Baserunning - Stealing Second
After you get your sign from the third base coach, make sure you act exactly the same as you do when you don't plan on stealing. Often young players get a sign from the coach and then they change things.
What To Look For
Once you take your lead, your focus is solely on the pitcher. What you look for depends on whether the pitcher is a left-handed or right-handed pitcher.
A pitchers head position and movement will often tell you what he is going to do before he does it. There is nothing as specific like there is with the heels to look for. What you want to look for is patterns or a movement that gives away his intentions. It may be the 3rd or 4th inning before you discover something, but if you do you can use it to your advantage. An example would be a pitcher that always glances towards a certain location when he is going to make a move to first but focuses on a different location when he is going to the plate.
Some pitchers fall into a rhythm when pitching, especially if they are throwing the ball well. They want to get the ball from the catcher, get on the mound, take their stretch and throw the ball. You can often time them when you are on the bench or in the batters box. If you think you have a pitcher timed and you want to use this method to get a good jump, you may not want to take your maximum lead. You want to take an average lead to give him the impression that you are not a threat to steal.
The most common focal point to watch on a right-handed pitcher is his heels. If the pitcher lifts his left heel first, he is throwing home. If he lifts his right heel first, he is throwing to first. When using this method you may find it easiest to concentrate harder on the right heel than the left. The reason is if you see movement with left leg but the right heel remains still you know he is going home. If you concentrate on the left heel you may anticipate any movement as the pitcher going to the plate.
So if watching the heels is so cut and dried, why focus on anything else? The pitcher may give away where he is going to throw the ball before he lifts either heel. If you can find out something that gives away what he is going to do before he lifts a heel then you are greatly improving your chances of being able to steal second off the pitcher.
This often is a good place to focus with a pitcher that comes set with an slightly open stance. He does this to get a better view of you as you take your lead. The advantage to you is the pitcher will often close his shoulder before he lifts his left heel as he goes to the plate. So, when you see the shoulder close...you're gone. If the shoulder comes toward you, then he is throwing to first.
Often a left-handed pitcher will have a higher leg kick when going home then when coming to first. This can enable you to get a great jump as you can actually start stealing as the leg moves up past the point where he normally would make a move to first. When using this as a key, make sure you don't anticipate what he will do. You will get a good jump if you simply wait for the leg to get past the position and then move.
You may be able to tell which direction the pitcher is going by looking at his foot. When going to first, the toe will be pointing down and you won't be able to see the bottom of his shoe. When going home the toe will be pointing up and you will be able to see the bottom of his shoe.
The shoulders on the pitcher can also be an indicator. Some pitcher's will keep their shoulders perpendicular to you if they are throwing home. On a move to first they will rotate their upper body toward first in order to get more on the throw. You can think of them as pointing where they are throwing. If you see the right shoulder rotating toward you, get back.
These are a few of the most common indicators that can be used when leading off first base. With a good left-handed pitcher it can be difficult finding a good indicator. The runner, the first base coach, and the team on the bench should all be looking for keys that the baserunner can use.
Getting Back To First
It's bad enough getting picked off at first. It shouldn't happen often, but it does happen. Getting picked off at first because you went back to the base standing up instead of sliding simply shouldn't happen. It's a sure sign of laziness and proof you're not paying attention. Sliding back to base is the one time a head first slide is the preferred method. On the pitcher's move to first, you will make a crossover with your right leg and dive towards first.
There is no substitute for a good jump when stealing base, but many runners lose time with the first few steps they take toward second base.
The first move towards second should be a crossover step. Often a baserunner will move their right foot first, picking it up and moving it an inch or two. All this does is take time and gets you no closer to second base. Whether stealing a base or playing defense, picking up and putting your lead foot back down will cost you time. It's a bad habit and one you need to break.
Stay Low And User Your Arms
Want to be more explosive towards second? Start with your arms. As you pick up your left foot to start your crossover, also use your arms to get your movement toward second started. Take your left hand and throw a punch toward second base. This will get your upper body twisted quickly toward second base and get you moving quickly. Stay low as you start, standing strait up will only slow you down.
Take A Glance
If you are stealing on your own or a run and hit has been called, you will need to take a glance toward home plate when you anticipate the ball will be crossing the plate. The reason is to pick up the ball as it crosses the plate. If the hitter hits a pop fly, you need to see it and quickly stop. You may find you want to do this on every steal. The batter may have missed the sign and is swinging when you expect him to be taking. The glance can also help you decide on how you are going to go into second base.
The main thing to realize is that the quickest way to second base is a strait line and slide that is strait into the bag. Many players learn to hook slide in addition to a strait slide, in reality the only reason to use a hook slide is to avoid being tagged when you are sure to be out if you slide strait in. If you are sure your going to be tagged out, you may find a strait slide to the back side of second base is your best chance to get in safe. This works best when the infielder covering the bag is not straddling the bag but is to the inside.