In the 1980s and 1990s, a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime event began to occur with greater regularity. What Willie Mays did for the basket catch in the 50s, modern athletic studs like Bo Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr. did for the gravity-defying and once thought to be impossible play -- robbing a home run.
As a kid, I can remember tuning into SportsCenter on ESPN and watching Ken Griffey Jr, almost on a weekly basis, bring back homers. Every kid who grew up in America in the 1990s can remember playing "rob the home run" in the back yard or living room thanks to #24.
As time went on, it seemed like more and more players of less stature were figuring out how to mimic Jr.; it seemed like this play -- once thought to be outside the realm of possibility -- was now within reach.
This, of course, is no coincidence. As humans and athletes, we learn to adapt and eventually become more efficient in our actions, movements and habits.
Enough evolutionary banter from me, here's how to rob a home run:
Always know EXACTLY how many running strides from the wall or fence you are. Take some time in batting practice or before the game to measure this out. You don't want to be running full speed and face plant into the wall because you thought you had more turf to run on. Trust me from experience, that is not fun!
Most fields at the amateur level do not have a warning track before the fence. By knowing how many strides you have until you begin your leap to the stars is the single most important aspect of bringing back a homer.
A special safety precaution in this step would be to take a peak at the wall as you are nearing the end of your dash to the fence. Yes your are taking your eye off the ball for a split second, But this final look helps in timing your jump. Study how your favorite pro robs a home run on YouTube. They always look before they jump.
Know your fence. Is it a chain link fence or padded wall? If you're playing at Wrigley, watch out for the brick and ivy! How tall is the fence? Is it a standard 8ft? Can you get your glove over the wall with a jump or do you have to climb the wall? Figure all of this out during your pregame walk through.
Ever see a pro hustle all the way to the wall only to be rejected by the padding on the way up? This is because he jumped too close to the wall. Because you're on a mad dash, your momentum is going to keep carrying you forward even after you jump. Ideally, you want to jump a step and a half before the wall and catch the baseball at the apex of your jump, just as you crash into the wall.
Seem complicated? Practice makes perfect! Find a padded wall at a nearby gym and have a coach or a buddy toss tennis balls to the top of the fence as you time your leap and rob a homer!