The Delayed Steal in Little League Baseball
The delayed steal is one of the better strategic and fun plays in youth baseball. Players on your team will love this when it works correctly. It is an aggressive way of advancing to an extra base. It is a strategy that should be practiced, but is unfortunately disregarded by many coaches. And though it is not full proof, I’ll go over some key things to look for to keep the odds in your favor of succeeding. Let’s go through the key indicators for the delayed steal to succeed.
As a coach, there are usually three key indicators I look for to determine if we should try the delayed steal. Any one, two, or all three that a coach observes being done, plus, depending who the base runner is, will determine if the coach should attempt the delayed steal. The first thing and probably the most important thing to look for is to see where the pitcher stands to retrieve the ball when there is a man on base. If the pitcher stands on the spot where he released the ball or goes back to the top of the mound to retrieve the ball from the catcher, this is a great indicator for a possible delayed steal. The further the pitcher is from the catcher when retrieving the ball, the more time the base runner has to steal a base. The second thing we look for is if the catcher drops to his knees when he throws the ball back to the pitcher with a man on base. The catcher that drops to his knees will not have a lot on the ball, and it is not moving very “speed like” back to the pitcher. This will also give the base runner more time to get to the next base. The third thing we look for, similar to the pervious, is if the catcher throws a rainbow type of throw back to the pitcher instead of a line drive. The looping throw, just like throwing from his knees, will not have a lot on the ball. Now, in a lot of situations you will have a catcher who does both, throws from his knees and also throws rainbows back to the pitcher. This is really a great advantage.
The base runner is also a determining factor. Youth coaches must be able to grasp the fact that the fastest player on your team is not necessarily your best base runner. I’ve had players that were among the fastest in the league but were not great base runners. Conversely, I’ve had players with only above average speed who were terrific base runners, and at 11 and 12 years old, had instincts beyond their age.
The job of the base runner is to not make his move too obvious to the other team. He kind of sneaks off the base in a subtle manner with his knees bent, and once he sees the catcher let go of the ball, he should turn toward the base he is running to, and once it is within reach, he must slide.
We practice the delayed steal at almost each practice. When your team gets a reputation for doing this, other teams will become very aware and make certain adjustments. This isn’t to say that as a team after a few games with successful delayed steals, you shouldn’t try it. But you should pick and chose your moment. Another residual benefit is that spending time practicing this will make your players pay more attention to the field of play when they are on base and this can result in getting extra bases via an overthrow from the catcher to the pitcher or a wild pitch.
The delayed steal is one of the more exciting plays that will help your team gain base running awareness and result in getting extra base running. But this must be practiced rather then just instructed your team to do it during the game.