Greatest Pitch Picker In History Tells All

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

ACTON, Calif. — The biggest story in baseball centers around the illegal sign stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros in 2017.

One or more players watched the live feed of the centerfield camera on a monitor, and after decoding the catcher’s signs, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to Houston hitters.

Major League Baseball handed out 1-year suspensions for Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow.

The organization was fined $5 million and stripped of first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

The duo was then fired by Astros Owner Jim Crane.

Red Sox Coach Alex Cora, a former Astros’ bench coach during 2017, was then fired by the Red Sox.

Mets’ Manager Carlos Beltran became the third MLB manager to lose his job after he was implicated in the sign-stealing scandal.

Baseball has had a storied history with sign stealing, and the greatest of all time was a gentleman named Rob Klein.

He was a brilliant assistant for 22 years with Coach Mike Gillespie (three years at College of The Canyons and then 19 more at the University of Southern California).

Let’s get one thing straight off the bat.

He did everything legally and never used live video feeds with a monitor to pick pitches.

Studying Klein at work in the first base coach’s box was like watching Picasso paint a masterpiece.

He began games studying every subtle movement of the pitcher.

He watched if the wrist was cocked differently on pitches or if the ball was put deeper in the glove for certain pitches or the glove was turned slightly different for one pitch compared to another. He even studied the forearms of pitchers to see if muscles tensed up on certain pitches compared to others.

Klein had amazing perception to pick up on even the slightest differences from one pitch to another.

If the catcher or infielders were tipping pitches, he picked up on that as well.

When he was certain of pitches coming, he flashed hand signals to the USC bench. Then a Trojan player would relay pitches verbally to batters.

He coached over 1,200 games in his career, and undoubtedly 50-60 percent of opposing pitchers were picked in his lifetime which gave hitters thousands of pitches to hit that they knew were coming.

Klein’s ability to pick pitches was fitting since he also served as a detective for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for eight years and an officer for 32 years overall.

For 19 years, he drove 55 miles to USC from his home in Acton, Calif. and back again after practices or games — a round trip of 110 miles.

This was all after working a full shift with the Sheriff’s Department on many of those days.

For the first time in any publication, Klein is sharing his secrets of picking pitches with Collegiate Baseball in this exclusive story now that he is retired from coaching baseball.

To read more of this article, purchase the Feb. 7, 2020 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Klein explains every facet of pitch picking from base coaches to players in the dugout to players in the bullpen. Plus he explains what signs were used to relay pitches to batters.