One of my favorite things to watch at a Major League baseball game is what I call “Instinct Plays.” An instinct play is different than a ground ball hit to you or a pop fly within your outfield position. An instinct play usually happens after one of the basic plays occurs; and most times when an error occurs. Instilling good baseball instincts at a young age helps develop the baseball mind for when these instinct plays should happen.
I have been very lucky to have coached Little League this past year. My team has made amazing strides in their baseball abilities when it comes to hitting, throwing, catching, fielding, and running the bases. Every player has the potential to play at the next level of Little League either next year or in the years to come. One of the important lessons I have worked with the ball players on is staying alert on the field. How many outs are there? Where are the runners? What can I do from my position to get an out? Can I simply tag a runner or do I have to touch a base to get them out? All of these teaching moments help develop the baseball mind to be able to process a play as it is happening and make a good decision to get an out.
An instinct play happens when a routine play goes afoul. For example, a ground ball is hit to the shortstop area, the fielder gloves the ball, then throws wild to first base. The runner continues to second base. However, the right fielder has instinctively backed up the play to first base. And, the shortstop has now assumed a place at the second base bag for a tag play on the runner. The right fielder throws to second and the runner is tagged out. This instinct play earns the fielding team an out as opposed to having a runner on base.
Another example happened in the last game we had on Saturday. There were two outs and a runner on second base. Our pitcher fielded a ground ball, noticed that the batter had slipped, and ran the ball himself to first base to tag the base. He could have thrown the ball as well, but this was an easier, safer play and the inning came to a close with this instinct play.
If you have a Little Leaguer in the developmental leagues or Tee-Ball, I applaud you for introducing your child to the wonderful world of baseball. By practicing not only the routine plays but also the plays that require some thought, you will be helping build good baseball instincts for your child’s next level of competition. And always, have fun, hustle, and play fair.