When To Slide In Baseball? (& How-To-Guide)
Baseball is a fascinating sport with many different skill areas. One of them is baserunning, and that alone is included with many different things to master, such as speed, game intelligence, and sliding. Sliding can be done for various reasons, and it’s a vital piece of baserunning in all leagues. So, when should you slide in baseball?
Baseball players should slide to avoid being tagged out, whether the play is very close or unsure about it. Other situations include coaches’ instructions because he can see what the player can’t, avoiding collision and thus injury, stealing a base, and breaking up a double play.
As you can see, there are more than one occasions when a baseball player should slide. It can sometimes be hard to determine whether it’s the time for a slide. In that case, the players usually slide anyways to increase the chances of reaching the base without tagging.
To further understand the fundamentals of sliding and when you should do it, stick with me, and I’ll explain it to you.
Related: What Is A Baseball Sliding Mitt? (& Best Sliding Mitts)
- When to Slide In Baseball?
- Should You Slide Head or Feet First In Baseball?
- How to Slide In Baseball?
- Does It Hurt to Slide In Baseball?
- My Favorite Baseball Equipment
When to Slide In Baseball?
To get safely to the base and be called safe by the umpire, the player needs to touch the bag with his body. Sliding can be a great way to do so instead of traditional running.
There are so many reasons people slide in baseball, but the six below are the most common. Let’s start with the most obvious.
1. Avoid a Tag Out
When the play is very close in baseball, both the baserunner and defensive baseman will be aware of it, at least most of the time. This makes sliding a good option because it is more difficult for the defensive baseman to put out the baserunner in time.
Tagging happens when a fielder touches the baserunner before reaching the base with the baseball caught in their hand. Thus, when the baserunner slides, it makes himself smaller and harder to touch, which increases the chances of getting to the base on time.
If you have a hard time believing that sliding slower than running will increase the chances of getting to the base safe, I understand. However, making yourself smaller gives less or slightly more than a second of time. Even when that time isn’t much in general, it’s a lot in baseball and can determine between safe or tag.
The only exception when baserunners won’t generally slide even in close plays is running to first base. That’s because they have the chance to run through the first base, but the chance is denied in the second and third.
2. Avoid Overrunning the Base
Sliding is a great way to run as fast as possible as long as possible and then rapidly stop by using the friction created between the runner’s body and the ground. This will eliminate the chances of running past the base and allow the maximum running speed at the very end.
So why is overrunning the base bad? Well, there isn’t anything BAD to it. However, if you run past the base, you will need to get back to it before you are tagged out. As it’s hard to slow down momentum from full running speed, the risk of running past is higher than in sliding, so tagging you out is also higher.
3. Breaking Up a Double Play
If you don’t know what a double play is in baseball, it’s when two offensive players are ruled out within the same play. Naturally, this is a disaster for the batting team because two players are out within one play which is a major victory for the defensive team.
As a baserunner, you can break up a double play by sliding into the base while sliding towards the infielder who’s fielding a throw at the same base where you are sliding. If done correctly with a legal slide, the infielder can’t throw out another runner. Meaning you have successfully broken up a double play!
Breaking up a double play can look dangerous, and it can be. In addition, it can create beef between the sliding baserunner and the player attempting a throw. However, all knowledgeable baseball players know that breaking up a double play is part of the sport and shouldn’t cause an argument.
Check out the video below to see an example of a successful broken-up double play. See how the baserunner positions himself so that the baseman has a hard time throwing the ball?
4. Your Coach Instructs a Slide
You won’t see everything happening on the field when you are running. Thus, your knowledge about where the ball is and how fast it’s coming is limited. People that do have the full information and knowledge about the game at all times are your coaches. Your base coach in particular.
As a baserunner, you might initiate a slide when hearing instructions from the base coach that you should do it because of what the coach sees. And believe me, coaches are well trained and knowledgeable about tactics, so you should listen to them.
A great example of such a situation is when you are running to base, but the ball is coming fast from a direction that you can’t see while running. That’s when the base coach might yell ”down” (common sliding command) or something else to signal you that the ball is close and it’s time to slide.
