Enjoy a good baseball trick play? We’ve got 22 of the best trick plays is baseball.

List of Best Trick Plays in Baseball

The trick play in baseball is a rare occurrence as they have made rules to prevent them, like the balk rules, the infield fly rule and the recent elimination of the right-handed pitchers first to third pickoff move.

But when you see one, it is memorable, like when Miami pulled off “The Grand Illusion” hidden ball trick against Wichita State in the 1982 College Word Series. One of the great plays in baseball history.

The Grand Illusion Trick Play in the 1982 College World Series

In this article about trick plays, we cover the standard trick plays that have been used at all levels of baseball – from youth to professional. But I will also cover some trick plays – or maybe less trick play and more creative or unorthodox plays – I’ve seen in youth baseball. Sometimes a little creativity and an unsuspecting victim leads to the best baseball plays!

Famous Trick Plays in Baseball

While a trick play being attempted, let alone working, is a rarity in an average baseball game, there are some trick plays that have taken on a legendary status.

Hidden Ball Trick – The Most Well-Known Trick Play

The most common version of the hidden ball trick takes place after a pickoff attempt if a runner on first base. While it is not often attempted at the pro level, it is definitely favorite little league trick play. It is probably the best trick play base don it’s simplicity and timing.

It requires a good acting job by the first baseman who appears to casually make a return throw to the pitcher. In reality, he never makes the throw and keeps the ball hidden in his baseball glove. The first baseman then waits for the runner to take a leadoff from first base and then tags the base runner out.

One of the complications of this version of the hidden ball trick is that the pitcher cannot touch the rubber or pitching plate without possession of the ball while there are base runners on base or it is a balk. The pitcher engaging with the pitching rubber is usually the action the base runner is waiting for before they take their lead so the base runner really needs to be day-dreaming for this trick play to work.

Another thing to know about the hidden ball trick is that it cannot be attempted after a dead ball because the umpire will not signal the ball live again until the pitcher is on the rubber.

The Rainbow Throw Trick Play

The rainbow throw trick play is a famous trick play where a very fast base runner had second base easily stolen so the catcher threw a looping “rainbow” throw to an infielder who started yelling “I got it” while other fielders were yelling “Throw it to first!” to give the impression that the batter had popped the ball up. The confused base runner left the base at second base  to return to first, hoping to avoid be doubled-off for not tagging up on the popup and was tagged out.

The Skunk Trick Play

The skunk trick play, also known as the skunk in the outfield or skunk in the grass was an old trick play from the early days of baseball that was resurrected when a high school coach came across an old book describing it and pulled it off in the state championship game. In a first and third situation, the base runner on first base goes to take a lead off and then proceeds to walk out in to the grass in short right field. This play relies on the confusion of who should go chase the player or if that player is out of the base line. The runner is not out of the base line because the base line is only established once a fielder attempts to tag the base runner. This play is intended to give the base runner on third the opportunity to break for home and score in the confusion.

Fake Overthrow Trick Plays

There are several versions of the fake overthrow trick play.

Overthrow on a Pickoff Attempt Trick Play

The most common trick play involving a fake overthrow is on a pickoff play – like the Grand Illusion trick play Miami pulled off in the 1982 College World Series shown in the video above. They take the core element of the hidden ball trick – the base runner losing sight of the baseball – and add misdirection and chaos in an effort to get an aggressive base runner to try to go for the next base. Even a first base coach can lose sight of the baseball on a pick off play at first with the first baseman and the diving base runner sometimes obstructing their view.

You can also say that the Grand Illusion was a version of the hidden ball trick, just with much more elaborate choreography than just trick play with a fake throw.

Overthrow on a Stolen Base Attempt Trick Play

Another version of this overthrow trick play is on an stolen base attempt. If the throw is offline or gets passed the infielder covering the base, the fielder backing up that play can attempt to decoy the base runner, pretending that they didn’t come up with the baseball while backing up the play.

Overthrow on a Relay Throw Trick Play

This trick play tries to take advantage of all the complexities of an extra base hit to the outfield and a relay or double relay to get the ball back in to the infield. If the infield who is the cutoff on the relay play can fake an overthrow on the relay throw, they just might get a base runner to round the base a little too far or take off for the next base, setting up an easy out.

The common element of all of these fake overthrow trick plays is that base runners commonly lose track of where the baseball is when they get to a base, especially id they slide in head first to that base. Players are taught to be aggressive on the base paths and they only have a split second to make the decision of whether to try to capitalize on an overthrow.

Centerfielder Pickoff Trick Play

The key to this trick play is to have center fielder sneak behind runner at second base.

For this trick play to work, the middle infielders need to sell the idea that they have forgotten about the runner on second, or there is confusion about which middle infielder was supposed to hold the runner on so no one is holding the runner on.

The risk with this trick play is if the pitcher overthrows the breaking centerfielder, the ball could go all the way to the centerfield wall, likely allowing the runner from second base to not only advance to third base but likely will score.

This is also a hard trick play to pull off as one of the base coaches will likely see the centerfielder coming that far out of position to get to second base, allowing plenty of time for the base runner to be alerted to the trick play by the base coaches.

Pitcher in the Windup With Base Runners Trick Play

This is a simple trick play I have seen countless times at the younger levels of youth baseball where pitchers sometimes forget they need to pitch out of the stretch with base runners. In this trick play, a pitcher pretends to forget he cannot pitch out of the windup with a runner on base.

