Colorado Rockies rookie second baseman Chris Nelson stole home against the Cincinnati Reds last night, scoring the winning run and keeping his team's Wild Card hopes alive. Although Nelson's speed played a role in his first career SB, his timing and quick first step were major contributors as well.
Proper footwork when stealing a base leads to a quicker start and a better chance for making it safe. Like Nelson, all baserunners should avoid taking a false step, which is one of the biggest mistakes that young players make. "You see a lot of guys pick up their right foot, then put it back on the ground without going anywhere," says Lance Sewell, strength coach for the University of Texas baseball team. "This keys the catcher into the fact that you're going to run, but you haven't covered any ground yet. The defense gets a heads up, which means the difference between being safe or thrown out."
Use the following Longhorn-tested drill twice a week to learn the proper first steps of base stealing.
Ball Drop Reactive Start
- Assume base-running stance, taking a primary lead
- Have partner hold tennis ball at shoulder level, standing in front and to the side, similar to the pitcher
- When partner drops ball, react by crossing over left leg while simultaneously pivoting onto right foot
- Explode into sprint for 10 yards
Sets/Reps: 1x5-6 with 45-60 seconds rest
Advanced: Partner holds ball in each hand. This forces you to concentrate on multiple elements, because you don't know which ball will drop.
Sewell's Coaching Points: When the ball is dropped, take a quick crossover step with your left leg. Bring the leg up, over and down as you simultaneously rotate on the ball of your right foot. Drive your right elbow and hand back toward your right back pocket. On your next step, your body should be turned and headed toward second base.
To work on your speed after the first step, check out Coach Sewell's weight training routine, which keeps the Longhorns stampeding along the base paths.
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