5. Avoid Collision and Potential Injury
When you are running at full speed as a baserunner, the chances of colliding and hitting the fielder isn’t low. That’s why the proper sliding technique I will talk about later is instructed from a young age at baseball practice.
When you are at full speed and notice a high chance of hitting the fielder, it’s best to start sliding because the friction between your body and the ground will slow down the speed considerably, and you will make yourself smaller, which will lower the chances of getting injured by a lot.
Naturally, both the defensive fielder and offensive baserunner can get seriously hurt, so it’s essential to know the dos and don’ts in sliding. Oh, and the risk of sliding injury only increases at an older age.
6. Stealing a Base
Base stealing is probably the most enjoyable thing to do as a baserunner as it’s thrilling, for a reason, I might add. The vast majority of stolen bases are very close plays. That’s because the defense is always ready for such an attempt, and it’s risky.
However, when stealing a base, sliding is very important in most cases because if the plays are close, sliding will allow you to continue running for a longer time without overrunning the base. In addition, you will become a smaller target to tag, which increases the chances of a successful stolen base.
Check out the video of some examples of smooth stolen bases in baseball.
Related: Full List Of 5 Baseball Skills
Should You Slide Head or Feet First In Baseball?
Did you know that you can slide more than one way? The most common way is the traditional feet-first slide. However, you can also slide or dive head-first. This may sound dangerous, but both styles have great benefits at play.
Theoretically, you should slide head-first if you want to get to the base faster as you can dive by jumping and take advantage of the full momentum without getting friction from the ground. However, head-first sliding requires more body control and agility to be effective.
Sliding head-first is more dangerous, so colliding with the defensive player can result in worse injuries, especially for the baserunner. You will also need to dive head-first with the same determination as you slide feet first to get to the base faster. You also need to have fast reflexes and an understanding of the game.
However, it’s more mentally demanding to go all in to a head-first slide as you acknowledge its risks. That’s why sliding feet first is usually as fast as sliding head-first, if not faster.
In fact, the WST research shows that baseball players at the college level made it to the base in 3.85 seconds when sliding head-first and in 3.78 seconds when sliding feet first. That’s a 0.07-second difference which is nothing even when timing baserunning where half a second can make a difference.
Oh, and you should check your league’s regulations as head-first slides can be banned in younger leagues. However, they are allowed in MLB.
How to Slide In Baseball?
Now that you know when you should slide in baseball and the different methods, you must know the proper technique. With a proper sliding technique, you will limit injuries and increase the success rate of your slides.
Sliding can be done in many ways, as you have learned, so I will need to explain both methods individually. Let’s start by learning the feet-first slide.
How to Slide Feet First
A Leg-first slide is the most common and beginner-friendly way to slide on the base. However, it isn’t without risks either, so knowing how and when to position your body parts correctly will make you a great slider with minimal injuries.
Here’s how to do a bent-leg slide
- Practice the Form By Sitting: Before trying the slide from scratch, you should practice the right from just by sitting down. When sitting, make a figure-4 with your legs in a way that your non-dominant leg goes under the dominant leg’s knee while the dominant leg is pointing forward. You can switch the legs if you feel better with vice versa form.
- Focus on Weight Distribution: When in the correct form, focus your weight on your butt for the safest slide. Your butt has a lot of muscle and natural cushioning compared to the side of your leg to reduce the potential sliding pain and injury risk.
- Raise Your Hands: Wrists are one of the most commonly injured body parts when sliding. That’s why you should always lift your arms past your head by slightly bending them and pointing your fingers to the sky. This way, it’s impossible to drag your arms so that you won’t get cuts, ankle sprains, or broken fingers.
- Tighten Your Core & Tuck Your Chin: For safety and sliding comfort reasons, you need to tighten your core so it will support your whole body when sliding and give balance. Also, tuck your chin tightly to your chest so your head is fully secured and any collisions or hitting it to the ground are less severe.
- Keep the Position: This is the position you should slide for the best result. Now, to familiarize yourself with the form, sit in the position for several minutes, keeping all the steps in mind. This way, you will be more confident and familiar with your slide.
- Start Practicing Slowly: Practice the slide from slow jogging speed before moving into full sliding speed. After you feel comfortable with the speed, increase it and gradually move to full speed.
