“BASEBALL IS 90% MENTAL AND THE REST IS PHYSICAL!” – Yogi Berra
These wise words from the great Yogi Berra are trying to explain that the game we all know and love is mainly mental. Yes, you play the game with your body as in swinging the bat and throwing the ball. Meanwhile, the mental aspect is that you have to make the right decisions each and every play.
Baseball is a game of unconsciousness, this is the reason so much effort is accounted for within the little things. If you focus on the little things, you will find that making the unconscious decision is much easier.
In Baseball, being confident is very important. Confidence stretches further than being competitive, you have to believe that you are the best player on the field day in and day out.
As a pitcher or hitter, you must have self-confidence in order to fail less, and succeed more.
Another key part to the mental game of baseball is Imagery.
This usually means visualization, but if you use Sensory Imagery, your visualization skills will become more
A good simple equation for this is
I x V = R (Imagery times Visualization equals reality).
This equation is basically saying that if you take a memory or vivid image and relive it, you will get real results.
For example hitting your first home run or throwing a no hitter, if you relive these memories and apply that feeling to what you are doing, you will become more successful.
Another good mental note to take and use in baseball is being aggressive.
Coaches may sometimes say “close the door”, “bury them”, this means go out there and don’t actually bury them 6 feet underground, but end the game pitch and hit with aggression so there is no chance of them coming back and winning the game.
The Major League game is moving toward home runs, but the youth, high school, and the college game is still centered around small ball. This how-to guide is to help you as a player steal bases, and its to help parents teach their kids the proper way to steal bases. Hint: It’s more mental than you think!
#1 Have Confidence in Stealing Bases
Your chance of stealing bases goes way up if you have confidence in what you are doing. There is nothing worse (I’ve been there), than second-guessing yourself when trying to steal bases.
So, if you are a player wanting to steal more bases, or a parent wanting to help their kid, start with having confidence as soon as you reach 1st or 2nd base and think about taking the next bag!
#2 Get a Base-Stealing Lead
You should never tip that you are trying to steal a base by getting a larger than normal lead, so, if you want to get a good lead to steal – you need to do it every time you take a lead.
Length – Your base stealing lead should be 10-12 feet at first base, and 14-16 feet at second base for HS and College. (Youth Coaches, please adjust accordingly, I’m a Minor Leaguer so I teach what I know).
Again, if you want to steal bases, there should be no difference between your normal lead and your base-stealing lead, so take a big league all the time if you want to steal bases.
#3 Think The Right Thoughts
So, you’ve got a big lead, now what? When you aren’t planning on stealing you should be staring at the pitcher and thinking – back.
You don’t want your weight to be shifted heavily, that should be centered – just think back. When you are planning on stealing, your thoughts should be different for a righty vs. a lefty pitcher.
Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Righty
If the pitcher is right-handed you need to have a soft focus at his feet. If his right foot moves, you have to dive back into the base because he’s picking off.
If his left foot moves – you go – I know, simple!
Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Lefty
Go first move. If the pitcher is a lefty you need to go first move. It’s a debate, I know, but I’ve played for 22 years now and I’ve never met a base stealer that didn’t go 1st move most of the time (first move means you go as soon as he lifts his right leg).
You need to have a soft focus at his entire lower half. If his left foot steps back, dive back into the base. When you aren’t stealing and he lifts his right foot you take a hard step back. I’m going to call this a jab step, it’s a hard step back toward first base with your left leg.
When he sees you do this a couple of times as soon as he lifts his right leg, he’ll forget about picking off. I like to even jab back with my left foot when I do steal, I just do it before he lifts his leg altogether.
Remember Pavlov’s Dog? You train a lefty pitcher 2 or 3 times that you jab hard back toward 1st base every time he lifts his right leg, he won’t think you’re doing much base-stealing at all. Then, when you’re ready, you jab early and go when he lifts his leg.
This makes it the same jump you just got off the righty, maybe even a little better because lefties don’t usually slide step.
#4 Properly Position Your Feet
Your left foot should be even with the bag, some like to angle it towards second, but I think that makes you too slow getting back to the base on a pick-off.
Your right foot is a big deal when you steal. The best method I’ve learned is to line your right toes up with the middle of your left foot, this opens your hips a little toward second.
Once your hips are positioned, position your foot. Your right foot should be pointing 45 degrees toward 2nd base.
This opening up method should be used if you’re running a 60 as well for you older players.
This is a beautiful timing tactic first formed at UCLA, hence the name. They led D1 the year they developed this, in steals.
How it works is most pitchers come set for 1-4 seconds before they go home.
We want to know if it’s 1 second, if its 2, or if its 4, on average.
So, when the pitcher comes set, you start your timer: U – C – L – A. Say it in a way where each letter takes about a second. If he’s going on L every time, that’s his tendency, if he goes on C, then you know that too. This helps with timing and anticipation, and with leaning into the steal.
