Positional Clinics – Third Base 

  • Preparing to play third base
  • Rules of thumb on setting up
  • Set up in front of the shortstop (i.e., closer to home plate), about four or five steps off of the third baseline
  • Need to be able to cross-step towards the baseline and make a backhand play on balls hit down the line
  • If there is a runner on second base, then you need to be close enough to return to third base on an attempted stolen base
  • In bunt situations, set up inside the baseline
  • As you position yourself closer to home plate, you should also position yourself closer to the foul line – you will have less reaction time on balls hit down the baseline
  • When the pitcher begins his motion, take a two-step “prep step” towards home plate
  • Weight on the balls of your feet
  • Body should be lower to the ground than if you were playing a middle infield position
  • Glove should be low to the ground in anticipation of a hard ground ball
  • The “hot corner”
  • Position requires absolute focus on the point of contact (i.e., where the ball meets the bat), regardless of whether the batter is right-handed or left-handed
  • Importance of knowing your job before the pitch is thrown
  • Fielding balls that are put in play on the left side of the infield
  • Ground balls
  • On balls hit directly to the third baseman, use a “two-step” motion (right foot first, then left foot) on the throw to first base
  • If the ball is hit into the shortstop hole (between SS and 3B), it is often better for the third baseman to make the play, especially if the bases are empty or there is a runner on 1B (as the third baseman’s momentum is moving towards 1B and 2B)
  • If there is a runner on 2B, then the third baseman and the shortstop need to communicate
  • May be preferable for the shortstop to make the play, and the third baseman to cover the third base bag, especially if there is a force play at 3B
  • On throws to 2B, keep in mind that the third baseman may be positioned in front of the baseline, so the target is slightly behind the thrower
  • Also keep in mind that the second baseman is moving from the third baseman’s right side to his left side, so it is important to “lead” the fielder on the throw

DRILL #1 – Fielding ground balls to the third baseman or to his glove side, practicing throws to 1B and 2B

  • The Backhand Play
  • It is critical to learn how to field on your backhand side
  • Take a “jab” step back with your right foot, and then cross-step with your left foot, keeping your glove low to the ground and in front of your face (so that you can see the ball into your glove)
  • Try to catch the ball in the webbing of the glove rather than the palm (since it is a one-handed play)
  • Plant your right foot to slow your momentum, then use a “two-step” motion to make your throw
  • If your body is pulled into foul territory, or you do not have much time to make the play, you may need to throw the ball using only one step
  • IMPORTANT – knocking the ball down on the backhand side may be as important as fielding the ball cleanly, as you can prevent a double

DRILL #2 – Backhand play, with the coach rolling the ball and the player completing the throw to first base

  • The Slow Roller and the Bunt
  • Third basemen needs to be prepared to charge on slowly hit ground balls and bunts
  • If the batter squares to bunt, the third baseman should immediately charge, moving at a slight angle towards the foul line
  • REMEMBER:  the batter may pull his bat back and attempt to take a full swing, in which case the third baseman needs to stop and hold his ground
  • Once the ball is put in play, the third baseman has a few options when fielding the ball
  • #1 – Field the ball with two hands, and make a quick throw using a “two-step” motion
  • #2 – Field the ball with the glove hand while in motion, fielding the ball off of your glove-hand foot, planting your right foot and throwing – a quick transfer is key
  • #3 – Field the ball with your bare hand, with your hand starting low to the ground and your palm facing the ball, planting your right foot and throwing – this is a DO-OR-DIE play
  • For #2 and #3, always keep your feet moving through the ball, and use a “stutter” step as you get close to the ball to get your feet in the right position to field and throw
  • Important to keep your body low to the ground and your eye on the ball as you charge
  • If possible, take an angle to the ball that allows you to generate some momentum towards 1B

DRILL #3 – Charge (1) a stationary ball and (2) a slowly rolled ball, with a focus on throwing on the run – use both one-hand and bare-hand plays

  • The Rake Play
  • On slow rollers or bunts near the line, the best way to generate some momentum towards first base is to use a back-handed “rake” motion
  • “Two-step” motion to get your body in position before you back-hand the ball, followed by a “two-step” motion on the throw to 1B

DRILL #4 – Rake play on slowly rolled ball down the third base line

  • Fly balls (discussion only)
  • Fly-ball priority
  • 3B/P/C triangle – third baseman has priority
  • 3B/P/SS triangle – shortstop has priority, then third baseman
  • 3B/SS/LF triangle – left fielder has priority
  • Fielding foul balls and feeling for the fence with your throwing hand
  • Tag plays at the third base bag
  • Goal is to keep your glove as close to the tag location as possible, and let the ball come to you rather than reaching for it
  • Throws from LF, CF and SS
  • Straddle the bag, and position your glove over the tag location
  • Throws from RF, 1B and 2B
  • Set up on the home plate side of the bag to give yourself (and the thrower) a better line of sight and to avoid having the throw hit the baserunner
  • On throws from C, the third baseman can take either approach
  • On an attempted stolen base, the third baseman should try to use a drop step to return to the bag, keeping his eye on the catcher and the ball

DRILL #5 – Fielding throws from the left side and the right side of the field and applying the tag at third base

  • Cut-off responsibility on throws to home plate (discussion only)
  • When the ball is hit to LF and there is a potential play at home plate, the third baseman becomes the cut-off
  • Set up about half-way between home plate and third base
  • Field the ball using the typical relay motion for cut-offs

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