How to Read a Ball in the Dirt
Dirt Ball Reads in Baseball
Another base running drill that requires the runners to not only be aware of the situation, but jump on opportunity if it presents itself.
Have your normal defense set up with a variety of runners on base (typically in positions to steal like on first or second base), and have a coach or teammate throw balls in the dirt to your catcher. It’ll then be up to the runner’s discretion on whether or not to steal.
Do this drill about 10-15 times per base, and be creative with the situations.
Goal of Dirt Ball Reads
Elite runners in today’s game aren’t just fast and take good paths to the bases, but they’re also able to read situations that allow them to take the next base. When it comes to dirt ball reads, runners should be able to quickly assess if the catcher is in a poor position to throw them out.
Aside from the obvious past-ball that allows for an easy stand-up steal, this drill also requires the runner to understand how strong/accurate the catcher’s arm is, what the pitch count is, how many outs there are, and even how far back the backstop is.
The Results of Dirt Ball Reads
When runners are able to take everything in consideration, reading dirt balls effectively will lead to a higher steal count throughout the season -- in addition to putting pressure on both the pitcher and the catcher. Bases that are stolen strategically allows your team to bat with more runners in scoring position.
An added note to this drill, coaches should mix in strikes instead of constant dirt balls. This keeps your runners on their toes. Also, allow the catcher to make throws down to second or third. Let them test their arms and also get something productive out of the drill.
Written by: Devin Pickell