#6 Lean Into The Steal
This is an extremely subtle tactic which helps a ton. We talked about your mindset and how we want your weight to be centered so you aren’t suspicious and so you can get back.
An advanced tactic, is to time the pitcher using the U.C.L.A. method above, and then when he is about to go based on his tendancies, start a subtle lean toward 2nd base. This little momentum could save you .2 seconds which could be the difference between out and safe.
#7 Take A Big Crossover Step
The first step in stealing a base is crucial. The good news is, you don’t have to run 100-meter sprints to practice it, you only need to sprint about 5 steps to practice your first step.
It starts with your arms, pull your right arm down hard and bring your left knee and arm forward as fast as you can. Your first step should be fast and should gain a lot of ground.
#8 Peak-In On Your Third Step
On the third step of stealing the base you need to peak in to see if the batter hits the ball.
If he misses on a swing, or doesn’t swing, you keep going.
If he hits the ball on the ground, you keep going.
If he hits the ball on a line, you keep going (not enough time to get back anyway).
If he hits the ball in the air, you freeze, assess whether it can be caught, and get back if it can.
If he hits a base hit, you round the base and pick up the 3rd base coach.
#9 Slide Head First
This one is an opinion that certainly has pros and cons. I’ve just been thrown out too many times sliding feet first to ever do it again. Here are the pros and cons for you to decide yourself.
- It’s proven to be faster (Sports Science – look it up)
- It’s easier to avoid a tag
- You get more safe calls on average (umpire perception)
- You can hurt your finger sliding in if your fingers are pointed toward the base (see #10)
- It can be a bit scary for younger kids to get used to
- If you’re on turf, and it’s really wet, you can easily slide way past the base.
#10 Slide With Fingers To Sky And Stay On The Bag
As mentioned in cons above on sliding head first, you can break your fingers if they are pointing straight forward and you slide into a bag.
This is why it’s important to practice at a young age to slide head first with palms up/fingers up.
At our baseball camps we practice this with a slip n’ slide into a pool, pretty fun way of learning to slide correctly.
Once you’ve slid into the base, and you were safe because you followed all of our steps, you need to stay on the bag.
Smart middle infielders will keep the tag on you for a long time in case you come off the bag for a split second. If you need to shake some dirt off or tie your shoe, call time before you do it.
We hope you liked our blog helping baseball players and parents on the complexity of stealing 2nd base. We believe that this is the most helpful information you can digest concerning stealing 2nd base in baseball. If you thought this blog was helpful, check out others, or if you’d like to check out our camps – click on your state in the map below!
Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Many talk about how important it is in youth baseball, but few youth baseball players have it! We lay out in this brief blog a few simple things to instill in your kid to give him tremendous confidence at the plate. Sometimes the smallest mental adjustments can make the biggest difference in youth baseball.
“The expert in everything was once a beginner.”
Step #1: Remember The Good, Forget The Bad
When a kid is hitting well he usually continues to build confidence as he does so. This is why you should reminisce about great at-bats. Remembering yourself being successful can be a great tool as you are on the on-deck circle.
This is one of the best ways to quickly build a kid’s confidence, just remind him of his last great at-bat. On the contrary, bad at-bats can do the same for a kid negatively.
Those are the at-bats you’ll have to encourage him to forget about. That is such an important thing to teach your kid about his at-bats; remember the good ones, and forget the bad ones.
“You have to have a short memory. Learn from your failures, but don’t sit around worrying about them.” – Derek Jeter
Step #2: Walk To The Plate With Your Chest Out
Confidence is something that a kid can control if he really wanted to. One of the best ways to get him to feel that feeling of confidence is to teach him to walk with it. Have him grab the barrel of the bat and walk to the plate like he’s got the biggest chest on the field.
It is scientifically proven that good posture can boost confidence and that being confident can boost confidence. Have him do both every time he walks to the plate and we guarantee you he’ll hit better!
Step #3: Be Fearless
No matter how small or skinny your youth baseball player is, you can teach him to be fearless at the plate. There is no reason you should ever give the opposing pitcher any credit when talking to your son.
If your kid is 8, let him know that he can hit any 8-year old in the country. Look at the worst kids in youth sports, they probably all have one thing in common, fear. Fear can kill a young ballplayers mindset and it should be avoided at all costs.
Speak positive things to your young ballplayer, and never give an opposing pitcher too much credit, your kid can hit him if he’s fearless I promise!
Step #4: Have A Routine At The Plate
You’ve seen all the big league guys, they do the same things and they have the same rituals every time they step into the batters box. There is a reason they do this, it builds confidence and adds a level of consistency and comfort.
Baseball players play the best and hit the best when things feel routine. Nothing is more routine than doing the same thing every time you step into the box.
So whether your kids’ thing is to spit on his batting gloves or dig into the back corner of the box, encourage him to do the same thing every time. When things become routine, they become easier.
