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Stealing a Base on a Walk: Myth or Reality?

I remember being in Little League and witnessing one of my teammates walk, but then steal second base after he touched first base. I had never seen that before and I remember thinking there was no way that was allowed. So I had to ask our coach – Can you steal a base on a walk?

Baserunners are allowed to steal a base on a walk because the play is still live. If the defense calls for time after a walk, runners are not allowed to steal, but if no one calls time then the ball is still considered a live ball and all baserunners have the option to steal.

Youth baseball player running toward second base with overlaying text that reads "Stealing Base on a Walk Myth or Reality?"

Stealing on a walk is a pretty rare occurrence, but it does happen. And when it does happen, it tends to catch the defense off-guard.

Stealing a Base on a Walk is Legal

Baserunner wearing a dark red jersey is sprinting toward second base

Stealing a base on a walk is a rare occurrence in baseball, but it is not forbidden.

According to the rules of baseball, a baserunner cannot steal a base during a dead ball. However, the ball is live after a walk and the baserunner can attempt to steal a base.

Timing is crucial when attempting to steal a base on a walk. The goal of stealing on a walk is to catch the defense off-guard. If you see the defense is not paying attention, you can easily make it to the next base. But if the defense is paying attention, you’re an easy out.

It is also important to note that a baserunner cannot steal a base that is already occupied. If you’re thinking of stealing on a walk, just make sure the base ahead of you is not occupied.

After all, some would consider stealing on a walk a type of trick play and when you’re the one performing those types of trick plays, it’s easy to forget small details.

When Can Players Steal During a Walk?

Baserunner sliding headfirst into second base while the shortstop prepares to catch a throw and apply the tag

When it comes to base stealing during a walk, there are two scenarios baserunners need to be aware of.

1) Players Are Not Allowed to Steal During a Dead Ball

Backside view of an umpire signaling for time

When the ball is dead, there is no opportunity for base stealing.

Once a batter has walked, the ball is still live. The ball will continue to be live until someone on the defense calls time.

Usually what happens in this scenario is that an umpire will allow time to be called, but they wait until the batter reaches first base before granting time. I’m not sure if there’s a word for this, but I call this scenario a “delayed time-out” because you can clearly see the umpire wants to call time, but they are just waiting for the batter to step on first base before calling time.

Once time is called, players are no longer allowed to steal. They have to wait for the home plate umpire to signal the ball is back in play.

2) Players Are Allowed to Steal if the Ball is Live

After a walk, the ball is still a live ball. If no one on the defense calls for time, there are several opportunities for the offense to steal during a walk. Here are the scenarios:

  • The batter touches first base and attempts to steal second base: In this scenario, the batter who just walked touches first base and then attempts to steal second base. This is usually successful if the shortstop and second baseman are not paying attention.
  • The runner on second base attempts to steal third base: If there is already a runner on second base, they may attempt to steal third base during a walk.
  • The runner on third base attempts to steal home: If there is already a runner on third base, they can attempt to steal home after a walk.

How Is It Legal To Steal During a Walk?

Base stealing is a strategic move in baseball that involves a runner advancing to the next base while the ball is in play. Stealing a base can be a game-changer, giving the offensive team a better chance of scoring runs. However, there are specific regulations that players must follow to steal a base successfully, especially if a batter just walked.

Basic Rules Surrounding Base Stealing

There are really only two things all players need to know about the rules of stealing in baseball – players cannot steal during a dead ball and they can steal at any point during a live ball.

After a walk, the ball is still considered a live ball which means any baserunner is allowed to steal during a walk.

Most players, including myself, are so used to seeing walks that we forget the ball is still live after a walk. But if a runner is paying attention when the defense isn’t, they can surprise the other team by stealing during a walk.

It’s also worth noting that stealing a base on a walk can be a risky move. If the runner is caught stealing, they will be out and the offensive team will lose a valuable base runner. Therefore, players must weigh the potential benefits of stealing a base against the risks involved.

How Stealing on a Walk Can Impact Game Strategy

Stealing a base on a walk can have a significant impact on game strategy. It can change the dynamics of the game and put the offense in a better position to score.

When a runner steals a base on a walk, it puts pressure on the defense and forces them to make quick decisions.

The defense may be caught off-guard and throw the ball away. Or the steal could cause the pitcher to become distracted and lose focus, which can lead to more walks or even a hit.

Moreover, stealing a base on a walk can also force the defense to shift their infield and outfield positions for the next batter, which can create gaps in the defense that the offense can exploit.

Historical Instances of Base Stealing on a Walk

The instances below show it is possible to steal a base on a walk, but it requires a combination of speed, timing, and strategy. It is also worth noting that attempting to steal a base on a walk is a risky move, as it can result in an out and potentially end the inning.

Base stealing on a walk is a rare occurrence in baseball, but it has happened in several historical instances. Here are a few examples:

Daniel Murphy Steals 3rd Base After a Walk

Daniel Murphy was occupying first base when his teammate walked. He saw 3rd base was wide open and he easily stole 3rd base.

Jose Bautista Steals Second Base After Walking

Jose Bautista walked and as he was making his way to first base he noticed that the defense was not paying attention to him. The second baseman was even staring into the outfield. So Jose Bautista easily made it to second base.

Marco Scutaro Steals Second Base After Walking

As Scutaro was making his way to first after walking, he kept peering toward second base to see if anyone was covering the bag. As it turns out, no one was there and he was able to get the stolen base.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.