Branson’s Kolby Follis currently leads the MINK League with 20 stolen bases, but two Sedalia Bombers are right behind him.
Entering the season, manager Jud Kindle recognized base stealing as a strength for the team thanks to a lineup which includes Jarrod Perry and Trey Hair. Now those two are within sight of Follis. Perry has stolen 17 bases on the year and Hair has 15.
“Jud does a good job of letting me have a green light,” Perry said. “That lets me be on my own on the base path.”
As a senior in high school, Perry stole 57 bases in 32 games, breaking the school record. At Evansville, he led the team with 12 steals in 13 attempts this spring.
“It’s always been a part of my game,” he said.
Where Perry has excelled has been in not getting caught. While Follis has been thrown out eight times for Branson this summer, Perry has been caught four times.
“I really just try to pay attention to the pitcher early in the game, see if he has a long leg kick and see the catcher’s arm,” Perry said. “At Evansville, we do a lot of base stealing. It comes as a habit here. I really just focus on the pitcher and see how quick he is to the plate or how slow he is to the plate and see if I can get a good enough jump and take off.”
If a runner is trying to gauge the pitcher, it helps to see him throw a couple of innings. Perry said there is more of an advantage to stealing if he reaches his second or third time up instead of trying to go if he reaches base to lead off the first.
“I think three throw outs this year are all in the first inning,” he said. “It’s like hitting, the more you see the pitcher, the better off you feel. It usually comes easier towards the end of the game.”
In order to become a better base stealer, Perry and his Evansville teammates worked on it during the winter.
“Conditioning at Evansville is pretty tough,” he said. “We do a lot of speed and agility, that’s what kind of team we are. We’re not a power team, we’re small ball, stealing bases and hit-and-run. We focus a lot on that in the off-season.”
Despite stolen bases being on a decline at some levels of baseball, Perry still feels the tactic is a valuable weapon.
“I feel like if you have the talent to steal bases, it’s there,” he said. “You have to be a smart enough baseball player to know when to do it and when not to. You can’t steal if you’re down by two in the last inning. If you get thrown out, you could lose the game. If you’re smart, it’s a good thing.”