Being a good base runner or a great base stealer takes more than being fast.
There are certain tricks of the trade that can be learned and acquired over time if you are a student of the game.
One skill that can actually be acquired through lots of repetition, practice, and awareness is stealing signs.
If you pay attention to the game at a high level, you will notice that many uneducated opponents can be very easily picked apart.
This happens at every level of the game! The next time you are watching a big league game and the camera shows a close up of the runner at first base, pay attention to where his eyes are looking.
At lower levels, first base may be the easiest place to steal signs from the catcher. A lot of catchers are unaware or uneducated and may leave their right knee open just far enough where you can see a wiggle for a change-up sign, or a second finger for a curveball.
Some catchers might be so open you will be able to see the pitchout, pick, and every other sign they give. But obtaining the information is only half the battle; the information then must be used.
Step One: Get in position
This starts as soon as the pitcher gets on the rubber.
Before stepping off the base check; does the pitcher have the ball in his hand? If not, you can be comfortable knowing he cannot pick until after he gets the sign.
This will allow you to also know how far you can get off the base for a primary lead.
Once you get to a spot where you are comfortable, continue to keep your head facing the pitcher. Using only your eyes, glance towards the catchers sign zone and see what you can get.
It may take a few pitches to be comfortable in making sure you are getting the right pitches. Don’t be worried about getting picked off, you will be able to see the pitchers movement in your peripheral and have plenty of time to get back.
Step Two: Communicate
Information is useless if you cannot share it with your teammates, and take advantage of the opponents’ sloppy catcher.
Maybe you see something that your teammate cannot. Maybe you could not see the signs, but you were able to see the shadow of the wiggle on the catcher’s leg. You can help your other base runners out on what to look for, and what you saw.
You can even develop a system where the pitch is communicated to the hitter.
Step Three: Execute
Now you have the information, and you have communicated your information with your teammates.
It is now GO time.
Put the pedal down and take advantage every opportunity you get. If you see the catcher flash curveball, and you have even decent speed, RUN!
If you’re hitting, and your teammate relays fastball, HACK!
On the flip side, here is a warning to all sloppy catchers. Know that there are educated SHARKS out there who are waiting to abuse you!