Should players walk on a baseball field?

I coach at Cypress College here in Southern California. It’s a storied program, with six or seven state titles, that sends 6-7 players to the Division 1 level every year. We play in a great conference, the Orange Empire Conference, and have an amazing coach (Scott Pickler) that’s just been elected into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Coach Pickler is also the most winningest coach in Cape Cod League History, most recently going back-to-back-to-back in 2014-2016.

One of the rules that has been built into the fabric of the program is this:

NO WALKING ON THE BASEBALL FIELD

Every day as I walk (let me be clear that I’m carrying a verrrry heavy bag šŸ™‚ from my truck across the field to “our side” of the field (where the pitchers dominate), I’m passed by athletes carrying their gear and executing an awkward run/shuffle/skip. Trying not to spill their bags, or drop a helmet, every single dude picks up their feet and hustles them puppies once they pass through the left-field gate.

Normally, I don’t think much of it. But at a recent fall league game, I actually noticed the opposing team walking on the field. They wore mismatched uniforms… some in BP tops, some in jackets… some with cleats already on, some in running shoes… some with bags and some carrying their gear loose in their arms. It wasn’t necessarily a bad look, but I did notice it. And then I noticed our guys hustling past, and just how different the look and vibe that was given off.

It was at that moment that I loved our rule:

NO WALKING ON THE BASEBALL FIELD

It really does help to set the tone. Themes of respect, hustle, and discipline come to mind when I think of this rule. And it’s a consistent rule that is applies elsewhere on the field. Our squad takes the field each inning with pace and urgency. Meaning:Ā  (1) we are quick to grab gloves, pick up a teammate, and get out of the dugout, and (2) we bust our butts to get to our defensive position. It’s a culture component, a competitive advantage, and a tangible way of playing more baseball faster!! Example, tomorrow we’ll play an intersquad game that will be a minimum of 11-12 innings. With 10+ pitchers throwing 40-50 pitches each, that’s a lot of baseball. Cutting the time on and off the field is an absolute necessity – might shave 15 minutes off the day with that many half-innings.

Another example is setting up and breaking down the field for batting practice. There’s a palpable sense of urgency to set up once the words, “Set it up for BP!!” are spoken. Being responsible for the pitchers, I get on edge and am very aware of any wasted time or pitchers standing around.

Last spring, I worked with my son’s youth squad and taught the art of sprinting to and from their positions. It was absolutely hilarious to try and get 5-year olds to remember their own positions… and then equally challenging to get them to know where that position was on the field. We must have played 15 games and half the team couldn’t run to shortstop if their after-game snack depended on it! But I’ll tell you this much – our kids knew and followed this rule:

NO WALKING ON THE BASEBALL FIELD

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Five good things that happen from a No Walking rule:

  1. Discipline – The team starts every workout with a quick reminder of discipline. Feet touch the field, no walking allowed. Might be my own opinion, but I believe young ballplayers are craving discipline. Tough love shows you care about much more than their ability to play the game.
  2. Teamwork – Everyone works together. If one walks, then the entire team must return to the dugout and start over. There becomes a group mentality where players are looking out for one another and encouraging each other to move quickly.
  3. Efficiency – Practices and games move faster, maximizing reps and minimizing wasted time. Everyone is happier when games move faster!
  4. Fitness – That’s one sprint out to a position, and another sprint back to the dugout. Multiply that by the number of innings played and we’re getting some good conditioning in. Fitness is another lost art, just as Eric Byrnes and the Let Them Play Foundation.
  5. Respect – Respect for the game, respect for coaches, respect for those that came before you, respect for your teammates.

Perhaps I’m old-school, but I love this rule. And as an avid reader of books on leadership, mental toughness, and self-development books, I appreciate more and more the fact that Cypress College athletes NEVER walk on the baseball field. I recommend thinking through if this rule, or other rules, might help you with team discipline, focus, and overall performance.

Play Hard, Have Fun!

~ DK

8 thoughts on “Should players walk on a baseball field?

  1. Great rule. As a coach of a 5-6 year old team, it’s also very intimidating for other kids and parents to see that much discipline. And parents appreciate little things like that more than their ability to hit a baseball or field a ground ball. I’m in the middle of fall now so not going to do anything new, but in the Spring, that’ll be a day 1 lesson.

    1. We should come up with a short list of suggested team rules, with “running while on the field” included. I’d start that list with the three NO’s: No whining, no complaining, and no excuses.

      1. Here’s one of my foundational rules from my Little League coaching days: When a coach is talking, you should be looking him in the eye and listening. (My gosh, squirrelly kids can drive me crazy.)

        1. Good one for sure. My version: “Mouths closed, eyes up!” Whenever a coach is talking, the mouths closed, eyes up rule is in effect.

  2. Great Post as usual! Iā€™m coaching a group that consists of 6th graders through 9th graders this fall and no walking on the field falls in line with having good energy for me. Which I ask my two 9th graders to set the tone and the example for the younger ones. Good energy = fun & success.

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