times]
3. Let the ball come to you.  For this tip, we'll start by assuming that the throw to you is a good one.  If it isn't, remember tip #2.  Fielders sometimes make the mistake of reaching out too far with their glove to catch a thrown ball before making a tag.  They then have to bring the glove back and down to tag the runner.  A thrown ball will travel faster than your ability to do this.  Let the ball travel to you so that after the catch you are able to just go straight down instead of back-and-down to apply the tag.

4. Glove above the ball.  When possible, position your glove above the thrown ball so that you are catching the ball with your glove on the way down.  If your glove is below the throw, you'll have to raise the glove to catch and then change direction to bring the glove down to tag.  Keeping the glove above the ball allows you to catch and tag in the same downward motion.

5. Capital V.  This tip is connected to #3.  Reaching out to catch a ball promotes a "sweep" tag.  Since you are allowing the ball to come to you, tag with a straight down and straight up motion.  Think capital "V" instead of a capital "U"  It's a little quicker.

   Glove fingers forward.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
6. Fingers tips forward.  Many fielders tag sliding runners with the back of their glove so the runners foot doesn't knock the ball out.  The problem with this is that the back of the hand and sometimes the index finger are exposed to the spikes.  Try tagging with the fingers of the glove facing the runner.  This still protects the ball but also protects any exposed parts of the glove hand.

7. One hand.  Two handed tags are usually reserved for catchers and also little kids who are still learning to catch the ball safely and properly.    One handed tags are quicker so as players get older, they should be using one hand.

8. A dead out.  Occasionally, a runner will be out by quite a distance.  If the ball gets to the bag well in advance of the runner, catch the ball and place the glove straight down on the ground in front of the bag.  Don't assume the runner is going to give up.  If he slides, he'll do it right into your glove.  If he gives up (more likely), move forward towards the runner and bring the glove up to tag him.  Just bringing the glove up - without moving forward - may allow the runner to quick slide at the last moment and get under the tag.  

9. Stay low.  This mainly applies to catchers because of a possible collision at the plate but it's good advice for all fielders on a tag play.  Should a runner lose his mind and try to run over a fielder on a tag play, the fielder is much safer if he is lower than the runner.  This type of collision will almost never happen to a fielder but you never want to assume it won't.  

10. Re-tagging.  We've all seen this play .. a runner slides and is tagged.  The runner continues sliding past the bag and the fielder, seeing that the runner has slid past the bag, goes after him again.  The runner beats the second tag and the umpire calls him safe.  Why?  Because when you re-tag a runner, you are sending the message to the ump that you missed him the first time.  Resist the temptation to re-tag unless you are positive the runner will be out again on the re-tag.

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