Stealing a base begins with a good lead-off, both an initial and secondary lead, but before learning how to steal a base, we must learn how to “Not” get picked off before we can steal.
Therefore, the very first question we need to answer is….
“How Far Of A Lead Off Do I Try To Take ?”
The General Rule of Thumb is 1 step and a dive.
Let’s break this down and exam each step.
We’ll assume you’re at your maximum initial lead, focused on the pitcher and ready to advance at the first opportunity. Suddenly the pitcher whirls and throws to first base.
To get back to first base you will:
(1.) Pivot on your left foot which will turn your hips and body towards first base.
(2.) You will cross your right foot over your left, same as a cross step you‘d take to initiate your steal of second base.
(3.) The split second your Right foot is firmly planted, balls of your feet on the ground, you will push off the foot and dive head first back to the base.
1 Step & A Dive - Stealing A Base
***Caveat*** Always reach for the rear of the outfield side of the base when diving back,as this takes away a quick tag of the right shoulder, as it’s tucked in under and trailing the left shoulder, and it’s the furthest distance away from a swipe tag by the first baseman.
Depending on the closeness of the play:
(1) You beat the throw with time to spare … Increase your lead.
(2) You barely beat the throw … Your lead is near perfect. What you should quickly mentally analyze ….
(a) Was I quick back to the base or did I slightly hesitate? Perfect reaction time, means the slightest delay of reaction time on another pick off throw means I’m out. If confident of your abilities, maintain lead, otherwise shorten the lead by a step.
(b) Could I have went back in standing ? Yes, increase your lead.
(c.) Was this the Pitcher’s best move? No … you’d better shorten your lead immediately.
You now have established how large of a lead-off you can take and still return to first base safely.
Steps For Stealing Second Base:
Simply stated … “To attempt to steal second base by out running a catcher’s throw is pure folly, as it’s physically impossible to run faster than a thrown ball.”
So how do you steal a base?
Get A Good Initial Lead Off - Stealing A Base
(1.) You shorten the distance you have to travel to
the base … while the distance the catcher must throw remains the same …
Thus, get a good lead-off shortening your distance from start to
(2.) Shorten the time it takes to get to second base, by getting an excellent jump off the pitcher as he delivers the ball, while the catcher waits for the ball.
Stealing A Base - Belt Buckle (Hips) Tilting Back
As with most things in baseball, timing is essential in getting a good jump towards stealing second base, as committing too early, allows the pitcher to either throw over to first base, or step off the rubber and trap you in a rundown.
Therefore, You must know the instant the pitcher is legally committed to continue his movement to the plate, the split second in which, if he hesitates or throws over to first base, it’s a balk and you’re awarded second base uncontested.
One such method is to watch the pitcher’s lead foot. (We’ll only be examining right handed pitchers, as a lefty is a whole other ball game.)
Front Foot Method One: - Stealing A Base
When the pitcher comes set in his stretch windup, he must come to a brief Complete Stop before continuing to pitch. At this point your focus should be entirely on the pitcher’s lead foot; his left foot pointing away from you.
****This is the Key indicator you will use to determine when and if you break for second base.****
(1.) When a pitcher, from the stretch position, decides to throw to the plate, he will lean backwards in an attempt to gain energy for the pitch. It‘s physically impossible to lean backwards without lifting the front foot off the ground.
Going To First Base (Stepping Towards First)
Stealing A Base
Once the foot begins to rise the pitcher will be committed to continue towards home plate. To stop or alter his delivery after the front foot rises constitutes a balk, and a balk is as good as a stolen base because you end up safely on second base and in scoring position.
(2.) Should the Front Foot begin to Turn Toward You or Travels Backwards, the pitcher is throwing to first base.
The pitcher must turn his hips towards first base in order to throw with velocity, which means his left foot will turn towards the base, or the pitcher will step Backwards while turning his hips and foot.
There’s actually only two things you must remember. Foot goes UP …You take off to second base. Foot begins to Turn Towards you or travels Backwards …. You dive back to first base immediately.
(3.) A pitcher will attempt to fool you by using a Slide Step, which means he simply slides his front foot forward instead of lifting it as he throws home. It’s another aspect of the Cat and Mouse game pitchers and runners play.
It may sound quite simplistic and I guess technically it is, but the speed in which a pitcher with a good pick off move can deliver the ball to the first baseman suddenly makes the simple, quite a bit more complicated.
Focus too much to the point you become semi-mesmerized and you won’t be able to react in time to get back to the base safely. You must remain focused, yet alert through out your entire initial lead and into your secondary lead.
Front Foot Drill:
Have a player or preferably a coach act as the pitcher while other players rotate being the base runner. The drill is intended to teach runners the split second reaction time to the pitcher’s commitment home, but can also be used to practice initial and secondary lead offs.
Stealing A Base
Front Foot Lifting - Go
You as the coach should stand behind the base runner to verify if he chooses correctly as to when to go forward to second or return to 1st base and that the pitcher is not committing a balk.
Have the coach mix-up going home, throwing over or stepping off the rubber. It’s important the players learn the physical movements.
Belt Buckle / Hip Method: - Stealing A Base
Another visual method is to concentrate on the movement of the pitcher’s belt, or hips. I say belt first, because a brightly colored belt will be easier to track than the hips, especially if the hips are camouflaged with a baggy, same colored uniform.
However, a uniform without a belt or a poorly colored one, leaves no option except to focus on the angel of the hips.
The physical restrictions which regulate the front foot, dictates the movements of the hip. When the pitcher decides to go home, the front foot will lift, thusly tilting the hips, front hip going upward, rear hip dipping downward.
Should the hips begin to open up, the hips are turning meaning the pitcher is throwing to first base. The same is true if the hips begin to move backwards then turn, the pitcher has stepped backwards off the rubber and is turning towards first base.
There are other very intricate methods, such as looking for any variation of the pitcher’s release point, to use as indicators, but these two explained methods are the easiest and best two methods to teach your young players.
Stealing a Base to Running the Bases