The trick element to this play is instead of taking a rocker step with his glove-side foot to start the windup, he steps off with the throwing side foot with the same rhythm as if he was starting his windup. But by stepping off with his throwing side foot, the pitcher has effectively disengaged the rubber and now may throw to any base. If the base runner anticipated the pitcher was carelessly pitching out of the windup and jumps to steal the next base, the pitcher has an easy out.

If a fielder yells “Step off! Step off!” it also helps sell this trick play.

Fake pickoff throw to second and have middle infielders pretend the ball gets passed them into center field. When runner takes off, the pitcher throws him out at third.

Catcher Fake Throw Trick Play

Another trick play involving the catcher is when the catcher will fake the throw back to the pitcher after receiving a pitch. This play usually is only effective if there is a runner on third who is getting a big secondary lead and carelessly returning to third, possibly not ever returning all the way to third.

Rounding on walks – if a team aggressively rounds first after a walk, have the catcher back pick him off first base.

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First and Third Plays

One of the most interesting situations is when there are runners on first and third. At the younger levels, it isa an automatic stolen base but as player get bigger and stronger, there are a lot of possibilities of what can happen. Here are a few of the more creative ones.

Fake-To-Third, Throw-To-First Move Trick Play

This play, which is now ruled a balk in professional baseball and at the college level is a trick play that used to be very common. In this trick play, a right-handed pitcher uses the same deception a left-handed pitcher uses on

This play has been regularly used at all levels of baseball. It is especially effective at the youth levels where the base runner stealing second with runners on first and third is almost automatic. If the pitcher can really sell that he starting his leg lift with intention to deliver the ball to home plate, he may get an anxious runner leaving first base too soon. If you regularly use this trick play, make sure you also work on your rundowns because the runner on third may try to score oif the runner on first gets caught in a rundown between first base and second base.

Be aware that this play is a balk in any tournament that plays by the rules of Major League Baseball, which is the case in some high school tournaments and even some tournaments at the youth level, like the tournaments at Cooperstown Dreams Park for 12 year olds.

First and Third Shortstop Cutoff Trick Play

In this first and third situation with the runner on first base taking off to second, the catcher goes through the motions of attempting to throw out the runner but instead throws the ball to the shortstop or second baseman cutting in from of second base. If the runner on third was instructed to break for home on a throw to second, the middle infirleder now has an easy throw to get the runner out at home.

First and Third Throw to Third Trick Play

Again, probably not really a trick play but n a first and third situation with the runner on first base stealing the catcher will pretend to be throwing to second but then snap a throw down to third base to try to catch the runner getting to far off of third base.

Fake Passed Ball Trick Play

Another play that only works with some inspired acting from the catcher is pretending to not know where a ball in the dirt ends up hoping to get a base runner to break for the next base or wander too far from their current base setting up a possible throw for an out.

Rolled Ball Trick Play

Another trick play I cannot believe I have seen work is, after a strike out, the catcher pretends to think there are three outs and starts to run off the field and rolls the ball to the mound. This needs to be coordinated with the pitcher because they need to secure the ball and look for a runner that gets caught up in the ploy.

Dropped Popup With a Runner On First Base Trick Play.

The key to the dropped popup trick play is for the infielder to notice the batter not hustling out of the box. That leaves the amount of time necessary to drop the ball and complete the double play. This trick play also has been used to eliminate a faster baserunner by getting the lead runner with a force out at second.

Catcher Following Runner to First Base Trick Play

This trick play is set up on a hit through the right side of the infield that pulls the first baseman well off of first base. The hitter, seeing that the first baseman is not near first base, aggressively round first base while the catcher, trailing the play to first base, sneaks in behind the runner at first base to receive a throw from the right fielder or cutoff man to tag the aggressive base runner out at first base.

Fake Steal to Cause Balk Trick Play

Another entry on our list that might not be a trick play but a play where a heads up base runner sees an opportunity to create an opportunity is the fake steal to cause a balk trick play.

Offensive Trick Plays

While trick plays are more common on defense, there are some offensive trick plays in baseball.

Rundown Trick Play

A more common version of the skunk play is in a first and third situation, the runner on first base intentionally breaks from first base while the pitcher has the ball on the rubber before attempting to pitch. This could cause a balk but more likely result in the base runner getting caught in a run down between first base and second base, giving the runner on third base an opportunity to try to score. This is usually only used with less than two outs, a fat runner on third base, a weak hitter up, the batting team needed a run and being willing to trade an out for it.

Two Base Walk Trick Play

This play works best with a runner on third, less than two outs and a batter that was just walked with ball four being a passed ball or wild pitch. The batter sprints down to first base and, on. a signal from the coach, rounds first base never slowing down and continuing to second base. The intention of this play is to draw a long throw to second from the catcher, allowing the runner on third the opportunity to try to score.

Double Suicide Squeeze Play

With runners on second and third the batter lays down a bunt with the runner breaking from third for a straight suicide squeeze. However, in this iteration, the runner on second also rounds third with the intention of scoring on the play. This is only attempted with a fast runner on second and the assumption that the defense will throw to first with a successful bunt executed.

Other Trick Plays

Some consider the delayed steal, the straight steal of home on a left-handed pitcher, the double steal and the suicide squeeze trick plays. While they rely on the element of surprise and are not something you regularly see in a baseball game, the are probably just well executed baseball plays. But just as exciting!

Trick Plays Can Be Fun – Or Embarrassing

The one thing I really like about trick plays is how much kids like trying them. If you ever want to get the attention of your team, tell them you want to work on a trick play at the end of practice.

So here is my list of trick plays and other creative plays to try to steal an extra base or an extra out. Let me know if I missed any. I’m sure there is a clever teenager out there somewhere dreaming one up I’ve never seen before!

 

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