It is the most audacious play on the baseball field. One no one ever sees coming.
The runner dances off third base, shaking his legs and arms and watching the pitcher like a meteorologist studying the Doppler radar. The batter stands waiting for the pitch, as the catcher thinks about what to call.
Then, suddenly, the runner is off as soon as the pitcher goes into his windup, and a few seconds later, he slides across home just before the catcher can apply the tag.
Everyone in the stadium roars. Both benches are stunned. And a steal of home, that rarity in the sport, has just happened.
Only a few great baserunners in the history of the game have been good at stealing home. Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, players who were legends in their time.
Anthony Iuorio wants to be like those guys one day. In at least one respect, he’s getting there.
The Port Washington Schreiber High School junior outfielder has recorded two swipes of home this season, his breakout year as he became a star and led the Vikings to a terrific spring.
The 5-foot-10 junior batted .473 and powered the Schreiber offense, but what really gets his eyes twinkling and his mouth moving as fast as his feet is talking about baserunning. And stealing home.
“It’s just the most exciting thing that can happen out there,” said Iuorio (pronounced I-OREO). “Nobody is expecting it, and when it works and you get back to the dugout, everyone is so pumped up.”
Now to be totally truthful, Iuorio hasn’t accomplished a “straight” steal of home in 2023, when he takes off at the pitcher’s first motion and gets there before the catcher can tag him out. One of his steals, against Herricks, occurred when Iuorio noticed the catcher was tossing it back to the pitcher very slowly, and on one lazy throw he raced down the third base line and scored before the pitcher could get it back to the plate.
His other theft of home occurred against East Meadow, on a slow pickoff throw by the pitcher to the first baseman. Iuorio took off immediately and slid in safely.
“He’s one of the best baserunners I’ve ever seen, anywhere,” Schreiber coach Matt Holzer said. “He’s fast, but it’s more his instincts and baseball IQ are so good. He knows exactly when to take the risk and when not to. He’s got a green light from us all the time.”
“I’ll try to steal on anyone,” Iuorio said. “I have no fear of making an out. I feel like if I get caught stealing, it’s something wrong that I did.”
It’s not just Iuorio’s wheels that powered Schreiber to a 15-7 season, a campaign that ended on May 17 when the Vikes lost their playoff series to Oceanside.
In addition to the .473 batting average, Iuorio smacked six doubles, with one homer and 19 RBIs. He drove in six runs in an early-season game against Herricks, a performance that gave him confidence he could succeed on the varsity level after Iurio hit .182 as a sophomore.
“Before the game Coach Holzer took me aside and just said, “stay back, and look for the away pitch,'” and I did and had a great game,” Iurio said.
Both Holzer and Iuorio say the junior’s confidence took off after that series. Iuorio stopped trying to pull everything and started spraying liners to all fields. A lot of that success came with experience, but also Iuorio knew that to hit good varsity pitching, he had to change his approach a bit.
He also has learned to use his instincts from another sport while patrolling center field. Iurio was a top wide receiver for the Vikings football squad last fall.
“I’m reading where the ball is going as a wide receiver, same thing as baseball,” Iuorio said. “You have to have good hands and good instincts in both.”
Iuorio comes from an athletic family, as dad Edward Iurio played hockey at the University of Rhode Island. Iuorio said he asked his parents repeatedly as a kid to put him in travel baseball, but “my Mom thought I had too much going on, so I should wait a little.”
After starring with the Port Washington Legends as a kid, he now plays for Next Level travel squad and is hoping a strong summer will get him looks from college coaches.
“There’s not many holes in his game,” Holzer said. “He just has to keep working hard, maybe get a little stronger, and he’ll be even better.”