Every position on the baseball field is an important one, and third base is certainly no exception. But playing third base is not for everyone. Known as the “hot corner” for a reason, players need certain skills and mental makeup to play the position well. The ball can get to you quickly and you’ll need to be ready. And don’t forget about those bunts down the third base line that you need to field and make an accurate throw. In this article, we’ll cover how to play the third base position as well as some of the skills and attributes you’ll need.
Positioning at Third Base
Where you stand on the field as a third baseman will change based on the game situation, whether there is a right or left handed batter or maybe even how hard your pitcher throws the ball. But there is also a standard position that most third baseman will use.
More on Third Baseman Positioning: Infield Defensive Positioning
The basic rule of thumb is that a third baseman will position themselves around three or four steps from the third base bag and about two steps behind it. This will give them time to reach most balls hit down the line and also cut off any balls hit to their left between themselves and the shortstop.
Minor adjustments are made based on certain factors. Let’s say that there is a right-handed batter at the plate and your pitcher is not a hard thrower. Hitters like to pull the ball so in this case, it makes sense to move a full step closer to the line. This will allow you to reach a ball that is pulled and hit hard down the line.
The opposite may be true for a hard thrower. Since the batter may not be able to pull the ball as much, the third baseman may take a full step to their left to reach balls hit in that direction. If it appears that the bunt is in order, you will normally play in several steps in front of the bag to give yourself an opportunity to make the play.
Because the third baseman won’t have much time to react to make a play, there are many times you’ll need to make a split-second decision on how to handle a play. Do you charge a high hopper or stay back? Do you field the ball on the short hop or take a step back to get a better one?
No matter what the decision, once you’ve decided what to do, go with it. Commit to your decision and do your best to make the play. The third baseman must play differently than the middle infielders since you need to make a quick decision and go with it to have any chance to make the play.
Skills Required for Third Baseman
As we mentioned, playing third base requires specific skills and mental makeup to play the position. Here are a few of the key ones;
Quick Reaction at Third Base
More than any other position, a third baseman will need great reflexes and the ability to react quickly. Although not all balls are hit hard, every third baseman will face hard hit shots in their direction and will have very little time to react. For that reason, a third baseman will use their feet less and their reflexes more to make those plays.
In addition to having good reflexes, players who want to play third base should also have quick hands. Without much time to react, they’ll need to get their hands in the proper fielding position quickly in order to make the play.
Throws From Third Base
The throw across the diamond is a long one and a good third baseman will need a strong arm to get it there. Not just that, but many plays do not allow the third baseman to get their feet under them before throwing, requiring them to throw off-balance.
The third baseman should also learn and practice throwing the ball on one hop to the first baseman.
Another required skill for a good third baseman is using one hand to field balls. Middle infielders normally have the time to get down on the ball and use both hands to field it. However, if you watch a major league game, you’ll be surprised at how many times the third baseman uses just one hand to field a line drive, ground ball or bunt. Players should practice this so that when game time comes they’ll be ready.
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