N.C. State’s Turner discusses the art of the stolen base

North Carolina State sophomore shortstop Trea Turner is fast.

But

there are a lot of fast baseball players who can’t steal bases the way

Turner does. Any time he’s on the base paths, it almost feels inevitable

that he’ll steal at least one. He causes opposing pitchers to worry

about him constantly, and with good reason.

As a freshman,

Turner stole 57 bases on 61 attempts (93.4 percent). His 57 steals were

more than 158 teams had combined. This year, he’s 23-of-28 (82.1

percent) and he’d likely have more – or even a higher percentage – if

not for an ankle injury that caused him to miss nearly three weeks. N.C.

State is 34-5 with Turner in the lineup and 5-6 without him.

At first, he waited for his coaches to tell him when to try to steal.

“Last

year, I didn’t know I got to go whenever I wanted so I kept relying on

them for about 20 or so steals. Then (head coach Elliott) Avent started

yelling at me and asking me why I’m not going. Now, it’s basically I can

go whenever I want,” Turner said.

“There’s a few times they’ll

tell me no, but those are only in big situations where we can’t make an

out. For the most part, I can do whatever I want. This year, I’ve

slipped up a little bit. I try not to get picked off and I try to make

it 100 percent.”

The times he was caught stealing seem to bother him almost as much as he enjoys successfully stealing a base.

And he really enjoys stealing bases.

He

didn’t realize it was a talent until he was a senior in high school,

when he stole “20-something” bases in less than 30 games. But high

school is high school, and Turner was significantly faster than his

competition. He still didn’t realize he could be good at it until he

started doing it on the collegiate level with surprising ease.

“This

past year, freshman year, I would say 20 or so (stolen) bases in I

started to believe that I was that good at it,” Turner said. “I guess I

always have been, but I didn’t believe it until last year.”

He’s

not good at stealing bases just because he’s fast. In high school, he

stole bases that way, just on his sheer speed. But in college, he had to

work at it.

“You have to know a lot about baseball. You have to

know the counts. You have to know when pitchers are going to throw

what. You have to know what pitchers got to do, how their pickoff

(moves) are,” Turner said.

“You’ve also got to relax. You can’t

put too much pressure on yourself or you can’t get too antsy because you

can either give yourself away or leave early like I’ve done a little

bit this year and get picked off. I would say there’s a little bit of

science going into it, not just being fast.”

North Carolina

pitcher Kent Emanuel has as good a move as any pitcher the Wolfpack have

faced this year, and it was fascinating to watch Emanuel and Turner

play cat-and-mouse with each other two weeks ago in Raleigh in the

opening game of the series between the teams. North Carolina won the

game 7-1, but Turner went 2-for-2 on steal attempts against the talented

lefty.

Turner studies the moves of opposing pitchers, as much

as that is possible. North Carolina is on TV enough that he could study

Emanuel, but in midweek games, he often has to learn the tendencies of

pitchers as he goes.

“I try to find out what he moves to go to

the plate and what he moves to come over. Sometimes, they pick up their

legs first; sometimes shoulders, elbows. There’s a lot of things you can

look at in order to get the jump,” Turner said.

“Some things

they’ll do to pick over and some things they’ll do to pitch.  It’s

different with everybody, but the sooner you find that out the easier it

is. … The faster I can get it, the faster I can steal a base. Even if

I’m not on base, I’ve got to pay attention and make sure I can see if

he picks off or what he does so if I’m on base the next inning or two

innings, I already know.”

Stealing bases can be fun. But Turner

has a high steal percentage because he’s smart, and careful. If he were

reckless, he’d get picked off a lot more. But his goal when he gets on

base isn’t necessarily to steal. It’s to run the bases intelligently,

move up when he can and – perhaps most importantly – help his team get

runs.

And if he can get from first to third with some smart base running, he’s more than willing to do that.

“I

take a lot of pride in getting on base, being able to steal two bases

and then a sac fly scoring me,” Turner said. “It’s just maybe one hit

when I’m on base and it could be a run. So I take a lot of pride in that

and that’s why I try to work on it and be as best as I can at it, just

because I know that it helps out my team a lot.”