Stealing Second

The indicator was the right ear. Once the right ear was touched, the batter and the baserunner knew that instructions were coming. Two signs after that the third base coach touched his bottom right calf. This meant that the runner on first, who had just singled to right, was to steal second. The base runner had decent speed, not Rickey Henderson speed, but fast enough to be a threat. He took his normal lead casually adding a step and a half. His goal was to get a slight advantage without being too obvious.

The pitcher, a tall right-hander with a decent move came set. He looked over his left shoulder out of the corner of his left eye. He resembled a shady character attempting to look without being noticed, much like something you would find on a neighborhood watch sign. But the reality was that he wanted the runner to know that he was looking at him.  He wanted the baserunner to feel his gaze, to be nervous that he might make a move to first. That he might pick him off. He was saying with his gaze, “Hey, I’m watching you. Stay close to the base where it’s safe. Where you can easily get back in time.” The runner didn’t budge. The pitcher started to think about what the runner was going to do.

He decided to step off the rubber. To let the base runner know that he was really watching him. The base runner quickly got back to first.

Stealing Second

The pitcher came set again. The runner took his lead, you know the one, with the extra step and a half. The pitcher checked the runner again, looked back at the catcher, and went into his delivery. The second the pitcher’s front left foot lifted, the baserunner pivoted and pushed hard toward second. A chorus of “he’s going!” rang out. The runner didn’t watch the pitch, this wasn’t a hit and run, but a straight steal. He stayed focused on his goal, that bright white square of safety 90 feet away. Although at this point it was probably more like 60 feet away. Then 50 feet. He could feel the crunch of the infield dirt as his spikes dug in and helped propel him forward. Now 30 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet…

The shortstop moved from his position to cover second because that’s the shortstop’s job when a runner is attempting to steal second. The batter at the plate took the pitch, barely lifting the bat from their shoulder. The pitch crossed the plate and the catcher, who felt like he was waiting forever for the pitch to reach his mitt, rose from his crouch. The transfer from glove to hand was seamless and the throw was on its way to second. It was just below chest high and arrived right in the shortstop’s glove with a “thwack”, creating a small dirt cloud. He brought the glove down hard as the catcher looked on with his mask askew…

The Call

The baserunner went into a head-first slide as the shortstop received the ball. The runner hooked to the right to avoid the shortstop’s tag, the infield dirt acting like a hard Slip ‘N Slide. As the shortstop brought his glove down he swept it from right to left, corner to corner, on second base. It was all timing, some that could be controlled and some that couldn’t. As the glove found the runner’s arm, the runner’s fingertips found the left corner of second base. The whole violent collision was over in seconds and there was a brief pause where everything was silent. Time had stopped.

“Safe!” the umpire called out, making a motion with his arms that resembled a pterodactyl in mid-flight.

The shortstop left his glove on the baserunner’s arm for a few seconds, reminding him that while safe for now, the defense still had the power, it still had the ball. The runner waited until the shortstop threw the ball back to the pitcher to get up. Then he did a little spring cleaning. He brushed the dirt from the front of his jersey and his pants. Also, he turned the buckle of his belt outward to let any trapped dirt back into the wild. Lastly, he pulled his socks up and adjusted the elastic hems of his pants.

Then the baserunner looked over at the third-base coach just in time to catch the next round of signs. Another theft with punishment avoided.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Rickey Henderson