Runner on third, one out, tie game, bottom of the 8th. The runner on third knows that all of the outfielders have above-average arms.
The batter hits a hard fly ball down the left field line, to medium left field. The runner sprints back to the bag, facing the mound, ready to tag up. He watches as the left fielder sprints over towards the line. As the left fielder approaches the line and moves into foul territory, the runner has to turn his body more and more to see the play. By the time the catch is made, he is looking back almost behind him over his left shoulder so that he can see the play being made. The outfielder makes the catch and the runner watches the ball hit is mitt, then turns and takes off for the plate.
The outfielder makes a strong throw and the runner is tagged out on a bang-bang play. The game remains tied.
What Went Wrong?
The base runner was right to tag up in that situation. With the fly ball carrying the outfielder’s momentum away from home, he decided to force the defense to make the difficult play. But the runner was not mentally prepared to tag up. It seems strange that tagging up requires thinking, but it absolutely does. With the hit down the line taking the ball into foul territory, the runner has to give himself the best view of the ball so that he can leave right when the outfielder makes the catch. That means that the runner has to turn so that his body is facing foul ground, towards the third base coach’s box. By keeping the ball in his field of vision, the runner would have cut out the need to completely turn his body before starting towards home. Even though it only takes a split second, being able to leave right when the ball is touched can be the difference between safe and out. Thinking through the details extends to running the bases. Always be prepared and always think the game.