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Everywhere a Sign: One Coach’s In-Game Strategy for Giving Signs

Bullock, who is the head varsity baseball coach at Rocky Mountain High School (Fort Collins, Colorado), gauges a few different factors in deciding where and how he will send in his offensive signs any given game.

“A lot of it kind of depends on where we’re at offensively,” Bullock said. “If I need to talk to our hitters and I need to talk about approach before they get in the box, I’ll go to the dugout. Also, if I’ve got a team that I’m really trying to manage and do a lot of substituting, I like being in the dugout because I do a better job of managing the team from the dugout than the third base box.”

In his 21st season as a head coach, Bullock likes to follow the method that most college head coaches follow and all Major League Baseball managers adhere to.

When it comes to signs, Bullock uses hand signs. He uses a hot spot approach for his players.

“When I say hot spots, (the players) might be counting touches to one certain area,” Bullock said. “For me, I like that because you can change that real easy. They can come in from the field and if you feel a team is getting an idea about what you’re doing, you can easily change the hot spot."

Bullock, who has guided his team to the Class 5A state title game eight of the last 11 years and captured six championships, uses variations with his hot spots. A hot spot can be switched each inning and can even be adjusted depending on how many outs there are.

“This is the hot spot when we have no outs; this is the hot spot when we’ve got one out,” Bullock said. “The hot spot will give you bunt, a steal, a hit-and-run and it will give you squeeze. Let’s say I want to have a drag bunt or a push bunt and I’ve given a hot spot for a bunt. The next sign I give them right after the hot spot will tell them if I want a push or drag bunt. So we’ve got a hot spot and then something right off the hot spot to be more specific of what I want.”

Another example is that Bullock might give the steal sign, but then if he touches his left shoulder after the steal, it’s a delay steal.

Bullock really caters his signs to the type of team he is coaching. If his guys don’t hit many home runs, he’ll probably implement the hit-and-run more often. If his team thrives at small ball, that’s the approach he will take.

“I think it all starts with the team that you have,” Bullock said. “I think a good coach coaches to the team that he has.”

“We definitely work hard on the execution part of the game because you’re always going to run into situations where you’re always going to need it.”

Consistency is important for Bullock and that’s a big reason why his high school teams all use the same sign system with hot spots.

“They grow up in it,” Bullock said.

When the younger players work their way up the ladder and arrive at the varsity level, they are already familiar with the signs.

Bullock makes certain he runs through signs with his guys each practice before a game. The last five minutes of practice are dedicated to working on signs as players break into four groups.

“Each group will go to a base and we’ll just run through signs,” Bullock said. “No baseball, but they’ll go through that sign at that base and they’ll just run it. We usually do it at half speed. If we’re playing a team that I know we’re going to be in the first base dugout, I’m going to stand in the first base dugout.

“It’s a good way to end practice.”

From GameChanger and Greg Bates

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