Stealing Third Base

Many base runners believe that third base is actually the easiest base to steal. There is truth to this idea, especially when excellent technique is employed. To begin, the same three stages of the lead still applies: early, primary, and secondary.

The early lead from second base requires the runner to gain enough of an angle off of the bag to see the signs from the catcher. Most often, the catcher moves to the second sign as the desired pitch. As a reminder, if the runner believes he read the sign properly, he will signal to his teammate the sign. 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 from second base will be somewhere between 3-3 1/2 body lengths. Again, the runner should practice the habit of active feet at second base. If the third base coach feels it is desirable to gain a bigger lead, he will say “clear.” If the defenders are moving in position to pick off the runner, he will say “back.” if at any time the coach is able to say “clear” three times in a sequence without saying “back,” the runner should steal the base. Once “back” is uttered, the runner has had to stop his feet and stealing third base on that pitch is not in the cards.

The secondary lead from second base presents two options for the base runner, either of which is acceptable and will depend on the preference of the runner. The first option is a “vault” step as the pitcher turns his head, either on his first or second look, depending on the pitcher’s tendency. The second option is an active feet option in which the runner starts shuffling his feet towards third base, again at the time the pitcher turns his head. Movie 1.7 exhibits all of these techniques, including more footage of Brian Roberts now stealing third base using a mixture of these techniques. The concept of “mind switch” is still in play as well as the runner seeks to advance to third base via the steal.

To reiterate, the base runner’s right foot must be planted in the ground upon the ball’s contact with the catcher so the base runner can read the play properly. However, a ball that forces the catcher to drop to his knees with a runner on second base requires a different reaction from the base runner. The base runner requires the catcher to drop to his knees and the ball to kick away from him to advance to third base. The runner is looking for “knees and a kick” when moving up on a wild pitch at second base.