Stealing home in baseball is incredibly challenging, but there have been three different times in my adult baseball career when the conditions were just right and I successfully stole home. Each time I stole home I was met with celebrations from my teammates as well as trash-talking from the opposing team, but the one question I always got was how I even stole home in the first place. So I decided to put together this step-by-step guide to help teach others how stealing home works.
To steal home, players must determine if stealing home is possible, find the exact moment they are breaking for home, begin their steal by walking, then sprint home as soon as they’ve reached the moment they decided they are breaking for home. Players should always slide when stealing home.
Below I’ve outlined my step-by-step guide of how I execute stealing home. This may not be a perfect guide for every player, but hopefully it helps you get into the correct mindset for what it takes to steal home and gives you some ideas on what to look out for.
- A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Steal Home
- The Three Scenarios Where I Successfully Stole Home
- Lessons I’ve Learned From Stealing Home
A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Steal Home
Every scenario for stealing home has been different, but the steps outlined below are the general steps I go through when stealing home.
Step 1: Determine if Stealing Home is Possible
When you’re on third base, you don’t always have an opportunity to steal home. In fact, it’s quite rare to spot an opportunity to steal home. But if you keep an eye out, you can sometimes spot that opportunity.
Knowing if you can steal home is easier said than done and there are usually multiple factors that go into making that decision.
A couple of things that I look for when deciding if I can steal home are:
- How closely does the pitcher, catcher, or third baseman pay attention to what I’m doing on third?
- Does the third baseman cover third base?
- Is there a predictable routine the pitcher or catcher goes through on each pitch?
- Is the pitcher pitching from the stretch or from the windup?
I usually see an opportunity to steal home whenever I spot more than one of these factors. And it typically takes multiple pitches (like 6 or 7) for me to spot the trends.
Step 2: Find the Exact Moment You Need To Break For Home
To know the exact moment you need to break for home, you really need to answer one question – “At what point can I catch the other team off-guard that will give me the most time to run before they know I’m stealing?”
Keep in mind when you are stealing home, you’re usually betting on the catcher or pitcher not paying attention to you. Look for the moment within their routine that will allow you to break for home and where you think the other team isn’t paying attention to you.
For example, one time I was on third base and I watched multiple pitches where a catcher did not pay attention to me. He dropped to his knees every time and was very lazy when throwing the ball back to the pitcher. The moment I knew I was breaking for home was when the catcher reached back to throw the ball back to the pitcher (before he even released the ball).
Step 3: Begin Your Steal By Walking
It might sound counter-intuitive to steal by walking, but it’s a very effective way to begin your steal.
Once you know the exact moment you’re breaking for home, start walking towards home about 2 seconds before that moment occurs. If you do this correctly, you’ll easily get an extra 3-4 steps closer before you actually break for home.
This works because other teams don’t typically pay attention to the runner on third base, especially if that runner is only walking. Walking toward home raises no red flags for the defense and you can use this to your advantage to get an extra few steps closer to home.
Step 4: Sprint as Fast as You Can Toward Home
If you perform the first three steps correctly, you already know the exact moment you’re breaking for home and you’ve already begun your steal by walking, which means you also have forward momentum.
Once the moment you’ve selected is here, sprint home as fast as you can.
I can promise you this will feel weird. No one is used to sprinting down the third base line to steal home while knowing the baseball is somewhere close by. In the back of your mind, you’re also thinking something along the lines of “Holy crap, I’m stealing home.”
Step 5: Slide
When you’re sprinting toward home you will not have time to think about whether or not you need to slide. Before you begin your steal, you need to make up your mind you’ll be sliding and then slide into home regardless of where the ball is at.
You’ll never be called out for sliding into home, but you can easily be called out for not sliding into home if the play is close. Always slide when you’re stealing home.
If you’re performing a straight steal of home, I recommend sliding head-first. Sliding head first is generally quicker than sliding feet first and it allows you to be closer to the ground in case your teammate decides to swing (which has happened to me).
Also, the catcher is much less likely to be in a position to block the plate if you’re performing a straight steal of home and you won’t need to worry about diving head-first into a player wearing catcher’s gear.
If you’re performing a delayed steal then you have the option of sliding feet-first or head-first. The catcher will most likely be in a position to block part of the plate so you may be more comfortable sliding feet-first, but either way is fine.
The Three Scenarios Where I Successfully Stole Home
Below are three quick stories on how I’ve stolen home. Hopefully, these can provide you with some additional context on what to look for when deciding on whether or not to steal home.
Scenario #1: Straight Steal of Home on a Left-Handed Pitcher
The first time I ever performed a straight steal of home was on a left-handed pitcher who was pitching from the stretch.
