Lofton leading the pack in steals
Rangers veteran closing in on 600 career swipes
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kenny Lofton has kept a few bases over the years, and they are displayed on the shelf in his office back home.There was one to commemorate setting the American League rookie stolen-base record, one for each time he led the American League in stolen bases and one for No. 500. "They don't give out trophies for stolen bases, so I made my own trophies," Lofton said. "You get a trophy for Silver Slugger, batting title, home runs, all that stuff. But not stolen bases." He wants one more bag for his trophy case, but the question is what happens if his next steal is of home plate. "I didn't think about that," Lofton said. "No, I don't think I'll be picking up that one. I don't think I'll be stealing home." It's something to think about. Lofton has stolen home twice in his career, to go along with the 597 times that he has stolen either second or third base. The simple arithmetic shows that Lofton goes into the 2007 season with 599 steals for his career and needs one more for 600 in his career. They probably won't stop the game to mark the occasion if it happens during the opening series in Anaheim, but it's still a remarkable achievement for a guy who has been running and swiping them ever since ... Ever since? "I can't remember the first one," Lofton said. Let the record show that Lofton's first stolen base took place on Sept. 28, 1991, while playing for the Houston Astros against the Atlanta Braves. It was in the Astrodome, Kent Mercker was the opposing pitcher, Greg Olson was catching and Steve Finley was batting for the Astros. Finley, who has 320 career stolen bases, said he doesn't remember it either. "But what I do remember is that when he first came up, all he had to do was hit the ball on the ground, and if it was a little bit to the either the left or right of the infielder, he would beat it out," Finley said. "He could absolutely fly. At first, he was just stealing bases on raw speed. But then he started picking things up. And when he went to Cleveland, he really mastered it." Now he is the master, the reigning active stolen-base leader in the Major Leagues. And he needs just one more to be the 17th player with 600 career steals. "Honestly, it's just one of the hundreds," Lofton said. "I have 500. Now, 600 is coming. At this day and age, it's hard to get stolen bases. It's an honor to get 600, but until you get to the level of Rickey Henderson, it's meaningless."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.