Ask a baseball player which infield position is the most difficult and dangerous to play and he is likely to say third base. They call that part of the diamond “the hot corner” for very good reason. Line drives and ground balls reach third base fast. A good third baseman has to be athletic, with great reflexes, “fast feet” and superb anticipation to perform well. It’s not easy. But this article offers tips and instruction on “how to play third base” with great skill.
As you’ll soon discover, it’s going to be easier than you think to become a reliable defender on the extreme left side of the infield. There is actually a lot to learn about positioning, catching hard hit balls and throwing “across the diamond” with strength, velocity and pinpoint accuracy.
In fact, you’re about to find out how to stop hard-hit ground balls and low line drives that travel along the foul line and over third base into the outfield for extra base hits.
You’ll also come across instructions that teach you how to properly and effectively charge bunts, scoop up weakly hit grounders with your bare hand, position yourself to cut off relay throws from left field and center field, start and complete around-the-horn double plays and much , much more.
It all begins with the following …
These 4 Simple Steps Can Turn You Into - A Skilled, Capable And Competent Third Baseman
There is no mystery, no “secret formula” and no magic needed to become a great third baseman. It takes knowledge about the position, lots of hard work and practice, your athletic ability and the desire to succeed.
Consider all that you have to do become this era’s Brooks Robinson …
Place Yourself In The Proper Position
For every batter and every “game situation” … in most cases that means you need to set up defensively about 7 to 8 feet (that’s 2.1 to 2.4 meters) to the left of third base and about two to four feet behind it.
That is standard positioning for most of the plays you have to make as a third baseman because it enables you to react quickly and move with speed to grab hard hit line drives and ground balls to your left and to the right.
Of course, in game situations where the opposing player is likely to try to move a runner from first base to second base with a sacrifice bunt you have to play closer in (nearer to the plate) so that you can field the bunt quickly and throw out the advancing runner.
You will also have to position yourself closer to third base when the opposing team has runners on first and second so that you can receive a throw, step on the base and force out the runner trying to advance from second to third base.
Here is something else you need to learn …
Use Practice Sessions To Improve Your Range Around The Base
As a third baseman you’re responsible for all balls hit between the shortstop and the foul line. That covers lots of territory. So, you can use practice to work on “building your range” in order to enable you to reach balls and turn them into outs.
It’s worth noting that any ball you reach and catch or simply knock down so that it doesn’t reach the outfield may keep a runner from advancing and perhaps, scoring. And that helps your team.
Here Are Two More Things You Can Do - To Become A Very Reliable Third Baseman
It takes real arm strength to play third base successfully. Here’s what you need to do to develop a “power arm” …
Practice Long Hard Throws Across The Diamond
The first time you try to throw from third base to first base you may “come up short.” It’s a surprisingly long toss that requires arm strength and accuracy. You can build up your arm with lots and lots of practice.
When you do that, you’ll notice that it gets much easier to reach the first baseman’s glove without having the ball drop in the dirt before it reaches him. You’ll also improve your accuracy over time.
Here is one last thing you need to always keep in mind …
Keep Your “Head In The Game” …
That means you need to stay aware and alert to every game situation as it occurs. If there are runners on second and third, for example, you need to be ready to catch a relay throw from left field or center field because you are the cut-off man.
And if there is a runner on third, you need to know whether to throw home on a ground ball or throw to first base to record a sure out. That knowledge comes with experience and fully understanding game situations.
There are many other situations you’ll encounter and learn as you develop experience at “the hot corner.
Here are some great tips to help you, as well …
Stay prepared to receive a pick-off throw from the pitcher or catcher if a runner is on second base and attempts to steal third base … keep yourself fit and in tip-top shape by lifting weights and running because “playing third base” is physically demanding … play “in” when there is a runner on first base so that you’re in position to field a sacrifice bunt.
And most importantly, stay alert and ready to field your position at all times. Right-handed hitters love to pull the ball and solid contact can force you to react instantly to a line drive or a hard-hit ground ball. If you’re not ready, the ball will pass you before you can react to it.
Now, there is one more thing that needs to be said …
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