How to Do a Delayed Steal in Softball

Delayed steals aren’t seen that often, but they are a useful offensive strategy when done correctly. You need the right timing and an aggressive approach in order to be successful. Follow along with this guide and it will give you the tools you’ll need for a safe steal.

Set It Up

To be successful, you need to set yourself up. That is, you have to create the illusion that you may steal. By deceiving the defense with the idea that you may be trying a normal steal, they’ll be anxious on your every move. You do this by taking hard leads — take three or four hard steps off the bag on every lead-off. The infield will likely think you are going to steal the first time or two, and they may even throw out of anxiousness (so be ready to dive back). Most times, they will give up after a couple of pitches and assume that you’re only bluffing.

You ideally want to make the defense so anxious that, if they do make a throw, they make a mistake and throw wildly so you can advance to the next base anyway. But in case that doesn’t happen, here are a few key techniques you can use to really trick the infield on your lead-offs:

  • Take hard, quick steps. Make it look like you are sprinting on every lead-off (no one steals by jogging to the next bag).
  • Immediately tuck your chin to make it look like you are preparing to sprint.
  • Pump your arms fast to give the illusion that you’re gearing up to go full speed.
  • Stop after three or four hard steps. Then, turn to face the catcher and break down.
  • Hesitate for three or four seconds before heading back to the bag.
  • On each lead, inch further and further towards the next base before heading back.

By using these tips, you will build up the anticipation on the infield. Your large leads and the hesitation of going back to the bag will likely frustrate the catcher, who will want to try to pick you off (she may try this during your setup — don’t get caught!). This is when the delay comes in.

Delay the Steal

On your average steal, you would take off the instant the pitcher releases the ball and never look back. On the delayed steal, though, you simply lead off normally — and then wait. Follow these steps to perfect your delayed steal:

  1. Lead off the bag as normal. Time your rocking motion to coincide with the pitcher’s wind-up and be off the bag as she releases the ball.
  2. Take three or four strides out — just like a normal lead.
  3. Break down after your last step and face the catcher.
  4. Pause.
  5. As the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher and the ball is midair, go!

The idea is that you will be traveling as the ball is mid-air, where no one can touch it. When the pitcher finally catches it, it will be too late for her to even attempt to throw you out.

Watch the Catcher

Make sure you check the catcher out before the steal is called. Especially pay attention to her throw down to second base after the pitcher’s warm-up each inning. How hard does she throw? Is she accurate? Are her feet quick? Is she lazy? Knowing the answer to all of these questions will help you determine how far you can take your lead before you delay the steal. The slower her throw is, the easier it will be for you to get to the next bag. If she’s got a hard and accurate throw, though, your timing has to be perfect.

Hot Tip: Also Watch the Pitcher!

You should also pay attention to the pitcher and her tendencies. Does she catch the ball outside of the circle and then turn around lazily to walk back? Does she take her eyes off you? If you know these answers, you don’t have to limit yourself to going on the catcher’s throw. You can wait even longer until the pitcher actually catches it — and then go!

For example, if she walks out of the circle toward the catcher to wait for the ball, then lazily saunters back to the mound, you can go when she catches it and is turning around. If you can pull this off, you’ll really get her riled up (and maybe get her to throw angrily — which likely means wildly, too). Just remember — once you commit to the next base, you cannot turn back once she steps into the circle.

Go All Out

If you’re going to steal, go hard. As long as you are aggressive and you have the right timing, you’ll be able to pull off a successful delayed steal on even the best catchers. But it’s all on you. Only you will know the perfect time to go and when to stay — no one else can decide for you. So once you commit to a steal, be accountable and go all out!

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