- Perform the Slide: When sliding at full speed, it’s important to remember all the steps above to perform safely and well. In addition, the distance you should start the slide is crucial. If you start the slide too early, you won’t reach the bag, and if you start it too late, you will go past it. Generally, start the slide when 3 to 5 feet away from the bag by tucking your leg under the opposite leg’s knee, focusing weight on your butt, raising your hands, tightening the core, tucking your chin, and looking forward.
- Complete the Slide: When you are sliding, keep the form in mind by keeping your chin tucked, core tightened, and arms up. It’s also vital to look forward to determining the positioning of your slide. Look at the baseman and try to notice where the ball will come from his body position. If he leans to the left, you should aim your slide to the right and vice versa. You need to touch the bag before the baseman touches you while holding the ball.
How to Slide (Dive) Head First
Sliding head-first is the faster way to slide in baseball if done correctly and with passion. This is thanks to your body’s momentum, the diving leap, and the absence of friction between your body and the ground.
Here’s how to perform a head-first slide
- Before head-first slide: When you are about to do a head-first slide, you need to watch forward and see if you can do it without the danger of colliding with the baseman. When the coast is clear, lean forward and leaps for extra speed.
- During head-first slide: When you are in the air, extend your body forward, keep your forearms and hands in front of you, and tighten your arms and core for a safe landing. Be mindful of your fingers so they aren’t pointing downwards.
- Making contact with the ground: When you are about to contact the bag, lift your wrists so your palm will hit it instead of your fingers, which could cause serious injuries and broken bones.
Keep in mind that little league players under 13 years old are banned from doing the head-first dive. Other leagues might have this ban, depending on the area and specific league. Always ask your coach to instruct the correct way to do a head-first dive, as it’s considerably more dangerous than the bent-leg slide.
Suppose you find yourself needing more instructions about sliding and many other skills. In that case, I recommend that you read my private baseball lessons article and see whether you could benefit from it.
Does It Hurt to Slide In Baseball?
When you think about sliding at full speed, whether feet first or head-first, it can feel dangerous and painful. So, does sliding in baseball hurt in reality?
Generally, sliding in baseball doesen’t hurt if it’s done the right way. However, sliding is one of the most common ways to get injured in baseball, which will hurt depending on the severity of the injury. Sliding won’t hurt if you know the proper sliding technique and have common sense when sliding.
Even if you are the most careful slider, you can have bad luck or have a defensive player lacking common sense. Thus, an injury can happen to anyone in baseball. Thanks to many studies and observations, the locations that get the most hurt are also known.
The Wall Street Journal has a record of percentages of baseball sliding injuries by location in MLB for five seasons between 2011-2015. You can see both feet first and head first sliding styles and the most injured body parts.
Feet-first slides & most injured body parts
- Ankle: 23.8%
- Knee: 17.1%
- Wrist: 12.3%
- Hand & Fingers: 9.7%
- Upper leg: 7.3%
- Other: 29.8%
Head-first slides & most injured body parts
- Hand & Fingers: 45.4%
- Shoulder & Clavicle: 22.5%
- Head & Face: 6.9%
- Wrist: 6%
- Knee: 5.2%
- Other: 14%
My Favorite Baseball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Below you can find my favorite baseball bat, baseballs, and a glove that I think will take your game to the next level!
- Bat: My favorite baseball bat is the Easton Project 3 Fuze. This bat has a composite end cap, reduced post-impact vibrations, balanced swing weight for the fastest swing speed, and a carbon core that makes this bat perform very well! As I’m not a professional baseball player, I like to use alloy bats as you can swing faster and hit further.
- Baseballs: Rawlings Competition Grade Practice Balls are my choice for something to hit. I love these balls because they fit all levels of play, so regardless of who you are playing with, you can use them. They come in a 6 or 12 balls box, and you can choose between raised or flat seams! I prefer flat seams as the balls tend to fly further!
- Glove: When it comes to the glove, my choice is the Rawlings Sandlot Glove. This glove is available for both lefties and righties. The same glove is also available for infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers, and 1B mitt. This glove has a nice vintage look, and it’s made from oiled leather. It has palm pads that protect your hand from impact, and it is pre-broken-in, so you are good to go as soon as you have it! A glove I’m proud to recommend.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.