Matt Angle and Tyler Henson have been on the run lately for one of baseball's higher crimes. Angle has escaped from Ohio State, while Henson managed to flee Florida safely, and both have met up in Aberdeen. These two Ironbirds, or "Ironburglars," if you will, should be arrested for what they do on the field. Sneaking any base they can take, even under the watchful eye of 6,000 fans, has been the common crime at Ripken Stadium this season. Angle and Henson are currently racing to see who will end up with more stole bases by the end of the year.
The Ironbirds manager, Andy "Etch" Etchebarren, enjoys having guys at the top of the order who can wreak havoc on pitchers and catchers, and has turned Angle and Henson loose, giving them the green light often. Etch had the opportunity to learn from one of the games best managers, Earl Weaver, and applies a lot of what Weaver taught him, in regards to stealing bases.
"[Earl Weaver] believed in making 27 outs at home plate. It makes a lot of sense. And, to run just to steal bases, I'm not going to do that because you get guys thrown out and that's an out they're not going to have to get at home plate."
However, with that said, Etch told us that there are some exceptions to this principle and that he doesn't mind turning some guys loose.
"I think I'm going to run more. I think Ryan Adams can steal bases; he's shown me some pretty good jumps. I know [Joe] Nowicki can steal bases now, so we'll probably turn a couple guys loose. We'll probably run with four or five guys instead of two."
Aberdeen's former stolen base record of 20 was broken on August 3rd, just a few days past the half way point of the short season. Angle was the first to pass the old record. He did it sliding head-first into second base in the bottom of the 9th inning with the Ironbirds down 0-2, much like any other situation he and Henson have been utilizing to steal bases; one where the team needs a runner in scoring position.
"If it's late in the game, if it's a one run game, 2 outs, if it's things like that, and you need a runner in scoring position, I'm going to try and go," Angle told Inside The Warehouse. "Not only are you going to steal bases, you're going to benefit the team."
"I really worked on it a lot in extended [spring training]; to steal a lot of bases," Henson added, "and every opportunity I'll get, I'll try to steal."
Though the record is now broken, Angle and Henson are still competing with each other to see who can steal more bases on the season. For them, it's more of a fun game within the game itself. However, should we expect Angle to fill Henson's pockets with sand, or for Henson to "accidentally" drop banana peels around Angle's locker?
"We just give each other a hard time about different things. It's just a friendly competition," Angle said.
But, sure, for Angle being ahead it could be a "friendly competition," but what about Henson? Is it just "friendly" to him?
"We kind of have a little bit of a competition going," Henson chuckled, "but he's got a step on me now."
Even though Angle and Henson are off to an impressive pace, Angle was the one who officially broke the record, but he could not be more modest about it.
"It's something kind of cool to do," mentioned Angle about the stolen base record he now holds. "It's not the biggest or most glamorous record. It's not like I set the home run record or anything like that, but for someone like me, a top of the lineup guy, a guy whose game revolves around speed, it' something I try to take pride in."
Henson was also mindful about keeping the record strictly professional and as nothing more than a footnote.
"I set a personal goal at 30 bags, so, hopefully, I can get to it."
With all the focus at the actual stolen base record, it is equally interesting to look at the pace these guys are stealing bags. Right now, there are only 3 guys ahead of Angle in the entire Orioles' organization (Brian Roberts-32, Corey Patterson-29, Daniel Figueroa-24), and all three have played in close to three times the amount of games Angle has. As if Angle's accomplishments could not be more impressive, he has only been caught stealing twice, good for a 91.3% stolen base success ration (21-23).
"If you're scared about stealing, then you're going to get thrown out," Angle instructed about base stealing. "You have to have the confidence that you're going to steal the bag when you go, but if you don't, then you're going to start getting thrown out."
Etch was right on after the Opening Day game in which Angle stole second and third for his first two steals as a professional.
"He's going to be a little pest."
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