Special Report: Stealing Bases

Louisville’s Dan McDonnell Explains System

Louisville Baseball HeadshotsBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

(From Sept. 5, 2014 Edition)

The University of Louisville has put up staggering stolen base numbers over the past eight years under Head Coach Dan McDonnell.

During the past two seasons, the Cardinals have stolen 150 bases (second nationally) in 2013 and 133 in 2014 (second nationally). In his first year with Louisville in 2007, his ball club swiped 153 bases (second nationally). In six of the eight years, his teams have pilfered at least 89 bases.

His tough-minded teams also refuse to allow pitchers to throw inside as his batters have been hit 100 or more times in five of the eight years and ranked first nationally in 2013 with 129 hit by pitches, second in 2012 with 115 HBP and sixth last season with 109 HBP.

Having more men on base and stealing efficiently allows his teams to have more runners in scoring position which has allowed Louisville to score over 400 runs seven of the eight years he has been with the Cardinals.

In this exclusive interview with the Louisville skipper, McDonnell delves into his high powered running game.

“First, you must give credit to the players,” said McDonnell.

“The combination of athletic kids with good foot speed helps. But you must have kids who want to run and aren’t afraid to do it. We emphasize the running game heavily in our program. There is an old saying, ‘If you emphasize it, you will be good at it.’ “

With stealing bases, there is a relentless pursuit of excellence that takes place every day for Louisville players.

“We work at base stealing constantly not only in the fall but throughout the spring,” said McDonnell.

“Teaching stealing throughout the playing season is something that is important to do if you want to great at it. We not only work on it during the few practice days we get a week during the season but also talk about it from game to game and continue to build on this process.

“I’m patient enough to realize that kids who come out of high school may not be proficient at stealing. As a coach, you must have patience because it takes time to develop a great base stealer. I have several success stories of players who really developed with our system.

“Stealing bases was one thing I was really good at as a player. I have an older brother who is a basketball coach. I remember being in the backyard with a tire and a weight lifting belt and a boat rope. I would work hard at my crossover step and trying to get at full speed as quickly as I could. Being a good base stealer gave me the opportunity to play college baseball.

“As a coach, it has been especially gratifying to coach kids to be great base stealers. I left The Citadel as the career leader in stolen bases (99 from 1989-1992). And it was fun to coach kids there (1993-2000) who broke my record.

“The first kid who broke my record was David Beckley (103 SB from 1993-96). He is an assistant coach at The Citadel now. He went from single digits during his freshman year (5 stolen bases) to 39 his sophomore year and a combined 59 over his final two years.

“Then Terrence Smalls (120 SB from 1995-98), a shortstop for us at The Citadel, overtook David’s record after that. And then in the late 1990s, Chris Morris (147 SB from 1998-2000) broke his record. Chris now is an assistant at College of Charleston. He stole 11 as a freshman. Then he swiped 52 as a sophomore and 84 as a junior.

“When Chris had 11 stolen bases as a freshman, I remember telling the coaches at that time that getting double digit stolen bases for him was a huge accomplishment. I knew there would be growth from year to year. I never envisioned him stealing 84 bases his junior year. But he did.”

More On Louisville’s Amazing Base Stealers: To read the rest of this in-depth story on Dan McDonnell’s stealing system, purchase the Sept. 5, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.


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