Minor-league baseball teaching moments abound

Three different players made a mess on the base paths in a game for the Dayton Dragons last week against Lansing, leaving manager Luis Bolivar in a quandary over what to do about it.

This being low Class A minor-league baseball, every situation is a teaching moment.

Sometimes, when you see one of the Reds make a bad move on the bases, you can connect the dots to what that player learned when he was in the minors.

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Once, a few years ago, a Dragons player on second base tried to steal third with less than two outs and Dayton trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth. The third, fourth and fifth batters in the lineup were due next, too. He was thrown out with several feet to spare and the Dragons lost.

It became a teaching moment.

The teacher became a little more heated a few days later when the situation repeated itself with the same runner. And this guy made it to the major leagues, albeit briefly.

“You’ve got to understand the game and the situations,” Bolivar said. “If a player makes a mistake, you can explain it to him a few times. If it keeps happening, you say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ ”

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In a game against Lansing in which the Dragons lost 8-3, there were all kinds of base-running mistakes. The most egregious came with no score and the Dragons had runners on first and second.

A hit was about to score two runs, but the lead runner wasn’t paying attention and missed tagging third. He went back and by that time, the ball was returned to the infield. The second runner, almost to third, retreated and made it back just before the throw to second.

The Dragons ended up not scoring in the inning and Lansing scored six runs in the next inning to take a commanding lead.

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That led to another base running blunder. Now down by six, a runner at first tried to steal second and put himself in scoring position. That might be a good idea if you’re down only a run or two and it’s a late inning. It was not a good idea down by six in the sixth inning.

The third base running blunder came when a runner ran through Bolivar’s hold sign at third and was easily thrown out at the plate.

“We didn’t run the bases good at all,” Bolivar admitted. “It probably cost us the game. We’ve got to talk to them. It’s a teaching moment. We try to explain the situation, what it should be and what they’re looking for on the bases.”

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Of course, the Dragons haven’t been all bad on the bases. They are in or near the Midwest League lead in stolen bases with more than 130. Jeter Downs leads the team with 27.

In 2011, a playoff season for the Dragons, then-shortstop Billy Hamilton stole a whopping 103 bases. He was also thrown out 20 times, but his aggressiveness on the bases led to more wins than losses with the team.

Back in 2003, a young man by the name of Bolivar played in 57 games for the Dragons, stealing six bases in 11 attempts.

The next season, in 123 games, Bolivar stole 31 bases and was thrown out 10 times.

I don’t remember Bolivar or Hamilton taking any other unusual liberties on the base paths. They were good on base, knew how to follow the orders of coaches and took an extra base when they could.

Those on the Dragons today will learn that message.

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