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How To Play First (1st) Base
How To Play First (1st) Base
The most common play in a baseball game is throwing a runner out at firstbase. To be a good defensive 1st baseman, you must be able to make this play. Either by picking bad throws, or having a great stretch, it is your job to make sure that when there is a play at first, the baserunner is out. Besides making the play at first, you also must field your position if the ball is hit to you. Here are some tips on being a good defensive first baseman.
Where should a first baseman play with nobody on base?
There is no set distance away from first base that you should play. The only two determining factors are: can you reach a ball hit sharply down the line AND can you get to first base in time for a throw from your infielders. Other than that, where you play is a comfort thing. Most first basemen like to play as deep as they can so that they have more time to field a baseball hit their way. If this is where you decide to play, just make sure you can get to the bag fast enough for a throw coming in.
Where should a first baseman play with a runner on first?
If there's a runner on first base, you will need to hold him on. This means that you will be standing next to first base as the runner takes his lead. For right handed (throwing) first basemen, the right foot should be very close to the front inside corner of first base. You will have your arm extended and in an athletic position ready for a throw from the pitcher. When you catch the baseball, you should transfer your weight and bend to place a tag on the runner diving back. For left handed first baseman, the tag will be easier because you have less distance to cover after you catch the baseball. Get your glove down quick and make sure you make contact with the runner who will most likely be diving back to the back part of first base. Once the pitcher commits to throw home, get off of the base and into fielding position in case a ball is hit your way. Be ready to throw the baseball to second base. Be ready for a throw behind the runner from the catcher if the hitter doesn't make contact with the baseball.
How to make the play at first base?
If the baseball is put in play to another part of the infield, you want to get to first as fast as you can. Stand on first with both balls of your feet touching the inside of first base. We stand on first with both feet because we may need to stride with one or the other foot, depending on where the baseball is thrown. If the baseball is thrown towards the home plate side, we will most likely stride with our left foot out. If the baseball is thrown to the rightfield side, we will most likely stride with our right foot out. All other decently thrown balls we will probably stretch with our glove side foot going out toward the ball giving us the best reach or stretch. Make sure that only the ball of your foot is touching the base when you stretch. You don't want to have too much of your foot on the base or the runner may take out your ankle.
Also, we start with the balls of our feet touching first base because if we start with our heels, when we stretch our heel will come up and we won't be in contact with first base. We also don't want to stretch too early. Stay standing on the bag with both feet until you can see where the baseball is thrown. That's when you take your step with your lead leg.
If the throw to first is offline either high or inside (toward home) you should try to apply a tag to the runner. If the throw is offline to the outfield side, after you catch the baseball you can take a jab step toward the fence, sometimes the runner will bite on this play and you can tag him after he has touched first base because he had made a move toward second because of your deek.
Another bad throw you will face is the ball in the dirt. If you can't stretch to catch the ball in the air, you want to be able to pick the baseball on a short hop. If the longer the hop, the less of a stretch you should have. Try to get as close to the ball hitting the ground as possible as this will make catching the short hop easier. Read about infielding drills (link) to learn more about picking the short hop.
When the throw is coming from the catcher (for example in a bunt). The first baseman should read the catcher in comparison to the baserunner and either stay to the inside of the base or go to the outside of the base. A good catcher will be yelling which way he is going to throw the ball before he even picks it up, but if he doesn't you should make that judgement for him and set up accordingly.