Leads (Early, Primary, Secondary)

Once the player reaches first base, the player now has the opportunity to take a lead from the base. The type of lead and the distance from the base are critical components to teach. There are three components to teach: early, primary, and secondary.

The “early” lead position begins with the runner stepping with his left foot off of the base towards second base and followed by squaring up to home plate with his right foot. The runner is attempting to gain an angle to read the catcher’s signs from first base. Many young catchers will hang their signs too low or block the third base coach from reading the signs with no regard to what is happening at first base. Players should take advantage of this with their “early” lead position (see Movie 1.3 for an example of the “early” lead position).

After the catcher has given his signs to the pitcher, the runner will get his “primary” lead and communicate what he saw to his teammates with arm signals. If he saw a sign for a fastball, he will hang his right arm in front. If he saw the sign for an off-speed pitch, he will hang his left arm in front. If the runner was unable to decipher the signs, he will hang both arms in front.

The “primary” lead is accomplished by reaching the right foot towards second base, then the left, and then the right foot again. The runner should never cross his feet in this position. If a runner does cross his feet while gaining a lead off of a base, the pitcher should immediately attempt a pickoff move. Be aware of this as a base runner. The distance from the base in the “primary” lead position is around two body lengths from first base.

Another important coaching point regarding the “primary” lead position is for the base runner to keep his feet moving slightly, seeking to never be in a stationary position. This should be a relaxed movement as opposed to a fast, wild, or jerky movement (see Movie 1.4 for the desired pace and activity in this phase of the “primary” lead). The activity allows the runner to stay loose and to be prepared to move back to the base, engage in his “secondary” lead and react to the pitch, or to steal the base.

The “secondary” lead is accomplished once the pitch is thrown. There are two acceptable executions of the “secondary” lead - an aggressive shuffle towards second base or a fake steal. In both of those scenarios, the base runner’s right foot must be planted in the ground upon the ball’s contact with the catcher. This gives the base runner the proper physical position to retreat to the base as he draws a possible throw from the catcher. Going back into the base should be accomplished by either diving back with the right hand or driving the right foot into the base to protect one’s self from an errant throw or contact by an opposing player. The aggressive shuffle is the most common method of executing the “secondary” lead, but the preferred method is the fake steal. A base runner who is seeking to be a man of action on the base paths will execute the fake steal somewhere around once every three pitches in an effort to create a “cry wolf” mentality in the defense. The more often the defense calls “runner” and the runner doesn’t go, the more likely the team will be able to sneak stolen bases in during the course of the game.