NPF Association Column
Volume 4, No. 6 - June/July 2009
Covering Second Base on the Steal
One of the best ways to kill momentum or a rally in softball is to throw a runner out. As a middle infielder your job is to catch and tag. It is the catcher who has the hard job of throwing a seed to the base to catch the speedy runner. So as a fielder, you are simply finishing the play. Regardless of whether you play shortstop or second base, your positioning to receive the throw is the same. The only difference between the two is the approach to the bag to get your cbbody into the correct position. For the sake of this article, I will simply discuss proper footwork to receive the throw and make a tag at second base.
First and foremost, you must beat the throw to the bag. This means that when receiving the throw the fielder needs to already be at the bag in an athletic position. It is extremely important to be in a stationary position and ready to receive the throw from the catcher. Fielders run into trouble when they are late to the bag which causes their momentum to pull them away from the play. This is also helpful because not every throw from the catcher will be perfect. But being in an athletic position will allow the fielder a full range of motion to react to any bad throws or bad hops.
Now that you are at the base waiting for the throw, the next step is getting your feet in the proper position. When receiving a throw, square your cbbody to the base and place both feet on the front two corners of the bag (as seen in the picture). This leaves the front face of the bag open for the runner to slide into, which is what you want her to do. It is an easier tag for you if the runner slides directly in between your feet. But many runners will attempt to slide around and grab the corner of the bag with their hand. This is why placing your feet on both front corners is important. If the corner is blocked by your foot then the runner will have a difficult time trying to grab the base and secure it. In many cases they might even grab your leg, which leaves an easy tag.
So your cbbody and feet are positioned properly, now we just need to catch and tag. Simple, right? Not quite. At this point in the play you need to let the ball travel. This means letting the throw come to you. If the throw is on line then you catch it at the base and tag. Do not step up or away from the bag to meet the ball, unless of course it is a bad throw. The throw will get to you faster if you let the ball get to you.
Finally, making the tag. There are two types of tags, the swipe tag and the pop tag. The swipe tag is just as it sounds; after catching the throw you swipe the glove across while tagging the runner. The pop tag is a quick catch and drop the glove down the tag the runner out. Many factors determine which tag to use, such as where the throw is or where the runner is sliding. A simple rule of thumb would be to use the pop tag on a quick, bang-bang play, and use the swipe on a play where you have more time to tag (such as a runner trying to slide by).
Those are the basics of tagging out a runner. From the time the runner leaves first to attempt a steal to the time you tag her out, is only a few seconds. That is a very short amount of time but if you do the fundamentals right, you will be in the position to make the play. Pay attention to the little details because softball is a game of angles and inches and those little things can be the difference between a runner being safe and out. Finally, just remember that practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice will make perfect.