We love the hidden-ball trick, not because it’s sound baseball or a consistent source of success, but because it’s a strategic wild hare that embodies the opposite of the staid and measured approach that typefies the sport. It’s what-the-hell-why-not baseball that, even for those who dislike trickery as a strategic option, is inevitably fun to watch.
We saw a simple version of it this spring, when Miguel Cabrera fielded a pickoff throw, faked a return to the pitcher, and tagged the unsuspecting runner. That inspired an extended post from me on the play, including tons of video and an extended excerpt from The Baseball Codes. It’s good. You should click on over.
That said, this play is more embraced at lower levels of ball than the big leagues. After all, younger players are not only more likely to be drawn to its rule-bending nature, they’re also more likely to fall for it.
Take, for example, the Trine University softball team, from Angola, Indiana, which recently used some carefully choreographed fakery to advance to the Division III College World Series. Up by two runs in the last inning against Genesco, with two outs and the tying runs on base, the Trine pitcher attempted a pickoff that not only sailed into center field, but past the center fielder. Or at least that’s what she wanted the opposition to believe.
The opposition believed it.
Love it or hate it, that’s some entertaining ball right there.