Third base is not commonly referred to as the “hot corner” without good reason. Some of the hardest hit balls make their way down the third base line where the third baseman awaits to make a play a lot of times out of pure self preservation. However, sometimes it is taken for granted that there isn’t a lot of decision making that goes on at third base when in reality there is quite a bit for especially a young third baseman to think about. Let’s take a look at some Little League Coaching Tips for Situational Responsibilities of the Third Baseman.

#1 Runner on First

The third baseman will have two choices if the ball is hit to them at third base. If they come up with the ball clean then the logical play will be to turn and throw to second base to start a double play. If they bobble the ball then they make not have time to turn to throw over to second base. After the bobble, the third baseman’s best bet may be to either try to throw to first base or “eat” the ball. If the third baseman has to step or run in to field a batted ball then they may only have a play at first base. The reason being is that it may be too difficult to turn around and now make a very long throw to get the runner at second base. The safer play in this instance would be to get the out at first base.

#2 Runners on First & Second

With two outs and runners on first and second base, the third baseman will want to step on third base for the final out. If the third baseman has to step or run in to field a batted ball then they should throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the third baseman will have two options. They can step on third base and throw over to second base to complete a double play or they can step on third base and throw over to first base to complete a double play. I have found through experience that generally the easier of the two plays is to step on third base and throw over to first base to complete a double play. It’s also a safer play because it does not involve a timing throw in which the third baseman may have to anticipate the arrival of the second baseman covering second base. If the third baseman has to step or run in to field a batted ball then unfortunately they may have to settle for only an out at first base.

#3 Runners on First & Third

With two outs and runners on first and third base, the third baseman will want to ignore the runner on third base and throw to first base for the final out. If the third baseman has to step or run in to field a batted ball then they should simply throw over to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the third baseman can choose (especially if there is one out) to totally ignore the runner on third and throw to second base to start a double play. The third baseman can also choose to look back the runner on third before doing anything. However, if they choose to look the runner back then they are almost certainly giving up on the double play and the safe play will be to follow with a throw to first base. The third baseman can also choose to try to trick the runner on third with a fake throw to first base. Again, this all but cancels out the chance of a double play and the third baseman should follow the trick play with a throw to first base. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner from third base then the third baseman can start a rundown. If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the third baseman may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring. *Any trick play is a calculated risk by the fielder.

#4 Runners on Second & Third

With two outs and runners on second and third base, the third baseman will want to ignore the runners and throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the third baseman can look back the runner on third base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first base. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off of third base, then the third baseman can start a rundown. The third baseman will all but ignore the runner on second base. If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the third baseman may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring.

#5 Runner on Second

With two outs and a runner on second base, the third baseman will want to ignore the runner on second base and throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the third baseman needs to consider the possibility of a bunt. On a ground ball, the third baseman can look back the runner at second base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first base. If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off second base, then the third baseman can start a rundown.

#6 Runner on Third

With two outs and a runner on third base, the third baseman will want to ignore the runner on third base and simply throw to first base for the final out. With less than two outs, the third baseman can look back the runner at third base or try the fake throw to first base before throwing over to first base.If the look back or fake throw draws the runner off of third base, then the third baseman can start a rundown. If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the third baseman may have to consider “eating” the ball to prevent that run from scoring.

 #7 Bases Loaded

With two outs and bases loaded, the third baseman should be playing at regular depth and should be able to simply step on third base for the final out. If the batted ball draws the third baseman away from third base then they could throw to either second base or first base for the final out. They could also choose to throw home for the final out depending on the difficulty of the play. If the third baseman has to step or run in for a batted ball then they should throw home for the final out. With less than two outs, if the batted ball takes the third baseman to third base then they could step on third for an out and then throw over to second base to start a double or triple play! With less than two outs, if the batted ball takes the third baseman to third base then they could also step on third for an out and then throw home for a tag out ( the force would be off after making the out at third base). If the batted ball takes the third baseman away from third, they could start a double play by throwing over to second base. However, this would be conceding the run. If the third baseman has to step or run in for a batted ball then they should throw home for an out and then it would be up to the catcher to make a decision to throw or “eat” the ball. If the runner on third base is the game winning run then the third baseman will have to throw home no matter the situation.

#8 Pop Up on the Pitcher’s Mound

The third 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 third 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 third baseman will be responsible for covering third base if the defense decides that the proper play is trying to get the runner out attempting to advance to third base. If the play is not at third base then the third baseman will still not want to stray too far away from third base in case a secondary play develops. For example, the catcher sees a greedy base runner trying to advance to the third base after a play at the plate. It will also be the third baseman’s responsibility to make sure an advancing runner touches third base. If the runner doesn’t touch the base then it will be the third baseman’s job to point this out before the delivery of the next pitch so a proper appeal can be made. The third baseman will also check to see if the base runner on third base properly tags up on a fly ball.

#10 Plays at the Plate from the Outfield

The third baseman will be the cutoff for plays going home from left field.

Conclusion

The third baseman will have quite a few responsibilities in addition to having to defend the “hot corner.” 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.

***It’s important for a 3rd baseman to know how to handel a possible bunt situation as well…..A closer look at this concept below

Learn More

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How to Play Third Base

Infield Basics and Fundamentals

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Infield Defensive Strategy and Player Positioning

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