One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the steal of home. I am not talking about the standard play where a runner from third leaves when the catcher tries to throw out a runner going to second. I am talking about a straight steal of home. A rare but very effective baseball play.
Here are a few tips on deciding whether to call a steal of home and how to teach young players the correct way to execute this risky play.
Is it Time to Steal Home?
There are four "conditions" that must be in place in order for an attempt to be successful:
- You must have a fast runner at third base. What is fast? You just have to use your judgment. On average, only 3-4 kids per team will be successful.
- The pitcher must be in the wind-up position.
- You must have a pitcher who does not pay attention to the runner on third. In other words, he doesn't "check" the runner on every pitch.
- Finally, you need a pitcher who has a long delivery to the plate.
It is important that the batter knows when the runner is going to steal home. We wouldn't want a kid getting a mouth full of Z-Core would we?
Usually I will tell the on-deck batter that if I give them the take signal (once they are up to bat) that we are going to steal home.
Getting a Head Start
Once you decide that you are going to try to steal home, the runner should start getting the timing down. Once again, as always, the players should be watching the pitcher from the dugout to pick up tendencies and timing.
There are several keys to success here. First is the lead. The lead should be a good one-third of the way down the base line. I also call this no man's land because the pitcher at this point can see the runner peripherally. If the runner gets here and the pitcher has not pitched yet, he should just take off. Oftentimes the pitcher will balk.
The other key is that the runner takes off the instant that the pitcher starts his windup. Every tenth of a second is important here.
Setting Up the Steal
Stealing home actually takes two pitches to set up. The first pitch is for the runner to get the timing down one last time.
He should take a normal walking lead and crow-hop as the ball reaches the plate. Then he should turn and go back towards third.
Instead of going all of the way back, he stops and takes his walking lead. He should continue walking to the no man's land point and hopefully this is the same time that the pitcher begins his windup.
The runner should then sprint for home, slide feet first towards the inside of the plate. Ideally, he should pop-up as soon as possible as that gives the appearance of a runner being there sooner.