Summer Instruction Series: The Art Of Bunting

The Art Of BuntingBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Bunting has been a big part of offensive play for many top college baseball teams since the late 1990s when changes were made to tame the performance of aluminum bats.

Augie Garrido, head coach at the University of Texas, is considered the best in the business at teaching the art of bunting. In the October 11, 2002 edition of Collegiate Baseball, Garrido explained how he teaches hitters this skill.

“The first thing to do is have the players understand the value of bunting,” Garrido said.

“Part of the psychological problem with bunting is that you can’t simply ask a less than successful hitter to bunt. If you ask such a player to bunt, he thinks you don’t have confidence in his hitting, and that doesn’t work. The player needs to know that he is bunting because it is his contribution to the rally.

“Players much practice bunting consistently in game environments and use it in games and not be afraid to do it. There is no question they would rather hit. That’s another thing I like about the bunting game. To do it well, it forces the player to be unselfish and make his contribution to the offense when you are advancing runners and so on. But you must use bunts in games.

“The fundamentals of bunting are pretty simple. You keep your balance, see the ball and get the bat out in front and watch the ball off the bat. Get your angle early. Most guys who don’t bunt very well don’t get into the proper position prior to the ball getting to them. So they don’t track it very well, and they don’t get the angle because they are rushed. So there is a timing and rhythm to it that needs to be followed. You need to keep it simple to be consistent.”

Garrido discussed when his batters begin showing bunt in a game.

“If the infield is back, I would rather have our hitters not show a bunt early if we are going to bunt for a base hit. If the infield is already in, you might as well just turn around and do it because it eliminates one of the elements of timing.

“It is important for the bunter to position himself in the front of the batter’s box prior to bunting the ball to allow for better bunting angles in fair territory. We have a batting cage that is set up for the bunting game and have targets that the bunters aim for. We also have targets on the field as well when they bunt. We try to bunt at specific areas and try to play games with it so they have fun with it.

“We don’t want our hitters attempting to deaden the ball because that is when hitters pop it up. So I just have them be firm with the bat and try to get the ball on the ground quickly. This allows the bunter to stay on top of the ball and let the ground deaden.

“When you get an early first bounce on a bunt, it helps the runner so he can get a good jump.”

Balance Crucial
There are different ways to grip the bat for a bunt, but Garrido has a certain method he likes.

“I like to see the top hand up on the bat to a point where the barrel is resting between the thumb and fore finger with those fingers out of the way of the ball striking the barrel. Those fingers are firm on the bat. Then you slide the bottom hand up a little bit as well so you have balance. When you have balance, it is easier for you to control the bat and see the ball.

“Another key teaching point is to keep the barrel of the bat in position so you have the proper angle prior to the ball hitting the bat. Then you can see the ball and the bat come together, so that contact zone is out in front of the eyes and slightly off to the side and you don’t foul a ball off into your face.”

How sophisticated do his teams get with the short game?

“To be honest, you will never, ever get control of this game. You just try to work on the percentages and get players a chance to contribute to the rally at the time they are involved with the rally. Then the results will take place. There are no guarantees in this game.”

Bunting Puts Balls in Play
Garrido said he resorted to utilizing the bunting game during his high school coaching career many years ago out of necessity.

“I think what motivated me to teach players to bunt early in my coaching career was that it was a way for the high school players to contribute. For a young player or any player for that matter, it is about their confidence. If you can’t contribute to the offense then you start playing with less intensity on defense. That’s just the way it works. With high school players, I wanted to give them a way for them to be successful and put the ball in play. That’s where it all started from.”

It was pointed out to Garrido that good bunts on any level can cause nightmares for defenses. Good bunts cause errors because throws are rushed and defensive players are usually thrown off balance.

“It puts the ball in play, and that’s one of the major issues with bunting. When you put the ball consistently in play, you have an edge. Bunting allows the batter to hustle down to first base and let the defense make mistakes. If the batter strikes out, it comes down to whether the catcher catches the ball or not.”

Toughest Bunt To Defend
Garrido discussed the most difficult bunt to defend.

“A real tough bunt to defense is the one that is in between the pitcher, second baseman and first baseman. If you get all three of those defensive players going for the ball, you have them beat because nobody is covering first base. That is the ideal situation. If the ball is in the right place, it forces three players who all have the responsibility to cover first or get the ball.

“They all must make a quick decision as to who will do what. That is where the problem is for the defensive player One must cover the base, another get the ball and the other get out of the way. It’s a tough, tough play to make when the ball is hit in the right spot.”

Garrido was asked if he utilizes any special bunting charts to track bunts during the season.

“No, not really. I know who can bunt and who can’t through the many practices we have. So that isn’t necessary.”

Garrido was asked if the hitting vision of his players, such as tracking pitches and reacting to them, is enhanced by spending a considerable amount of time on bunting.

“There is no question that bunting helps a hitter’s tracking ability. When you bunt a ball, it is one of the few skills that allows a player to track it from the pitcher and see the ball come off the bat at contact.”

The Texas skipper had one final tidbit of advice for coaches on the subject of bunting.

“If you don’t practice bunting, your players will probably not be able to do it during a game. If you don’t practice it in game-like situations where you have high intensity, you will probably not be able to bunt during games. The best way to do this is for the players to play games with high intensity concerning the bunting game. Have them hit targets on the field with their bunts. You can also have 2-man teams going against other 2-man teams for competition.”

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