Baseball Pickle: How to Play Rundown or Hotbox | BaseballMonkey

Pickle (also known as a Hotbox or Rundown) is a baseball situation, and popular kid’s game, that actually has nothing to do with food. Instead, “pickle” in this instance describes the difficult situation a baserunner may find themselves in when stranded between 2 bases while one of the infielders is in possession of the ball at one of those bases. This situation is often practiced making sure players are ready in case it occurs in a game. Of course, you can’t practice this drill without baseball gloves, baseballs or bases! Below we will discuss the pickle drill itself, as well as some tips for both fielders and runners to help better execute the play from both sides.

Setting Up the Pickle Drill

Teams should practice successfully getting out of the pickle (for runners) and successfully foiling the pickle (for the fielders). To set this up, either practice directly on the field, or place 2 bases or cones 20-30 feet apart. Make sure to have a few balls and each fielder will need a glove. The base runners may want to wear helmets for safety, and cleats for better traction for quick side to side movements. You will need at least two fielders but having extras to jump in for a more complex drill is always good, and at least one base runner. Start with the base runner in between the two fielders, or have the base runner start near one of the bases and practice getting into a pickle after a pickoff attempt.

This drill will help runners build up their anticipation and base running skills. Fielders work on throwing to a target and placing accurate and strong tags on the runner. Your players need excellent timing skills for proper execution of this play and that needs to be practiced regularly to keep the timing sharp.

Tips for Fielders

When executing a pickle, rundown or hotbox in a game or drill, there are a few key tips and tricks to remember that will make getting the runner out much easier. Remember, your key objectives in this game situation or drill is to either get the runner out, or at least make them retreat to the base they started at.

  • Get the baseball into your throwing hand as soon as you receive it. This will allow you to make throws or tag the runner much quicker.
  • Dictate your throwing path. Both fielders should be on the same side of the base path, either on the outside or inside. This will prevent your throws from hitting the runner and will give each fielder a clear line of sight to the ball.
  • Close the gap between you and your target. The fielder with the ball should always be running hard trying to tag the runner out. The fielder without the ball should slowly inch towards the runner in the middle, closing the gap. Do not get too close to the runner before calling for the ball, however, or this could result in the runner blowing by you before you can put the tag on them.
  • Follow your throw without obstructing the play. It is important that once you make a throw to the other fielder, you instantly peel off, out of the base path, but still continue to the base you just threw the ball to. This will ensure there is always a fielder at one of the two bases. Make sure you NEVER cross the baseline once you have made a throw and peeled off. If you interfere with the runner and make contact with them, they are automatically safe and advance to the next base.
  • Communication is key. Fielders should always bee communication with one another. Simple calls like “now” or “ball” when the receiving fielder is ready for the ball will let the throwing fielder know the perfect time to throw the ball. This helps greatly to close the gap and quickly slap a tag down on the runner.

Tips for Baserunners

Typically, being in a pickle (rundown) results in an out at higher levels of play. While younger players can usually force the defense to make a mistake, and at the very least get back to the base they started from. Below we have highlighted a few key tips that may be able to help you get out of a pickle (rundown) play.

  • Try not to get into a pickle. Instead of getting into a pickle, especially after a pickoff attempt, run hard at the base in front of you and force the defense to make an accurate throw under pressure.
  • Stay in the pickle as long as possible. If you end up in a pickle, it is best to stay in the rundown as long as you can. This will tire out the fielders and could result in them making a bad throw or missing a tag. This is an especially important tip if there are other runners on base. The longer you stay in the pickle, the longer those other base runners have to advance on the bases.
  • Run in the throwing path of the fielders. Watch the fielders and see where they set up to receive the ball in front of you. If you can obstruct the play and have a fielder hit you with the ball, you have a much better chance of advancing safely as they try to recover the ball.
  • Look for fielders in the base path without the ball. If you, as the runner, make contact with any fielder in the play who does not currently have possession of the ball, this is obstruction/interference and you will automatically be awarded the next base.
  • Watch for an unoccupied base. The pickle (rundown) is a very fast paced play and can sometimes result in a lapse of judgement by the defense. What we mean here is that sometimes a fielder can forget to cover or will be late to cover one of the bases you are in a rundown between. If you see this happening, try to get to that base as soon as you can.

Top 3 Pickle Plays on Video

When executing a pickle (rundown) play, you have to be ready for anything and everything to happen. The videos found below highlight some great examples of different scenarios you have to be ready for when executing a pickle play in a game. These things can be tough to practice, but if you are aware of them, your in-game instincts may take over to help you perfectly execute the play.

Harrison Advances to Third on Long Rundown

Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates gets caught in a rundown after a pickoff attempt. Watch as he dodges tag after tag to advance to the next base, even though the pickle (rundown) play was executed very well by the defense.

MLB Rundown Errors

Even the big leaguers poorly execute the pickle play here and there. This video shows great examples of what NOT to do as a fielder in a pickle (rundown).

Giants Get Two Rundowns for Odd Double Play

Sometimes, a pickle (rundown), isn’t always as simple as they seem in the drill. This video shows an instance where two pickles occur back to back on the same play, and the defense executes it perfectly.

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Now that you have read through these tips and tricks, go out there and start practicing the pickle drill on your own! You never know when you may have to execute it in a game situation! If you require any further information, or would like some in-person advice on which baseball gloves, baseballs or bases would be best for this drill, stop by your local MonkeySports superstores to talk to one of our expert baseball associates.


This article was originally published on September 27, 2019, and has been updated with new information.