First base is obviously a key position on the baseball field. If you can prevent batters from reaching first then victory is there for the taking. The first baseman must be a ready, capable receiver of the baseball to record outs at first base. However, the first baseman will have many other situational responsibilities other than just covering first base. Let’s take a look at some Little League Coaching Tips for Situational Responsibilities of the First Baseman.
#1 Runner on First
With a runner on first, the first responsibility of the first baseman will be to hold the runner on first. The first baseman will need to set up in fair territory in a position to quickly catch and apply a tag to the baserunner. At the older age groups, some first basemen like to set up in a position to block the runner from returning to first, especially since baserunners almost always return to first base diving headfirst.
With a runner on first base, the first baseman must be prepared to do one of two things if the baseball is hit to them. If by fielding the ball, the first baseman is drawn away from first base then they should throw the ball down to second base for a force out. If by fielding the ball, the first baseman is drawn back to first base then the first baseman should step on the base for the force out. The first baseman should follow this by yelling “tag” and throwing the ball down to second base for a tag out(because the force at second base was removed when the first baseman recorded the force out at first base).
#2 Runners on First & Second
With runners on first and second base and less than two outs, there aren’t too many scenarios in which the first baseman would throw the ball across the diamond to third base for a force out. It’s a very difficult play to make with a very low percentage rate of success. With that said, it would have to be a special circumstance for the first baseman to try for a force out at third base. A better option is for the first baseman to simply start a double play on the right side of the infield as was discussed just previously. This obviously allows the runner on second to advance to third unchallenged. However, the trade-off is a potential double play and a much higher success rate for at least recording a single out.
#3 Runners on First & Third
Again and with less than two outs, the first baseman can elect to ignore the runner on third and start a double play on the right side of the infield. If the runner on third is a priority(because it’s the game-winning run for example) then the first baseman may elect to ignore the double play and throw the ball home if the runner is trying to score. In yet another scenario, the first baseman could take the force out at first base and then throw home to attempt the tag out at the plate. This could happen if the batted ball draws the first baseman close enough to first base.
#4 Runners on Second & Third
With runners on second and third base and less than two outs, the first baseman can elect to take the force out at first base or if the runner on third is a priority then throw the ball home for the tag out at the plate if the runner is trying to score. Again, the first baseman can take the force out at first base and then still attempt to throw the runner out at the plate. This could happen if the batted ball draws the first baseman close enough to first base.
#5 Runner on Second
With a runner on second base and less than two outs, the first baseman, almost 100% of the time, will take the force out at first base and allow the runner to advance unchallenged from second to third base. There are rare circumstances in which the first baseman, after recording the out at first base, could attempt to throw across the diamond for a tag out at third base. However, this is a very difficult play for a Little Leaguer to make.
#6 Runner on Third
With a runner on third base and less than two outs, the first baseman can elect to take the force out at first base or if the runner on third is a priority then make the throw home. Again, the first baseman could take the force out at first and then still make a throw home to attempt a tag out at the plate. This could happen if the batted ball draws the first baseman close enough to first base.
#7 Bases Loaded
There several different options for the first baseman when the bases are loaded which depend on the score and number of outs. With no outs, the first baseman should just throw the ball home for the force out. With one out, the first baseman could start a double play on the right side of the infield instead of throwing home. However, if the double play is not turned then the run will score and the inning continues. With two outs, the first baseman will want to take the easy force out at first base to end the inning.
#8 Pop Up on the Pitcher’s Mound
The first baseman must be ready to make a play on a pop-up near the pitcher’s mound. In MLB, pitchers rarely call for the pop-up and usually allow one of the infielders to take it for them. This is because most pitchers are not great fielders. At the Little League level, a team’s best athletes might be the pitchers( who also play other positions). However, the first baseman should still be prepared to take a pop-up near the pitcher’s mound just in case.
#9 Hits to the Outfield
After a base hit the first baseman will not want to stray too far away from the base in case a greedy baserunner has to try to come back to first base. A batter that slams an extra base hit will round first base on their way to second and possibly further. It will be the first baseman’s responsibility to make sure the runner touches first base. If the runner doesn’t touch the base then it will be the first baseman’s job to point this out before the delivery of the next pitch so a proper appeal can be made. What could be more satisfying than a home run being erased due to the alertness of the first baseman? The first baseman will also check to see if the base runner on first base properly tags up on a fly ball.
#10 Plays at the Plate from the Outfield
The first baseman will be the cutoff for plays going home from center and right field.
The first baseman will have quite a few responsibilities. When teaching situational responsibilities at the Little League level, it is important to start with a foundation of basics and then build on those basic concepts.
First Baseman Quiz
Do you know the essentials of playing First Base? When to try for the lead runner and when to take the easy out? Who has priority over pop-ups?
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