#Shortstops: Locastro’s stolen goods

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Bill Francis

Tim Locastro grew up not far from National Baseball Hall of Fame, understanding from an early age its timeless lure for fans of the sport. So for Locastro, having something of his at the sport’s Valhalla is almost unimaginable.

Cooperstown is approximately 90 miles east of Locastro’s hometown of Auburn, N.Y. In an interesting twist, Auburn was also the childhood home of Abner Doubleday, the mythical father of baseball of who it was once said invented the game in Cooperstown in 1839.

After Locastro, the 28-year-old outfielder then with the Arizona Diamondbacks, on April 10 set a big league record (since 1951) with his 28th consecutive successful stolen base attempt to start his career, he donated the cleats he was wearing to the Hall of Fame.

The spikes are now on display in the Museum’s Today’s Game exhibit.

“Obviously you always want to get into Cooperstown,” said Locastro, who was traded to the New York Yankees on July 1. “That’s what you dream about as a kid – winning the World Series and getting into Cooperstown. So having my cleats there, that’s unfathomable to me.”

During a phone interview with the Hall of Fame a few weeks after the record-setting game, Locastro was still in awe of how the situation played out.

“It’s still unfathomable,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice about donating the cleats to the Hall of Fame. Our home clubhouse manager Roger Riley told me the Hall of Fame wanted my cleats and I was sort of like, ‘Really?’ I honestly couldn’t believe it. Then he said, ‘No, I’m serious’ and I was like, ‘Oh, absolutely.’ And then I gave them right to him and the next thing you know they’re on their way to Cooperstown.

“Last year we got lifetime passes for the Hall of Fame and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. It had my name on it and it said, ‘Lifetime Pass.” That, to me, was amazing. But now, a year later, to have my cleats there … that’s really special to me and my family.”

Locastro, who still spends time in Auburn in the offseason, then joked: “I’m surprised my parents haven’t driven up and seen them yet, to be honest.

“I could definitely see us coming up this offseason, when I’m back home for the holidays, and checking it out.”

The size 12 Adidas Adizeros were Locastro’s home cleats. Since the record-breaking game took place in Arizona’s second home game of the 2021 season, the cleats had only been worn in two games.

“The funny thing was, I just had those cleats painted for the season. So you guys have got a fresh, clean, painted pair of cleats,” Locastro said with a laugh. “They were originally all white and I got them painted Arizona Sedona red to give them a little more flair.”

Big league baseball’s fastest player over the past two seasons, according to Statcast’s sprint speed metric, Locastro averaged 30.7 feet/second in 2020 and 30.8 feet/second in 2019.

“Growing up I was always pretty fast. In college, the first couple years I didn’t really steal a lot of bases, but then a few of the coaches there told me to start getting more aggressive,” Locastro said. “My junior year in college I started to steal a lot more and get more comfortable with stealing and it just kind of took off from there.”

Is the ability to successfully steal bases more about pure speed or mastering technique? Locastro thinks it’s an even combination.

“There’s definitely a mental side behind it. I’ve studied a lot of pitchers and catchers. I’d say it’s about 50/50 between speed and technique,” he said. “I think there’s some people that don’t have as much speed that can be very effective base stealers.”

After the lifelong New York Yankees fan graduated from Auburn High School in 2010, Locastro attended nearby Ithaca (N.Y.) College where he starred at shortstop. After his junior year with the Bombers, when he set the single-season school record for stolen bases (40) and runs scored (71), Locastro was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 13th round – 385th pick overall – of the 2013 MLB Draft. He made his major league debut in 2017 with the Dodgers and was traded to the Diamondbacks before the 2019 season.

“My family and I used to come out for the Hall of Fame induction at the end of July all the time,” Locastro said. “We’d make a weekend trip out of it. It was a blast. I was still young but it was just more the excitement of being around the former legends. The community was so special. It was just such a cool baseball feel.

“They’d have a minor league game going on at Doubleday Field,” he added. “And I remember that we went to a Q&A with Bob Feller and I got Bob Feller’s autograph.”

In Arizona’s 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on April 10, 2021, the righty-swinging Locastro led off the sixth inning with a single. His steal of second base, with Carson Fulmer on the mound and Tucker Barnhart behind the plate, made it 28-for-28 in steals at the start of a career. He finished the game batting 4-for-5 with two runs scored.

“I would say I really didn’t start thinking about the record until this year,” Locastro said. “I had a lot of friends and people talking about it more this offseason, so then it started to trickle into my mind. I knew when I was one away from tying it and I knew when I was tied. I would say I definitely started feeling a little bit of pressure. I was just fortunate that I was able to do it.”

Locastro was able to share the special moment with his mother Colleen, who was in Phoenix for the franchise’s home opener the previous day.

“She was more thrilled than me, I can tell you that much,” he said. “I was really happy that she was able to be here and enjoy that moment with her. It was pretty special.”

Holding the previous mark was Hall of Fame Class of 2017 inductee Tim Raines, who swiped 27 consecutive at the start of his career with the Montreal Expos from 1979-81. Others at the top of the list include Mitchell Page, 26 (1977); Quintin Berry, 25 (2012-14); and Jacoby Ellsbury, 25 (2007-08).

“I got drafted by the Blue Jays in 2013 and Tim Raines was actually my base running coach until I was traded in 2015 to the Dodgers. So I had a few years under his tutelage. It’s pretty crazy how that worked out,” Locastro said. “He definitely helped me out a lot.”

In an interview with The Athletic, Raines said of Locastro: “I didn’t have to teach him much. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.”

After extending the stolen base record to 29 on April 13, the speedy Locastro’s streak finally came to an end when he was caught stealing second base by Washington Nationals catcher Yan Gomes in the third inning on April 17. He was promptly removed from the game after dislocating his left pinky finger in the attempt. The injured digit, which needed to get four stitches, was placed into a splint.

The Diamondbacks put Locastro on the 10-day injured list on April 18, then traded him to the Yankees on July 1 in exchange for minor leaguer Keegan Curtis. On July 17, Locastro injured his right knee while making a leaping catch at Yankee Stadium, ending his season.

“I feel like my career is still young,” Locastro said. “I’m still up-and-coming. I just want to continue.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series