Baseball Signs and Signals

By Dan O'Connell •  Updated: 10/19/15 •  6 min read

Baseball signs hold the utmost importance in the sport. It’s the way the coach communicates with their players, the way catchers communicate with the pitchers and the way infielders find out where they need to be positioned if the ball comes their way.

Third Base Coach Baseball Signs

Let’s start off with the most common person you’ll see baseball signs coming from – third base coaches.

Third base coaches not only give baseball signs to the runners on base, but they relay signs to the batter at home plate as well. When signaling to the batter currently up, there will be a few common signs they throw out depending on the situation.

Common Baseball Signs and Signals From Third Base Coach

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Signals When Running the Bases

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Baseball Signs in Sacrifice Situations

In a sacrifice situation with one out or less on the board, and a runner on first or second, the third base coach may throw out a bunt to first base side or a bunt to 3rd sign. What they are looking to do in this instance is advance the runner on the base into scoring position, or better scoring position, and force the defense to make the play on the batter instead of the runner. This is commonly used in games that are close and going down to the wire.

A third base coach may also signal a hit and run. The third base coach throws a sign to let the runner know he needs to run on the next pitch, while also flashing a sign to the batter to let him know he needs to swing at anything.

A third base coach may also give a baseball sign to a runner on second to steal. He’ll need to take into account the pitchers timing, and which hand he throws with, to make sure that this is successful. It is up to the third base coach to figure out if a position is favorable. It is also up to him to tell the runner, whether he is stealing or not, to slide so that the runner doesn’t have to lift his head. Lifting or move your head out of focus can slow you down by a fraction of a second and could prove to be the thing that gets you out. This also works in the same fashion when the third base coach waves the player on to keep going full speed. You don’t want the batter turning around to look at the ball in the outfield or else they’ll slow down from their top flight speed.

Catcher Signs and Signals

If you’ve ever seen a baseball game up close and in person then you may have noticed the catcher moving his fingers. This is how the catcher sets up the pitches that he wants the pitcher to throw. Many people may think the pitcher decides what he throws, but in reality, it’s the catcher controlling the game behind the plate.

Learn More: Fundamental Catcher Development

A couple of common signs a catcher could throw out there are:

Most of these are decided before the game between the pitcher and catcher and are shown in numbers by the use of fingers. Standard signs are one finger for a four seam fastball, two fingers for a curveball, four fingers or a four finger wiggle for a changeup. The catcher will motion with that finger once the pitcher accepts it where he wants it. Signaling the pitch away from the batter indicates the catcher wants it outside while signaling it towards the batter indicates he wants it inside. At the older levels, if there is a runner on second, they may change signs or go to a sequence of signs.

Learn More: Teaching Pitch Grips

What if a pitcher throws more than four pitches? The signs will then likely go to a two sign sequence where the numbers can be added together or constitute a two digit number (12, 31, 42 etc.) More uncommon signs would be the knuckleball, slurve, screwball and eephus.

Learn More: Teaching Effective Pitch Sequences

Managing the Running Game

A catcher can also call actions from behind the plate. Some of these are the classic pick off and a pitch out. They can also sometimes make calls to the infield such as shifting the infielders for a pull hitter, move them out and moving them in.

Learn More: Developing a Good Pickoff Move

Defensive Positioning Signs and Signals

Infielders have a few signs in their repertoire though they don’t play as big of a role as the other signs mentioned. In certain situations with runners on the bases, the infield will indicate where they want to go with the ball on a steal. Some basic signs would be throw to second, throw to third, force out, double play and triple play. If they want to let a runner go, perhaps on a sacrifice bunt, they’ll flash a sign to throw through.

Learn More:

Hand Signs and Signals For Positioning Outfielders

Infield Defensive Strategy and Player Positioning

Signs From the Bench

A lot of times, pitches will be called by a coach on the bench. Usually, those baseball signs are a series of touches to the face, hat, ears and jersey. These signs need to be clear enough to see from the distance the catcher is away from the bench, which could be 30+ feet.

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