Stealing bases can drastically alter a baseball game. However, base stealing is often taken for granted and an afterthought in most coach's game plans. Why is this?
It's generally thought a base stealer needs to be successful on at least two-thirds of their attempts to make the tactic worthwhile. Most coaches prefer to leave a runner on base and give them a chance to get batted or walked in as opposed to risking an out with a failed stolen base attempt. But if you build up a reputation as an excellent base stealer, your coach is much more likely to give you the green light. With that in mind, here are five tactics you can use to make yourself a bigger and better threat at stealing bases.
Better Explosiveness Equals Better Jumps
Learning how to get a great jump takes practice. It's something you can physically train during practice (so long as you have someone willing to act as the pitcher so you can get your read), but you should also take mental reps during games by studying the opposing pitcher's habits and honing in on the precise moment in their motion when you'd take off.
But getting a great jump also requires explosiveness. One of my favorite methods for building strength and explosiveness is the French Contrast Method. In short, this pairs a compound movement with a plyometric assistance movement. For example, pairing a Squat with a Box Jump in a superset. There are several options to best utilize this method, but beginning your workout with a heavy compound movement followed by a plyometric assistance movement will help you develop fast-twitch muscle fibers and become a more explosive athlete. This video from MLB outfielder Peter Bourjos also includes a number of excellent tips for getting a strong jump.
Train the Movement
Although you'll be sprinting toward the bag in linear fashion, you'll get your start by moving laterally until the pitcher starts his motion. Then you must open your hips and accelerate toward the base. Incorporating this action into your speed and agility drills is a great way to get better at the motion.
An easy way to drill the mechanics of opening your hips and changing direction is by repetition. Simply beginning a linear sprint with your shoulders perpendicular to the finish as opposed to square can help you train rotating your plant foot, opening your lead leg, and accelerating explosively. Have a teammate or coach signal you to go. A visual signal, such as them flagging an arm down, may be better than an auditory signal, as it more accurately replicates what you'll be looking for when attempting a stolen base during a game. Once they give the signal, rotate your planting foot towards the bag and open up your leading leg in the same direction. Drive your planted foot into the ground with your shin angled toward the target. This will put you in prime position to accelerate as quickly as possible toward the base.
Prepare Your Body to Sprint
This should be done before every practice and game, but too many players overlook the importance of warming up your body and priming your muscles for explosive sprints and top speed. Utilizing various types of bounds, toe pops, glute bridges and skips will help you activate the major muscle groups and allow you to show your true speed on the base paths.
Build Better Hip and Glute Strength
It could be argued that your hips and glutes play the largest role in force output during sprinting. The glutes are heavily responsible for hip extension, external rotation of the hips, hip abduction and posterior pelvic tilt, making them one of the prime factors in athleticism and sprinting speed. Some of my favorite exercises to build hip and glute strength include Hip Bridges, Back Squats, Reverse Lunges, Step-Ups, Glute Ham Raises, Sprints and Split Squats.
Build Better Reaction Time
This is arguably the most important skill of them all. The quicker you can react to the pitcher making his move toward home plate, the better chance you have of swiping the base.
Like any other skill, reaction time must be trained. One drill I like to use features the athlete reacting to the drop of a tennis ball. Have them begin in the same stance they'll use for their leadoff, and stand about 10 yards away with the tennis ball in your hand. Once you drop the ball, the athletes must react as quickly as possible and run a 90-foot sprint. You can also have the athlete mirror a teammate's start and see if they can catch them by the end of the sprint.
Stealing bases isn't something every player is capable of, but it's a skill that can be trained and improved. There are many components you'll need to focus on to make sure you arrive at your stolen base safely. Use the above tips to make sure you don't get thrown out on your next attempt!
Photo Credit: Matt_Brown/iStock
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