By STEVE KRAH
An Indiana native was a presenter on the big stage at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas.
Matt Talarico, a graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger High School and Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and an assistant coach/player development coordinator at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, presented Base Stealing: The Link to Developing the Complete Offensive Player.
Talarico, founder of StealBases.com, talked about developing well-rounded threats who score, making development a No. 1 priority, the run scorer cycle of on-base percentage to stolen bases to slugging percentage, the systematic approach of base stealing (Old School, New School and Hybrid) and the application of these methods.
In three seasons at Wright State, Talarico has watched the Raiders swipe 101 bases in 128 attempts in 2016 and go 130-of-161 in 2017 and 110-of-128 in 2018. Eleven different WSU players pilfered at least one bag last spring. In Talarico’s five campaigns at the University of Dayton staff, the Flyers copped 509 bases in 685 tries. In one season at the University of Toledo (2010), Talarico saw the Rockets purloin 74 bases in 96 attempts.
When Talarico got to Wright State, he and his players decided they would make the commitment to get on base in any way they could. That would lead to more stolen bases and runs scored and — in turn — a higher slugging percentage.
“What does a Wright State player look like?,” said Talarico. “If you look at us, I’d like a couple of things to be said about a Wright State offensive player. “We want to keep the main thing, the main thing. We want to work on physicality. I don’t know if we played a bigger, stronger, faster team (in 2018). It’s a culture thing.”
Proper nutrition, strength training and recovery/sleep is a priority for the Raiders.
In getting on-base in 2018, Wright State hitters walked (268) or got hit by a pitch (81) more than they struck out (325).
“That was a pretty big adjustment,” said Talarico. “We got rid of drills we didn’t think worked and we stuck with one or two drills that helped our guys recognize pitches.
“Our guys have a great, great feel for the strike zone. Good hitters have adjustability. They can hit the ball early. They can hit the ball late. They can adjust.
“All of our players have to be able to bunt for a hit.”
That even included Gabe Snyder, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound slugger who was selected in the 21st of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota.
Even at his size, Snyder was able to put pressure on the opponent with his ability to run the bases.
Talarico noted that some stolen base chances are high risk and others are low risk.
“We’re talking about pressure,” said Talarico. “We want to make the pitcher make a good throw.”
Talarico is trying to build speed in his runners.
“To build speed, you have to run fast,” said Talarico. “That seems so obvious.”
This is done by taking advantage of the player’s competitive nature, keeping the sprint distances short and getting the players striving for their best reps.
“You call out a winner,” said Talarico. “If call on them to race, they’re going to run fast.
“We don’t want to go into survival mode. We make most of our sprints 15, maybe 30 feet. We’re always competitive and we’re always recovering.
“Then we have what I call the ‘Coach, can I get one more? zone.’”
Players develop a mindset to get better and faster.
Talarico loves it when upperclassmen speak up and show the proper way to perform a drill.
“When it’s important to them, it’s important to everybody,” said Talarico.
The base of the whole system is Old School lead-off — Right. Left. Shuffle. Shuffle. Secondary. Shuffle. Shuffle.
“If we can do that, we can get fancier,” said Talarico.
New School involves a relaxed, athletic position. Hybrid is a mix of the two.
“If we do this right, we only have to create a little momentum to get going,” said Talarico. “Once the technique gets good, anything can happen.”
After Talarico’s players know the rules and skill set, it becomes about tempo. He teaches them what to do then steps back and lets them figure it out.
“It might start out scientific, but this is an art,” said Talarico. “It’s not about what I know. It’s about what they believe.”
To Talarico, there are three types of game plans.
“There’s the right game plan that players believe 100 percent. That’s the best,” said Talarico. “There’s the wrong game plan that players believe 100 percent. That’s the second-best option.
“No. 3 is the worse. It’s no game plan or not really believing what you’re saying. Now we don’t have confidence.”
Matt Talarico is an assistant coach/development coordinator for the baseball program at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. (Wright State Photo)
Matt Talarico participates in a question-and-answer session after his presentation on base stealing at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. (Steve Krah Photo)
Matt Talarico presents on the big stage at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. The graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger High School and Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and an assistant coach/developmental coordinator at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, talked about Base Stealing: The Link to Developing the Complete Offensive Player. (Steve Krah Photo)