The Baseball Players’ Checklist: How to Increase Your Odds of Success

baseball players checklist
Baseball is a game of failure. We’ve all heard this.

Heck, I preach this every day in my lessons and training camps. Players and coaches work very hard at perfecting all skill sets in the game of baseball to increase the odds of being successful. But if we ignore the simple things in the game, when it matters, important procedures often get overlooked creating more failure…lower batting average, more physical errors made in the field and more mental errors made in the field (throwing to the wrong base, not covering the correct base, etc.). So how do we keep things simple in the game and reduce the simple mistakes that get made over and over again…the CHECKLIST!

It’s 2018 and baseball is becoming a real game of numbers, statistics and analytics. We can get bogged down in the numbers and get “paralysis of analysis” or keep things simple. After all, most people reading this article are parents of youth players that are playing in only 20 or so games in a season, not 162 like the bigs. The following article will outline a way in increase your (your players’) odds of being successful over time, how to increase discipline, stay consistent and promote a culture of teamwork.

The Checklist Manifesto

What does an architect, pilot, surgeon and baseball player have in common??? They use checklists.

It wasn’t until I recently read the book, “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande when I realized what I’ve done in my playing days and what I teach every day is to run through a simple check list before each swing, before each pitch thrown while in the field.

In this book, Atul Gawandi, a general surgeon in Boston, makes it his mission to create simple checklists for surgeons all over the world to help simplify the most complex, multi person, multi technology, action one could think of and that is surgery. Think about it, if you were rolled into a hospital to have an emergency appendectomy in the middle of the night, how is it that a surgeon, multiple nurses and the anesthesiologist get on the same page often not knowing each other? They work as a team and get the surgery right without infection and without critical errors. How is it that a commercial jet with 250 people and 7 crew members get it right pretty much every time? They deliver passengers gate to the gate 2,500 miles away safely over and over? How is it that skyscrapers get built and do not collapse during construction when something can easily go wrong or get miscommunicated between all of the different trades? It’s the CHECKLIST!

Checklist Rules

  • First, your checklist has to be brief, 3-6 items. Something that can be memorized and visualized by youth players.
    It has to be recited in only a few seconds. The time between pitches…30-60 seconds.
  • Each item on the list must be imperative. So important that without it, the play will not be made, or the AB will absolutely end in failure.
  • Has to have an order of importance. The most crucial must be asked first and if time allows, you can visualize the thousands of combination and possibilities.
  • Must be able to be modified.
  • There must be an element of communication whether verbal or non-verbal. This increases teamwork and creates a flow and rhythm of the game.

Let’s take it one step further. If you are a coach of a team (at any amateur level), what better way to promote a culture of teamwork and discipline by empowering your team create their own checklists. Checklists they can use in their game routines. If you as the coach lay out the rules stated above and give your players the chance to create their own checklists, I can guarantee you will have less coverage breakdowns, better execution and better approaches to at bats. This equals…you guessed it, more wins, more success, increased confidence and a feeling of camaraderie.

How many times have you seen your player forget how many outs there were? How many time have you seen you 2B fail to cover 1B on a bunt. How many times have you seen your pitcher forget to cover 1B on a ground ball to the right side? How many times have you seen your 3B play too far back when a speedy runner is hitting and they get burned by a slow roller.

Checklist Examples


When you are a position player, you should ask yourself (or visualize) at least these 3 things, in order. If you want to be more complex, ask/execute/visualize #’s 4-6

√ How many outs are there?
√ What do I do with the ball?
√ What do I do without the ball?
√ How fast are the runners?
√ Where should I position myself?
√ Communicate with your teammates. (catcher giving signs, middle infield communicating with each other on who covers on a steal, pitcher communicating to MI on a comebacker, MI letting the corners know if off-speed pitch is coming, and on and on…)

I wrote and article about the “pre-pitch routine” for infielders a few years ago. Check it out HERE.


I would have 3 sets of checklists. One for when on double deck, on deck and while in the batter’s box prior to each swing.

Double Deck:
√ Batting gloves, bat and helmet
√ Pitcher righty or lefty
√ Types of pitches
√ Pitching sequence
√ Current game situation and predicted game situation

On deck:
√ Stretch/bat weight
√ 3 Connected swings
√ Time the pitcher…getting foot down on time
√ Will I have to back up home to let teammate know to slide?

Walking up to plate/while in the batter’s box:
√ How many outs
√ Look to coach for signs
√ What am I trying to accomplish/execute? (sac bunt, hit to right side, hit and run, steal, etc)
√ Scan the field
√ What’s the Count
√ What’s my “hot pitch”
√ Breath

As a Base Runner

√ How many outs
√ Look at coach for signs
√ What am I trying to accomplish/execute? (steal, sac bunt, one way lead, etc)
√ Where are the outfielders playing?
√ Pitchers move to first


√ How many outs
√ Scan field, communicate with MI for coverage if needed
√ What do I do with the ball?
√ What do I do without the ball?
√ Catchers signs. What am I trying to accomplish/execute?
√ Breath

Try it and let me know how it works in your game.

Do you have a baseball checklist that you would like to share? Comment below and it will be posted to our community of players and coaches.

Stay on plane…

About CoachK

Owner and head instructor at Colonial Baseball Instruction. CBI serves Southern VA with baseball camps and private lessons. CBI also developed My Coach: Baseball App and sells a variety of baseball training aids.