The scenario was that I was on third and we had one additional runner on second base. After a few pitches, I realized three things that led me to believe I could steal home:
- The third baseman never held me on base
- The pitcher never looked in my direction
- The pitcher would always stare at the runner on 2nd base for about 4 seconds before delivering the pitch
I made a bet the pitcher was comfortable in his routine of staring at the runner on second base before delivering the next pitch.
As the pitcher was getting the sign from his catcher, I began walking home and I didn’t stop. I broke for home right after the pitcher acknowledged the sign from his catcher and right before he began his stare-down of the runner on second base.
My bet of catching the pitcher off-guard paid off because I actually beat the throw home.
Scenario #2: Delayed Steal of Home on the Catcher
One time I was on third and I was studying how the defense reacted after each pitch. After a handful of pitches, I noticed three things that made me think a delayed steal home was possible:
- The catcher never acknowledged I was on third
- After each pitch, the catcher fell to both knees and very lazily lobbed the ball back to the pitcher
- The third baseman never covered third base after a pitch
It looked like the catcher was going through the exact same motion every time so I decided to catch the defense off-guard by performing a delayed steal.
During a pitch, I began my steal by taking an extra large secondary lead. After the catcher caught the pitch, I started walking home.
The catcher still wasn’t paying attention to how far I had gotten off third base. As he dropped down to both knees to throw the ball back to the pitcher, I broke for home while he was reaching back to throw.
The pitcher quickly threw the ball back to the catcher, but I slid feet-first into home and was safe. Unfortunately, my slide was pretty horrible and I ended up taking a chunk of skin out of my right knee.
Scenario #3: Straight Steal of Home on a Right-Handed Pitcher From the Windup
In most non-professional baseball leagues, it’s common for a pitcher to pitch from the windup when a runner is on third base and there is no threat of another runner stealing second base.
This exact scenario happened in one of my games, but there were two things that caught my attention that made me think I could steal home:
- The pitcher’s windup was a little slower than average
- The pitcher would always shake his head “yes” to accept the pitch sign from his catcher
In this scenario, the pitcher would shake his head “yes” the begin his windup about 2 seconds later. When combined with the slower-than-average windup, I thought I had plenty of time to steal home if I simply broke for home as soon as he shook his head.
I began my steal by walking home. Right after the pitcher shook his head “yes”, I sprinted home as fast as I could.
As I was sprinting home, I saw my teammate swing at the pitch around the same time I was sliding headfirst into home. Luckily, I didn’t get hit with a bat and I barely squeaked in as the catcher was diving forward to apply the tag.
In retrospect, I should have somehow let the hitter know I was stealing home because that steal could have very easily ended up poorly for me.
Lessons I’ve Learned From Stealing Home
Below are a handful of lessons I’ve learned from my attempts to steal home.
Lesson #1: Never Perform a Straight-Steal of Home With Two Strikes
You never want to put your hitter in a position where they need to make a decision between letting a ball go by for a strike or swinging and worrying about hitting you with a bat.
If you’ve spotted an opportunity to steal home and there are two strikes, just wait for the next hitter.
Lesson #2: Not Every Opportunity to Steal Home Should Be Used
There have been plenty of times when I’ve been on third base and spotted an opportunity to steal home, but never took the chance.
Some reasons to not steal home include:
- There are two strikes
- The pitcher is having trouble finding the strike zone and there’s a good chance of a walk or a wild pitch
- Your team is up by a lot of runs
- Your team is down by a lot of runs
- The defense starts paying more attention to you
- After you’ve spotted the opportunity to steal home, the hitter puts the ball in play
Lesson #3: Let the Hitter Know You’re Stealing Home
During one of my straight steals of home, the hitter swung at the pitch as I was sprinting home. While I was lucky enough to not get hit with the bat, it would have been nice to let the hitter know I was stealing home so I didn’t have to worry about taking a bat to the face.
One solution would be to have a code word you shout that lets the hitter know you’re stealing home. Additionally, a third base coach could be responsible for calling time, talking to the hitter, and letting them know about the plan to steal home.
Lesson #4: The Hardest Base to Steal is Home
A lot of people wonder what is the hardest base to steal in baseball. In my baseball career, I’ve had the opportunity to steal second, third, and home and I know from experience that stealing home is the hardest base to steal.
Home is the hardest base to steal because the pitcher is already throwing the ball home, which means baserunners don’t have as much time to steal as they do when stealing second or third base.
Because you’re trying to beat the ball home, stealing home is much more difficult.
Even if you’re performing a delayed steal, stealing home is more difficult than with other bases. After each pitch, the pitcher typically walks toward the catcher to catch the ball, which means they are even closer to the base you are trying to steal.
Lesson #5: The Other Team Will Talk Trash
One thing that probably doesn’t come to mind is how the other team will react after someone steals home.
I know from experience that the other team will not be happy about it and they most likely will talk trash.
While I’ve never been hit by a pitch because I’ve stolen home, I have received some trash talk from the opposing team.