Ball players and managers “talk” with each other through the use of baseball signs & signals, which may be given by voice, or by body movements. However they’re given, the baseball “Signs” should be both simple and complicated; simple for the team using them, complicated for the opposition. That’s a contradiction, of course. The point is this: a team cannot use a set of signals that are hard to “read” or someone will surely miss one at a crucial moment. On the other hand, they cannot be so easy to read that the opposing team can steal them.
There’s a neat way of getting around this, rest assured. But, let’s take a look at what some of these signs might be, keeping in mind that any one might be associated with a play, such as the Bunt, Steal, Hit-and-Run, etc.
If the 3rd base coach is giving the Signs-and he’s the best person to do it because he can be seen easily by the batter and base runner-he might:
Touch the peak of his cap with the right hand (left hand or both hands).
Touch the letters of his uniform shirt with his right hand (left hand or both hands).
Tug his belt with his right hand (left hand or both hands).
Move his right hand downward over right thigh (left hand or both hands).
Put flesh-against-flesh (clap hands, rub hands together, touch face with hand).
Turn back to hitter and walk away.
Put both hands on knees (or hips).
Call out batter’s last name (or runner’s).
Touch right elbow with left hand (or left elbow with right hand).
Cup hands to mouth and flash teeth at hitter or runner. “Use A Key”.
To help the situation, the manager might give the Sign with the right hand. Thus, any similar move with the left hand would be meaningless. To make it really difficult for the opposition, the manager should have a “key”, or “build-up” sign. In other words, the genuine signal follows, or precedes the key signal. Let’s say, for example, that two hands to the peak of the cap is the key. Any sign given before two hands go to the cap do not count. The first one following does. Assuming that touching the letters with the right hand means “take”, look at what can be done in a hypothetical situation:
There’s a runner on 1st base, with none out. The score is tied in the 7th inning. You are the home team. The situation calls for a bunt and the defense expects it.
Before the batter steps into the batter’s box, the coach quickly goes through these motions:
Left hand to the hat. Right hand to the hat. Left hand to the belt. Right hand down the thigh. Stops giving Signs.
The batter steps in, the pitcher throws and its Ball One. The batter steps out.
The coach at 3rd, touches the cap with the left hand. The belt with the left hand. Both hands go to the cap. The left hand goes to the belt. The right hand goes to the letters. The left hand goes down the thigh. The signs stop.
The “take” is now on.
If the pitch is a Ball, the coach might give the “take” again. If it’s a Strike, he could then give the Bunt.
If the opposition is stealing baseball Signs and signals, it isn’t necessary to change them-change the key. The key, by the way, need not be a hand sign. The manager, for example, could give the Signs that are genuine while standing at the home plate side of 3rd base. If he were on the outfield side of 3rd and gave the same signs, they would not be in effect.