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Monday, May 31, 2010

Baseball Coaching Digest: Trick Play Alert: Switched Base Runners

Baseball Coaching Digest: Trick Play Alert: Switched Base Runners

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Baseball Coaching Digest: Trick Play Alert: Switched Base Runners

Some baseball trick plays are shady. Some baseball trick plays are just bend the rules a little while others are absolutely underhanded and are a true display of bad sportsmanship. This is just such a play.

This play is a illegal play used by teams on unsuspecting teams during a time out. Most teams use this ploy when the defensive team is making a pitching change and the 3rd base coach has called the runners over for a conference while the new pitcher is warming up. This article explains the situation, the details of how the play is run and how to prevent this trick play from being run against you.

Name-"Switched Base Runners"

Type Play-Offensive

Situation-Two or more runners on base.

Objective-The offense will actually switch the position of two or more base runners to give them an advantage.

Details-This play is one of the most "under-handed" or "dirtiest" tricks in baseball. It is an example of pure cheating. The offense will normally attempt this play when the defense is "struggling". The defense has called a time out and the defensive coach has gone out to talk to his team.

While the defense is having a "discussion on the mound" or changing pitchers, the 3rd base coach will call all of the base runners over for a discussion at the 3rd base coaching box. The offensive coach will actually tell the base runners to which base he wants each to go back to in order to give his team a "cheating" speed advantage. The offensive coach will "reposition" his base runners to a different location than where they were. The coach will change their "base positions" to take advantage of the faster runners speed. For example, with no outs he may put his fastest runner at third to make it easier to score on a tag-up or to beat the infield throw to the plate on a ground ball. If the tying or winning run is at second, he may put his fastest runner at second base.

The "underhanded" coach that runs this play, and gets away with it, does so because unsuspecting coaches and teams never look for such trickery and therefore never catch it. To help prevent detection, the offensive coach will delay the runners returning to the bags until the umpire warns or tells the coach to do so. The base runners will hurriedly sprint to their new assigned base and the impatient umpire puts the ball in play without hesitation.

Once the ball is put back in play, the attention is focused on the problem of stopping a rally and getting an out. It never crosses the defensive coaches' minds that they should check to make sure that the right base runners went back to their correct bases.

How do you stop it? You must always be alert for this type of trickery. Make sure that your score bookkeeper always checks the numbers on each base runner after a defensive or offensive timeout to make sure that they go back to their correct base. This type of trickery makes it imperative that you always keep an accurate score book with names and numbers of each starting player and sub.

Points to Remember: This play is an example of poor sportsmanship and cheating. Always be aware and check for such trickery.

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Nick Dixon is the President and founder of Nedco Sports, a sports training company established in 1999. Dixon is also an active and full time high school baseball coach with over 25 years experience. Coach Dixon is better known as the inventor of the BatAction Hitting Machine, the SKLZ Derek Jeter Hurricane Hitting Machine, the SKLZ Target Trainer, the SKLZ Derek Jeter ZipnHit Pro, and the SKLZ Strikeback Trainer. Dixon is also a contributing writer for BaseballCoachingDigest, the Youth Baseball Digest, the Baseball Parent Guide, the Baseball 2Day Coaches Journal, and Blog4Coaches.

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  1. Nick,
    Runner at second base, the pitcher comes set, then spins to pick the runner but fakes the throw. SS and 2B dive then quickly get up and run towards the gap in right center with their hands up in an effort to get the runner to commit to third base. If the runner takes the bate, the pitcher tags the runner out on his way to third.
    I've coached high school for 13 years and have run this play successfully 90% of the time. Some people love it, others think its "bush league". It's not cheating and it's completely legal. What are your thoughts?

  2. Katie,
    I too have run the fake pick off throw away at 2B since 1980's. We will always use it when the other team brings a new, young, or fresh runner off the bench to score the winning or tying run. They are allowed to make their move, and I am allowed to counter with a strategy of my own. I once saw the pitcher tag both the 2nd and 1st base runners out at third back-to-back to end the inning in the bottom of the 7th with my team leading by 1. I don't care what some people call it. I will do anything that is legal and morally right to give my players a chance to win. I owe that to them.


Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick