How to Teach First Base – Baseball Coaching Course
Besides catcher, no defensive position is more important than first base, especially at the youth level. A first baseman will handle the batted ball more than any position on the field, which attests to its importance. People often think of first baseman as big, power hitters with limited defensive capabilities. That may be the case at the higher levels of baseball, but in youth baseball, that is not as important as having a player who can get outs for the team. Even though first baseman may be limited in range, their glove and footwork must be exceptional to handle the position.
What often looks easy to people watching baseball, is not, as thrown balls move in all directions, with the ball in the dirt exceptionally tough to catch. Talented first baseman save as many runs as they drive in on offense with their ability to handle all throws. In addition, first baseman, who can handle in-the-dirt throws on a consistent basis are invaluable. It is important that youth coaches place one of their best fielders at first base, especially for very young teams. Of course, height is a consideration too, as taller first basemen present a bigger target and additional stretching range.
Coaching Course: Teaching First Base – The Glove and Foot Work
Coaches should coach:
- How to sit low but on the balls of the feet in ready position as the pitch approaches the batter; the glove should be down around knee height to begin, as many batted balls get to first baseman quickly
- The part of the base that belongs to the first baseman and the part that is for the runner – inside part only for first basemen
- How to get to the bag immediately when balls are hit to other players, turning to the inside, and how to square the shoulders to the player fielding the ball
- Waiting position before fielder throws ball to first – a slight bend in the knees with weight on balls of feet, which foot should be on the base and how to place their feet. (On any ball except from in front of the pitching mound, all first baseman should have their opposite foot from their glove handon the base, with the glove foot extended out in front of the base a foot or so)
- Where the glove is set when waiting for the ball – lower the better for the most part, as it is easier to raise the glove than lower it, as with all fielding fundamentals
- When to stretch for the ball – when they see the direction of the flight of the ball; where to stretch for the ball – slightly to the left or right of the ball so it is not directly in front of their stride foot, which makes the catch much more difficult
- When to have fingers up with their glove and when to turn the fingers down – on all balls to the opposite side of their glove, the fingers remain up, even with balls in the dirt. Fingers go below only on thrown balls to their glove side and below the knee
- How to handle balls in the dirt or appear to be going low, as this is the toughest play for first basemen. Learning to set the glove on the ground and raising it up towards the direction of the throw(scooping it up) takes a great amount of practice
Additional Coaching Course Tips on Playing First Base
* Most kids know that first baseman stretch for balls, but they fail to understand that they can stretch in every direction, as long as they stay out of the base line, which belongs to the runner coming down the line. Learning to keep their foot on the base on these slightly off-target throws is a challenge for many young players, at first. Along the same lines, understanding when to come off the base for balls, often based on the game situation, must be taught, as well as coming off the bag on throws to the home plate side of first and applying the tag in a safe manner.
As kids move to higher levels of ball, there is so much more to first base play. Coaches should help kids learn the finer details of first base by teaching the following.
- Positioning – distance from the first base line and distance from the hitter is based on game situation, player’s mobility, and the type batter hitting
- Range – how far they roam towards second base on batted balls, based on players range and positioning of second baseman should be taught, with constant communication between the two players necessary, as well as communication with pitchers, at the higher levels of baseball
- Covering bunt plays and cutoff responsibilities – where to be on bunts and relay throws from the outfield are crucial to team play
- Footwork when holding runners on first base and positioning once the ball is heading home, is an important area of expertise for first basemen
- Flipping and throwing balls to the pitcher covering the bag on balls fielded by the first baseman – when to flip underhand, throw overhand and how to lead the pitcher takes practice
Finally, although first basemen are often bigger and less mobile players, good footwork, great glove work and great agility are necessary to handle the position, with the ability to stretch their legs a great distance, a huge bonus.
Watch for next weeks coaching course: “Teaching second base play”