December 29, 2015
PLANO, Tex. — Mike Maack is considered the greatest teacher of the lefthanded first base pickoff move in the history of baseball.
He was a southpaw pitcher in the Minnesota Twins’ minor system (rookie league through AA) in the early 1980s and picked off 90 runners at first base in three seasons prior to being injured.
His highest pickoff total in one game was five during a professional game and five in another contest when he pitched for Tulane.
Maack was previously the pitching coach at the University of Central Florida as his pitching staff picked off 287 over five seasons at first base.
That is over 50 pickoffs a year at first base which has undoubtedly never been done before or after in the history of college baseball.
Maack said the lefthanded pickoff move he teaches at first base also works extremely well with righthanders at third base.
In part one of this series, Maack explained all the mechanics involved in having a great pickoff move.
In part two, he delves into drills he utilizes to teach The Move for lefthanded pitchers on pickoffs to first and righthanders to third and how they can be integrated into 10 minutes of work during all practices.
In addition, Maack explains in detail the timing of the righthanded pickoff move at third base and how 24 runners were picked at third by Miami-Dade South Junior College pitchers one season, including four in one game.
Maack’s drills are designed to break down the delivery into segments so that pitchers feel the proper body movements.
The goal of each pitcher is to throw five in each drill perfectly. When they do that, they are done.
Maack said once pitchers get a feel for The Move, they can eliminate some of the basic early drills such as the Chair Drill, Standup Drill and Standup 45 Drill because they already have the mechanics down.
They now refine their move with the other drills every day in practice. From that point forward, they work on their leg lift and being balanced.
“Once the kid has developed the pickoff move, you can eliminate the first 3-4 drills. I like doing the Step 45 drill because that is a great one to continue working on, especially for a lefty who has incorporated a slide step in his delivery. He can slide step at a 45 degree angle and pick a guy off as part of his practice routine.
“That can be another pickoff move for him. But with that being said, I don’t normally teach lefties the slide step because it pretty much tells the runner he is in control. So I try to teach all lefties to go with the leg lift. But some lefties I have had over the years are quick to the plate, and they have the slide step down. And they have the leg lift as well.
“So with those guys, we utilize both concepts. I don’t want to take a weapon away from a pitcher who has the slide step coming into my program.”
Maack explained his unique drill sequence.
“We usually do this first drill along the foul line in left field with lefties sitting in chairs along the line facing left field. The foul line toward third base simulates where home plate will be. Their partners are about 15 feet away toward left field (90 degrees from the foul line) in the direction where first base would be. Lefties start off with their glove hand going toward home and their head to home. Then they throw the ball to their partner simulating the throw to first base.
“You want to teach pitchers how to throw to first base without looking at first base. You are actually looking home when you are throwing to first base.
“At first, lefties will throw it way left of his partner. We are taught to reach and step where we will throw. Now to unteach that and teach them to reach one direction with their glove and throw another way takes repetition to get a feel of throwing almost behind them.
“That drill takes out the lower part of the body. You are focusing in on the glove hand side, head and throwing side. Your throwing hand is one zone and your head and glove hand are another zone. But the first drill is basically your chair drill. And you are working on the tempo of your head and glove hand working together and throwing hand tossing the ball to your partner.
“There are two different directions. Your head and glove hand are going down the line to home. And your throwing hand is throwing the ball to first base, obviously. As you advance with this drill, and others, you work on three different head looks.
“The first head look is to home to get your sign and location from the catcher. The second look is to first base. Now you read the runner or look home on a setup move and throw to first base. The third look is to home again. So I am either looking home and throwing home or looking home and picking to first on my good move.”
To read more of this story, purchase the Jan. 1, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. Part 1 of this 2-part series appeared in the Oct. 2, 2015 issue of Collegiate Baseball which is available to purchase as well.