Sliding into First Base in Softball (What the Rule Book says)
I’m not sure why this happened, but the other day it crossed my mind that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a softball player slide into first base before.
I’ve seen it a few times in baseball, but am not so sure about softball.
Therefore, I decided to do a little digging into various rule books.
Is sliding into first base permitted in Softball?
Yes, softball players are allowed to slide into first base. This is true for larger softball associations like the ASA and USSSA. First base is treated just like any other base on the field, and follows the same rules and regulations around interference and proper sliding technique.
Even though ASA, and USSSA rules do not prohibit sliding into first base, some organizations may still decide to have rules in place to prevent this from occurring. So why so much ambiguity? Read on to find out more.
The case against sliding into first base
There are several reasons why a league or individual player may decide that sliding is not the best choice including:
- Avoiding potential injuries
- Not likely to be successful
- Game Play factors
I’ve outlined these in more detail in the subsections that follow.
One of the major reasons that some leagues implement a rule that prohibits sliding into first base is for player safety.
When attempting to make an out, a first baseman must have their foot on the bag and catch the ball before the runner touches the base. As such, when sliding into first, a runner may inadvertently slide into the fielder’s ankle which can cause major injuries to not only the fielder, but the runner as well.
Depending on the level of competition, it may not be worth the chance to injure yourself or another player in recreational leagues.
Is it really a Faster way to reach First Base?
Another important factor relates to which is actually faster: running through the base, or sliding?
First base is unique when compared to second and third as a runner is permitted to run past the bag at full speed. Therefore, for most players, sliding tends to slow you down as your momentum simply stops.
Running at full speed past 1st base allows the player to keep their speed and momentum forward. This is similar to when running past home plate as well. However, there are many more plays at 1st than at home.
Another way to think of this is by watching any running race (like my favorite the 100m dash). If sliding were a faster way to get to a certain spot, why would these runners not attempt to slide into the finish line? You’ll absolutely see some “leaning” in these races, but in general the runners remain upright and are at full speed as they cross the finish line.
Game Play Factors
Imagine…you just hit a sharp grounder to the left side of the infield. You know the infielder has a cannon for an arm but you need that base. You know it’s going to be a close play and feel you need to slide to gain an advantage. This time it worked as you reached the bag first. Perfect right?
However, while sliding, you didn’t notice that an errant throw occurred which sent the ball close to the dugout. As you are on the ground, you now need to get yourself back on your feet and attempt to advance to second base. Now imagine you were already on your feet? Suddenly advancing to second seems much easier doesn’t it?
All of this to say, there are indirect factors at play that can have an effect on the end result of a game. These situations may not be common, but you never know they could lead to a win or loss!
Why Slide into First Base?
It may seem obvious, but one of the main reasons a player would want to slide into first base is they feel that they have a better chance of reaching the base safely rather than running through the base.
I completely understand this rationale as it becomes almost second nature in the heat of the moment. After all, sliding is more effective at second and third base. It almost feels like it should be the same with first.
Avoiding a Tag
As mentioned earlier, there are quite a few reasons why sliding into first isn’t always the best option. However, there is one situation however where it should be considered.
Using the same errant throw example from earlier, consider a difference where the first baseman is pulled off the base due to a high throw. As the player is coming down their first instinct is normally going to be to try and tag the runner out as it would be quicker than landing and touching first base.
As a runner, if you notice this scenario developing while running down the baseline, you may want to consider sliding as the fielder is much less likely to be able to tag you on the ground as opposed to when you are upright.
Although this is a perfectly plausible scenario that occurs a decent amount during games, it is incredibly hard for a runner to be able to pick up on it since their head is pointed towards the base.
Should you slide feet first or head first?
If you do find yourself in a position that you want to slide, you may also be wondering which is more effective: sliding head first or feet first. This has been debated for years with no true right or wrong answer.
If you are more on the scientific side, you are in luck. A physicist named David Peters makes the argument that it is simple physics around forward momentum that makes a head first slide the more desired choice. Essentially, Peters argues that by sliding head first you are still moving forward, while sliding feet first causes you to go in the opposite direction.
That’s all well and good and certainly credible! And let’s be honest, sliding head first certainly looks cooler.
Despite how cool and flashy it looks, head first sliding can also increase the potential for injury. This study for instance claims that head first sliding has led to as much as twice the amount of injuries as feet first sliding. When you think about it, diving on your chest head first into a base can’t be all that comfortable!
From a gameplay perspective, another consideration is the potential for a player to slide past the base when going in head first. The timing of this slide takes years to master and therefore if inexperienced you may find yourself missing the bag and getting tagged out. Feet first sliding on the other hand is easier, and i’ve never seen a player completely miss or go past a base sliding feet first.
So which is best? Really it’s up to the player, but I strongly believe feet first sliding is the direction I would go.
Can you Slide into second and third base?
Although I’ve pointed out many examples of why you may not want to slide into first base, you might be wondering if you should slide into other bases like 2nd, and 3rd.
And the answer is…absolutely! So why is sliding more advantageous at second and third?
As mentioned earlier, first base is unique in that you are able to run past the base at full speed in hopes to be safe. Second and third base are different as you are not allowed to run past the bag. If you do, you could be tagged out and sent back to the dugout. Therefore, sliding into the base helps to slow you down slightly and ensure that you don’t overrun the base.
Another benefit to sliding into 2nd or 3rd is that you are lower to the ground which in effect makes it harder to tag you. If you simply remained upright the entire time, fielders wouldn’t have as much difficulty tagging you.
What about home plate?
Home plate and sliding presents its own set of unique challenges. In the olden days, you may remember highlights of players running into catchers who blocked the plate. If the ball came loose, the run was scored. Thankfully, these situations don’t occur as much anymore.
In terms of sliding, in general, if the play at the plate is going to be close, a runner should slide as a way to prevent injuries and accidental collisions. Although there isn’t a specific rule for sliding, there are rules in place where a runner can be called out if they crash into a defensive player who has possession of the ball. So your options are to slide, run around the player, or go back to third. I think I know what most will choose!
So is sliding into first base allowed? It sure is!
However, there are many reasons why it doesn’t make sense to do so from a performance and injury perspective. That being said, there are still some instances where it will help, but in my opinion should be avoided for the majority of players.