Trust is Key to Develping Baseball Instincts

Stealing bases, especially second base, is all about one thing – trust. Great major league base stealers, and I believe I could have been included on that list if I would have had the other abilities to have stayed in the major leagues longer, trust that they have the quickness and instincts to get back to the base they led off from, without thinking about that.

Rickey Henderson steals third base for the New...

Rickey Henderson steals third base for the New York Yankees under the tag of Seattle Mariners Third baseman Jim Presley in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on August 19, 1988. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was stealing bases in the major leagues, 31 one season and 29 another, I never thought about going back to first base, when leading off. There was one mindset, explode towards second base with the first indication the pitcher was throwing home. If the pitcher decided to throw to first, I trusted my quickness to be able to get back to first, despite only thinking of going the other way. The ability to only think of going one way, but reversing that direction if needed, is what is known as baseball instincts. Some baseball players have it, or develop it, most do not.

At the lower levels of baseball, great speed can overcome average base stealing technique and instincts, but as players move up the baseball ladder, it is not an easy art to master.

Trust begins with great natural quickness. Many faster runners than me never stole many bases because they could not gain that trust. The key to that trust is hard to explain – the mind and body must be relaxed yet balanced, with unbelievable focus on exploding with the crossover step at the exact moment the pitcher moves, but moves in a way towards home and not towards first.

Once again, extremely difficult to teach, not just to do.

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