Common Sense Coaching, Bunt Young, Bunt Often In Little League (Jul 16, Marty Schupak)
Last Updated: 01/04/2012
Bunting is a very big part of baseball. And, when a bunt is laid down the right way, it is very difficult to defend. I have always been a big believer in bunting, and feel it can be taught at a young age. There are a few different types of bunts. In youth baseball I like to focus on two types of bunts: the square bunt and the pivot bunt. My preference is the pivot bunt because the players just pivot on their toes and do not have to lift their feet.
A great way for players to get the correct feel of pivoting is to teach them inside a gym with only socks on their feet. Once you demonstrate the pivot, they will pick it up easy as their socks slide on the gym floor. And the transition on an outdoor field with cleats will not be too difficult.
The square bunt is a little more difficult to teach. The batter will lift his left leg first (for a rightie hitter) pointing his ties at the pitcher then almost immediately lifting his other foot with his toes facing the pitcher also. Both feet will be about shoulder length apart. I have found that some players will naturally bunt this way and I will then try and refine their technique. Once in a playoff game, I had a player perform a square bunt, and he put down a perfect bunt, and beat it out. we all thought. The only problem was, when he lifted his right leg and put it down in the second position, it was right on home plate and he was called out. I also find that the pivot bunt gives the batter a chance to get out of the batter’s box a little quicker than the square bunt.
As far as at when should the batter get into the bunting position, this can vary. I have had players that are natural bunters and they just know how and when to get into the bunting position. And some of these natural bunters can wait until almost the last possible second to get into the bunting position. Other players I like to teach to get into the bunting position when the front leg of the pitcher begins to come down. This is a key indicator for the batter.
Many coaches that teach bunting insist that the bat should be level. I like to teach youth players to keep the barrel slightly higher than the knob. Young players will tend to move the barrel lower so I found teaching them to keep the barrel slightly higher, you have a better chance of a successful bunt. If the barrel becomes lower than the knob, if contact is made the ball will almost always just go foul into the backstop on contact.
I like to teach the batters to imagine if there is a large plate of glass in front of home plate and the key to the bunt is to not break the glass. Teaching the players to also try to almost catch the ball with the bat is another good piece of instruction. The knees should be bent.
One of the things coaches must explain is for batters who bunt on high strikes and low strikes. Young players have a tendency to point the bat low or high depending upon where the ball is. Players have to be taught on low strikes to bend their knees making sure the barrel doesn’t move lower than the knob of the bat. On the high strikes, the player must lift up both hands again keeping the barrel a little higher. Another key to teaching bunting is when players get the bunt sign from the coach. Young players take things literal and think that when they are given the bunting sign that they must bunt at the next pitch no matter where it is located. Coaches have to reinforce to their players that when they are given the bunt sing, it only means that the batter tries to bunt a buntable ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone, the batter must pull the bat back. Like everything else, this has to be practiced.
The best way to teach bunting for the first time is to practice with a soft covered ball, rag ball or plastic type ball. With the rag balls or a soft covered ball, there is very little danger of getting hurt, and the players can actually pitch to each other. Once they seem confident, coaches can pitch a hard ball to his team. It is important that coaches who are pitching during batting practice and the players have to bunt, that they mix up their pitches. Coaches need to throw balls out of the strike zone as well as strikes so players get used to bunting as well as pulling the bat back if the ball is not a buntable ball.
Coaches might also want to try having players bunt one or two balls between two cones before their full swings during batting practice. And coaches should reward players with extra swings if the bunted ball does go through the two cones. This little techniques has worked well with my teams motivating young players to become proficient more bunters.There are many bunting strategies that can be used in a game. My favorite is with less than two out and a runner on third. In this situation, the batter can bunt to the third baseman as the base runner bounces toward home. When the third baseman releases the ball to first base, the player on third runs home, and must slide. If it is a good bunt, and the base runner breaks to home when he should, this is almost unstoppable. Remember that youth baseball players can practice bunting at a very young age. You may want to seek out your high school coach to teach the technique they like. Also, make sure your best bunters get a chance to swing away.
Marty Schupak has coached youth baseball for 21 years and is the video creator of
and author of the popular book, "Youth Baseball Drills". He is President of the Youth Sports Club,
a group dedicated to making sports practices and games more enjoyable for kids.