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by Major Wiley B. Channell USMC (ret)
(Pelham, Alabama Shelby)
The slickest and easiest pick off play in all of baseball is the play following a well hit ball for a double wherein the hitter uses a safe slide into second base.
The execution of the play is a combination of good sportsmanship, excellent acting ability and a true con game.
There are several personal characteristics involved and has three main characters of the defensive players playing a role to succeed slick as a button in this simple con game.
Human nature being what it is any hitter who slaps a ball solid in the gap for a successful hit for a double is thrilled. Combined with the thrill is the propensity to allow his mind to not only be filled with ego joy he is also not immune to accepting some encouraging praise.
Keeping in mind the state of euphoria of the hitter the defense is poised to take advantage of this moment to pull off a very slick and easy as pie pick off play.
Rules of the game is what makes the pick off work with the successful acting ability of the defensive players.
The game of baseball has a total stoppage of play or time out only when time is called by a player and the base umpire or behind the plate umpire recognizes and calls time.
In Major League and beyond College Level playing a runner hitting a double and sliding safely at second base will normally/generally call time to adjust and straighten his uniform. This is not generally done at the high school or below level of play.
Now stay with me to understand how the pick off play works like magic. Three defensive players are the prime actors pulling of this act of sportsmanship becoming actors and doing a real con game.
Either the shortstop or the second baseman received the throw for the attempted tag at the sack. The player taking the throw (lets say the second baseman) stays right there standing on the base holding the ball securely hidden in his glove.
The shortstop now becomes the culprit showing good sportsmanship by starting some real high tech ego mouthing to the hitter and even helping him dust the dirt from his uniform. He does this talk stroking the ego of the hitter with such words as,
"That was one of most solid blast of a ball I have seen all season." Or such as, "What did he throw that you hit it so solid a curve or a fast ball?" Then too with body movement or gesture sort of invites him here let me help here to get into the head of the runner so he will forget and step off the bag forgetting he is a runner with a live ball still in play.
The pitcher by rule cannot go onto the mound like he is ready to face the next batter he must feign a retying of his shoe or such staying away from stepping up onto the pitdhers mound. Going onto the mound and the pitching rubber without the ball by rule could be called a balk. A balk would allow the hitter/runner a free pass to advance a base. Thus you see the pitcher is also one of the actors in this con game.
If all roles of the three defensive men are played to perfection i;e the second baseman with the ball, the shortstop as the distractor and ego stroker and the pitcher not making and breaking the balk rule it works a huge precentage of attempts.
The hitter/runner will if he is not a cracker jack heads up player will take the bait of these three actors and absent mindedly step of the base. The second baseman quickly flashes the ball for the umpire to see as he sticks it into the seat of the britches of the runner who has only slightly stepped off the bag. "THE UMPS CALL IS YOU'RE OUT."
The slickest pick off play of all of baseball has just been executed just as you saw and heard it unfold.
Major Wiley B, Channell USMC (ret)
I like the secondbaseman to do the hidden ball trick after the sacrifice bunt when they take the throw at firstbase.
After catching the ball and getting the force at first, the second baseman meanders back to second base with the baseball still in the glove or better yet tucked behind the index finger and the glove.
The secondbaseman asks the baserunner at 2b if they can kick the dirt off the base. As soon as the runner leaves the bag the infielder tags them out with the umpire hopefully watching the play.
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