Step #5: Visualize Success
This last one is the best because it can be done at any time of day, even outside of baseball. Teach your kid to visualize positive outcomes in his spare time. Your brain can’t distinguish the “imagined home-runs” for example from the “real home-runs.”
What that means is that eventually it can feel like your kid has done it before and the brain tricks the muscles into feeling like they can do it easily. I remember sitting on the bench before an at-bat, visualizing myself hitting a double in the gap, and then going out there and doing it first pitch.
I’ll tell you what, visualizing success in baseball works! I wish I would have known about it when I was 10 or so like many of your kids!
– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player
Everyone wants to play D1 baseball; only 1% of high school players will go on to play at D1 programs. Want to be part of that 1%? Below are five things that we have indicated as current D1 baseball players that can set you apart from the pack.
1. Staying Even Keel
Everybody knows that kid growing up who slams his helmet when he gets out and no matter how the team is doing he is upset if he isn’t playing well. This type of selfishness doesn’t work at the Division 1 level.
Besides your parents and some of your close friends, no one is concerned with the type of game you have, scouts and D1 coaches want winners that stay even keel no matter the situation.
I’ve seen guys who were drafted lower then they were projected or not get drafted at all because they can’t keep their composure when it hits the fan. In D1 baseball you will fail and coaches and recruiters will know that.
So if you want to play at that level, you have to figure out how to be that guy that doesn’t let things spiral out of control after an 0-4 game. Be a gamer and try to be the same guy day in and day out. To learn much more about this topic check out our At Home Baseball Program.
2. Physicality/ Looking the Part
In Junior College, I was putting up ridiculous numbers. When I would ask the scouts what I was doing wrong and why I hadn’t been drafted, they all said that I needed to put on 20-25 pounds.
Size not only tells D1 and pro scouts that you are strong, but it also tells them that you will be durable down the stretch. Don’t let size be the reason you don’t go D1. Don’t say “I can’t put on weight,” I don’t know how many guys (including myself) that said that over their career but are now 200 pounds. Watch the D1 players on TV, if they are 20-30 pounds heavier than you then you need to step up physically and it can be done.
Obviously, this will vary depending on your height, but this is a general weight and body fat percentage that D1 players play at for each position.
Corner INF 200lb-2351b 12-15%
MIF 180lb-195lb 8-11%
Speed OF 180lb-195lb 7-10%
Power OF 200lb-225lb 12-15%
Catcher 205lb-230lb 12-15%
Pitchers Finesse Arm 180lb-205lb 10-13%
Pitchers Power Arm 200lb-230lb 13-17%
3. Play to Your Strengths
If you are reading this article, then you have expectations of playing D1 baseball. If you think that you can get to that level, then you are doing something right.
You are probably playing well and are one of the best guys on your high school or club team. To play at the D1 level you will have to play to your strengths. Be realistic about the type of player you are and don’t deviate from your strengths.
Think about what your strengths and your weaknesses are; play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses. If your a guy who can really run then work at-bats, get on base and steal bags. Also, teach yourself to bunt.
D1 coaches love a fast guy that can drag; it will boost your average. If you are a power guy, look to strike out less and get your pitch. When you get it, let it eat. If you are good with the glove, don’t big league your ground balls between innings.
D1 coaches are always watching and that could be your one chance to show how good you are with the glove.
4. Be a Student of the Game
This is one of the best ways to develop what we call in D1 baseball “feel.” You can learn a lot from watching baseball.
Find your guy on YouTube that is at your position or is a similar hitter as your and model your game after them. A lot of guys like reading books on baseball. We compiled the best of the books we’ve read and put it in this guide: At Home Baseball Program.
It’s important to watch your teammates at-bats and learn what the pitcher is doing; pick up patterns. Guys think they have four at-bats per game, but they actually 30+ at-bats if they are watching while their buddies are hitting.
You can learn a lot from watching the guys in front of you and finding tendencies. If you can pick up on pitchers tendencies you will steal more bags, you’ll put up better numbers at the plate, and you will stay locked in while other guys are losing focus and giving away at-bats.
5. Surround Yourself with The Right People
The best way to make good friends in baseball is being a good teammate. Surrounding yourself with good friends that share the same passion for the game will help you through the ups and downs of baseball.
Have a good lifting partner that will encourage you to get better and stronger in the weight room. Have a buddy you can go and hit with if you want to work on your swing.
Have a good throwing partner that takes a simple thing such as playing catch seriously. If you are reading this article you are likely a in the top of your lineup.
Surround yourself with the guys hitting around; this will keep you comfortable during games. Develop accountability partners that will keep you from spiraling out of control.
Surrounding yourself with good people is the best way to better yourself while still having fun at the yard. It won’t be the hits or the home runs that you remember, it will be the people and the relationships you made along the way.
Authors: Anonymous 1 and 2 (for NCAA reasons)
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