Former Saint, Wingnut Tony Thomas First to Steal First?
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier discuses a first of its kind in baseball as former Wichita Wingnuts, St. Paul Saints outfielder Tony Thomas became the first player to steal first base. A new rule in the Atlantic League allowed the outfielder to set the notable mark.
Tony Thomas Steals First Base
Tony Thomas made his mark in the American Association. He was an all-star with the St. Paul Saints in 2016 and last year led the American Association in homeruns when he hit 23 for the Wichita Wingnuts.
Now Thomas is the answer to a trivia question – who was the first player to steal first base?
The Atlantic League, working with Major League Baseball, implemented a new rule that allows a batter to steal first base. The rule is very much akin to being allowed to run after a called third strike is dropped.
For non-baseball fans, when a batter is called out on a third strike, but the catcher drops the ball, the batter is allowed to try to advance to first base. If he reaches first before being tagged out, then he is safe.
This rule is being applied in the Atlantic League on all pitches now. This means that if a pitch is errant, going to the backstop or getting away from the catcher, the batter can attempt to “steal” first. If he reaches the base before the throw, he is safe. If not, he is out.
History in the Making
In the sixth inning of yesterday’s game between the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Lancaster Barnstormers, Tony Thomas became the first professional player to accomplish the feat. The pitch bounced in the dirt, evading the catcher. Thomas raced to first as the ball reached the backstop, making history.
Explained Thomas about his historic play: “It was just something that I never thought I’d be a part of. The [pitcher] was on the mound, wasn’t consistent around the strike zone and I found a way to get our team on base and the opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t something I thought about going into, but when I saw the ball stuck underneath the back stop, I knew he had no shot of getting me out at first base, so I took off and went.”
He added, “In the process of looking back to see where the ball went, I actually saw [the catcher] Anderson sticking his hand up to the umpire for the ball because it’s [usually an] automatic passed ball. I saw it submerge and I took off because I knew at that time in the game our team needed base runners.”
In addition to the new theft rule, the Atlantic League has also implemented the robo umpire system this season. Now balls and strikes are called by the Robot Ump.
By Robert Pannier