Positional Clinics – First Base 

  • First baseman’s domain
  • Where the first baseman sets up will depend on a variety of factors
  • Location of the baserunners (if any)
  • Number of outs and the ball/strike count
  • Game score and inning
  • Likelihood of a bunt
  • Left-handed vs. right-handed batter (or the batter’s tendency to pull the ball)
  • Pitch speed (or even the type of pitch)
  • Rules of thumb
  • Play “inside” the second baseman
  • Approximately three steps to the right of first base – you want to be able to take one “cross step” and reach the foul line
  • The greater the score differential (with your team ahead), the more comfortable you should feel playing behind the base path
  • This provides you with more time (and better angles) to make plays on ground balls hit to the right side of the field
  • If a baserunner is on first base, make sure that you are not setting up in the base path between first base and second base
  • If there is a baserunner on third base, and cutting off the run is important, setting up closer to home plate is appropriate
  • Fielding balls that are put in play to the right side of the infield
  • Ground balls
  • IMPORTANT – first basemen need to be careful not to try to field ground balls that are more than two or three steps to their right side
  • Exception – if it is important in the game situation to make a play at second base, third base or home plate, the first baseman may be in the best position to make that play because of (1) his proximity to home plate (relative to the second baseman) and/or (2) his momentum to his right side
  • If the first baseman fields a ground ball and the appropriate play is at first base, stop on the inside edge of the bag and quickly step away from the bag (to avoid contact with the baserunner)
  • REMEMBER – Never lose sight of the other baserunners when you are recording the out, and quickly move back towards the pitching circle once the out has been recorded
  • If the first baseman can tag the runner, then do so ... but make sure to hold the ball inside the glove using your throwing hand
  • Proper footwork if the first baseman needs to make a throw to another base
  • For right-handers, 180-degree pivot on throw to second base, and two-step throws to third base and home plate

DRILL #1 – Ground balls hit to first baseman (having a coach or player serve as the second baseman, the shortstop, the third baseman and as a baserunner), focusing on judging balls that should be fielded by the second baseman, making tag plays and making throws to the bases

  • Fly balls
  • Review of proper footwork and drop-steps
  • Who should control in the three “triangles”?
  • Catcher / first base / pitcher “triangle” – If first baseman can make the play, then the first baseman should make the play
  • First base / second base / pitcher “triangle” – Second baseman typically has the best angle, with the first baseman having the next best line of sight
  • First base / second base / right field “triangle” – First baseman should be the last option to make the play
  • Pop flies in foul territory – once you have gauged your distance to the fence, keep your eye on the ball and use your throwing hand to feel for the fence as you run towards it

DRILL #2 – Pop-up tosses (with coaches/players playing catcher, pitcher, second base and right field), focusing on the appropriate time to call for the ball and approaching the first base dugout/fence

  • Bunts
  • Discuss with coach whether he wants you to charge or remain anchored

  • If the first baseman is asked to charge a bunt, then:
  • Crash immediately upon the batter squaring to bunt
  • Move on a slight angle towards the foul line (protect against hard bunts or slap hits down the line)
  • First baseman should not go much further than half-way between first base and home plate, and needs to be prepared to return to first base quickly if the batter executes a “butcher boy”
  • First baseman should give way if the catcher or the pitcher calls for the ball
  • If the first baseman fields the ball and the play is at first base or second base, then he should approach the ball on his throwing-hand side, plant his throwing-hand foot, retrieve the ball (with two-hand scoop) and throw to first base using a one-step motion
  • If the first baseman fields the ball and the play is at third base or home plate, then he should approach the ball on his glove side

DRILL #3 – Crashing bunts and throws to the second baseman (covering first base)

  • Receiving throws at first base from the infielders
  • Footwork to get to first base – key is to get to the base quickly
  • Try to avoid looking at first base – keep your eyes on the ball
  • Right-handed first basemen should turn to his throwing-hand side and back into the base
  • Footwork and reach at first base
  • Feet should be planted roughly at the inside corners of first base (with body squared to the infielder receiving the batted ball), so that the first baseman can easily locate the edge of the bag when the throw is made
  • Once the ball is thrown, the first baseman reacts by placing his throwing-hand foot on the inside edge (or against the inside edge) of the base
  • First baseman then stretches towards the ball as it is in flight, with the tip of the glove pointing towards the ball
  • DO NOT STRETCH BEFORE THE BALL IS THROWN – doing so makes it harder to react to poor throws
  • After the catch is made, the first baseman should “pop off” first base towards the pitching circle, regardless of whether runners are on base
  • On throws from the catcher, stand with your left foot on the inside of the bag and your shoulders squared to the catcher

DRILL #4 – Footwork drill on getting to first base quickly, proper stance and reaching for the ball after it is thrown

  • Fielding poor throws
  • If the ball is thrown to the outfield-side or the home-plate-side of first base, then consider whether keeping the glove-hand foot on the base makes it easier to field the throw
  • Coming off the base entirely to catch or block a poor throw (and NOT recording the out at first base) is often the best play, especially if there are runners on base
  • Discuss swipe tag of the runner on throws on the home-plate side of first base
  • If the ball is thrown in the dirt, then the first baseman should watch the ball into his glove
  • Trying keeping your head above the glove, in particular on the back-hand pick
  • Again, the game situation (e.g., runner on third base in a close game) may dictate that the first baseman block a low throw rather than try to “pick it” to record an out

DRILL #5 – Footwork drill to address throws that are wide of the base, and “pick” plays for balls in the dirt

  • Balls hit into the outfield
  • When the ball is hit into the outfield, remember the following:
  • If the ball is hit on a line drive (or a hard ground ball) to right field, then there may be a play on the batter at first base
  • If the ball is hit in the air with a runner on first base, then there may be a play on the baserunner if the ball is caught and the baserunner is too far off the bag
  • Stay out of the baseline (and off the base) if there is no play at first base – otherwise, you are at risk of causing an obstruction (and allowing the baserunner to move up a base)
  • When there is a possibility of a play at home plate on a ball hit to the outfield, the first baseman becomes a cut-off
  • Position yourself near the top of the pitching circle, in line with the catcher and the outfielder who is fielding the ball
  • Receive the ball in a “relay” fashion (with your body turning towards the glove-hand side)
  • Always listen for the catcher’s direction to (i) cut the throw (and either hold, throw home or throw to another base) or (ii) let the throw go without a cut

DRILL #6 – First baseman getting into the cut-off position, with the catcher (a coach) calling various cut / no-cut instructions

  • Catcher pick-offs (discussion if time permits)
  • NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO SECOND BASE WHEN RECEIVING THE THROW ... or a good baserunner will take second without you knowing
  • Left-handed first baseman – right foot should be near the front inside corner of the base with your shoulders squared towards second base, and use a swipe tag to the inside edge of the bag
  • Right-handed first baseman – left foot should be near the front inside corner of the bag with your shoulders squared towards the catcher, and use a swipe tag to the inside edge of the bag

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