A Guaranteed Technique to Improve Your Base Stealing – "Don't Get Caught With Your Hands Down"
By: Lee Taft
I recently had a meeting with a sports performance trainer that works with many baseball players. He wanted to talk about how to improve the speed of a baseball player, especially when it comes to base stealing. Anyone that knows me realizes how fired up I get when I get to talk about the technique of speed.
I find most trainers and coaches want to get right into the pure sprint mechanics or drills of speed. They completely miss the important factors of reaction speed, starting speed, and acceleration speed. It is how an athlete starts that makes the difference in 90 percent of sports. If you’re late starting, you’re late finishing!
Speed for any athlete always begins with starting technique. If the stance is bad the start will be bad. For a baseball player, stealing is about initial action, starting speed, and acceleration speed. The body must be in a position that allows for forces to be generated quickly and for the body to accept these forces and then make use of them.
When a baseball player takes a lead, they must get in an athletic stance that is like a coiled spring ready to spring out. This is done by performing the following steps:
- Position the feet wider than the shoulders to allow for a horizontal push off toward second base or back to first base.
- Point the feet straight ahead or slightly in with the pressure on the balls of the big toe.
- In order to create a force down and out the knees must be in line with the angle of the push off. Simply bring the knees inside the vertical line of the feet while always keeping pressure down and out with the feet. (Act like you are trying to rip a big paper towel down the middle by pushing the ends apart.) Now your loaded and ready fire.
- The knees should be pushed forward to load the ankles (dorsi-flex) and knees above or slightly in front of the feet.
- The back should be flat with the shoulders over the knees.
- The hands should be about waist high with the elbows bent. This decreases the distance the hands have to travel to get into the running position. It also shortens the lever arm which allows for a faster positioning of the arms. When learning how to steal, I always teach my baseball athletes to let the hands be the focal point to getting the process started. When the hands move quickly more power is generated through the kinetic chain down into the feet where the push off will occur.
Now, let’s take a good look at how the action of stealing should really occur. Remember this: the athlete’s body has to go from a lateral stance facing the home plate to linear acceleration, 90 degrees toward second base as efficiently as possible. The first thing the baseball player must understand is the mechanics involved in actually taking off.
Here is a look at the list of actions. Keep in mind, all these actions occur in a summation of parts.
- The left leg is what we call the push off leg. It will be the source of power to get the body moving toward second base. It is not used to gain huge distance, its purpose is the get the hips and shoulders over the right leg, which is called the power leg. It is called the power leg because it will be the first powerful push off in the linear acceleration.
- The power leg (right leg) will perform what is called a directional step. This occurs by the right leg lifting slightly off the ground and externally rotating at the hip (turning outward) to position the right foot, which is dorsi-flexed and now facing second base. The right foot will push down and back into the ground to start the acceleration process. It is important that the right foot does not reach out too far in front of the body so the heel touches first. This causes a breaking action. To have great acceleration, the shin should be facing down and back.
- While this is occurring the upper body is rotating by the initiation of the hands moving first. The hands will get into position to drive aggressively backward to increase the power of the push off from the legs. The shoulders must lean forward of the lower body to line up in the line of power created from the ground up through the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. If the shoulders get raised to high, or what I call rearing up, the power will be lost.
- Once the body has completely turned to face second base, the focus now becomes greater on pushing the ground down and back to get the body moving. The arms need to drive hard backward to help the knees drive up and the opposite leg drive into the ground. It is all about coordination and physics.
I encourage you to break down each phase of stealing when first introducing it. Once the athletes understand where the force comes from and how to get the mechanics to work, they just need to practice with a pitcher to get the timing down. Improve this skill and watch your scoring increase. Remember, speed kills!
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