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First baseman

First baseman

Overview

First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a baserunner
Baserunning
In baseball, baserunning is the act of running around the bases performed by members of the team at bat.In general, baserunning is a tactical part of the game with the goal of eventually reaching home to score a run. In fact, the goal of batting is generally to produce baserunners, or help move...

 in order to score a run
Run (baseball)
In baseball, a run is scored when a player advances around first, second and third base and returns safely to home plate, touching the bases in that order, before three outs are recorded and all obligations to reach base safely on batted balls are met or assured...

 for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense
Baseball positions
There are 9 fielding positions in baseball. Each position conventionally has an associated number which is used to score putouts...

 who fields the area nearest first base, and is responsible for the majority of plays made at that base.

In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.

Also called first sacker or cornerman, the first baseman is ideally a tall player with good flexibility and quick reflexes.
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Encyclopedia

First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a baserunner
Baserunning
In baseball, baserunning is the act of running around the bases performed by members of the team at bat.In general, baserunning is a tactical part of the game with the goal of eventually reaching home to score a run. In fact, the goal of batting is generally to produce baserunners, or help move...

 in order to score a run
Run (baseball)
In baseball, a run is scored when a player advances around first, second and third base and returns safely to home plate, touching the bases in that order, before three outs are recorded and all obligations to reach base safely on batted balls are met or assured...

 for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense
Baseball positions
There are 9 fielding positions in baseball. Each position conventionally has an associated number which is used to score putouts...

 who fields the area nearest first base, and is responsible for the majority of plays made at that base.

In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.

Also called first sacker or cornerman, the first baseman is ideally a tall player with good flexibility and quick reflexes. Flexibility is needed because the first baseman receives throws from the other infielder
Infielder
An infielder is a baseball player stationed at one of four defensive "infield" positions on the baseball field.-Standard arrangement of positions:In a game of baseball, two teams of nine players take turns playing offensive and defensive roles...

s, the catcher
Catcher
Catcher is a position for a baseball or softball player. When a batter takes his turn to hit, the catcher crouches behind home plate, in front of the umpire, and receives the ball from the pitcher. This is a catcher's primary duty, but he is also called upon to master many other skills in order to...

 and the pitcher
Pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

 after they have fielded ground balls. In order for the runner to be called out, the first baseman must be able to stretch towards the throw and catch it before the runner reaches first base. First base is often referred to as "the other hot corner"—the "hot corner" being third base
Third baseman
A third baseman, abbreviated 3B, is the player in baseball whose responsibility is to defend the area nearest to third base — the third of four bases a baserunner must touch in succession to score a run...

—and therefore, like the third baseman, he must have quick reflexes to field the hardest hit balls down the foul line, mainly by left-handed pull hitter
Pull hitter
In baseball, a pull hitter is a batter who usually hits the ball to the side of the field from which he bats. For example, a right-handed pull hitter, who bats from the third-base side of the plate, will usually hit the ball to the third-base side of the field, termed "left field" according to the...

s and good right-handed hitters that possess the ability to hit to the opposite field.

Fielding



Good defensive first basemen, according to Bill James
Bill James
George William “Bill” James is a baseball writer, historian, and statistician whose work has been widely influential. Since 1977, James has written more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics...

, are capable of playing off first base so that they can field ground balls hit to the fair side of first base. The first baseman then relies upon the pitcher to cover first base to receive the ball to complete the out. Indications of a good defensive first baseman include a large number of assists and a low number of throwing errors by other infielders.

In general


The nature of play at first base often requires first basemen to stay close to the bag to hold runners or to reach the bag before the batter. First basemen are not typically expected to have the range required of a third baseman
Third baseman
A third baseman, abbreviated 3B, is the player in baseball whose responsibility is to defend the area nearest to third base — the third of four bases a baserunner must touch in succession to score a run...

, shortstop
Shortstop
Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball fielding position between second and third base. Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball, because there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the...

, second baseman
Second baseman
Second base, or 2B, is the second of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a base runner in order to score a run for that player's team. A second baseman is the baseball player guarding second base...

 or an outfielder
Outfielder
Outfielder is a generic term applied to each of the people playing in the three defensive positions in baseball farthest from the batter. These defenders are the left fielder, the center fielder, and the right fielder...

. As a result, first base is not usually perceived to be as physically demanding as other positions. However, it can also be a very hard position to play; a large amount of concentration and timing is required. Though many play at first base their entire career, it is common for veteran players to be moved to first base in order to extend their careers or to accommodate other recently acquired players. Facing a possible trade or a considerable reduction in playing time, a player will usually opt to move to first base instead. Catcher
Catcher
Catcher is a position for a baseball or softball player. When a batter takes his turn to hit, the catcher crouches behind home plate, in front of the umpire, and receives the ball from the pitcher. This is a catcher's primary duty, but he is also called upon to master many other skills in order to...

s and corner outfielder
Outfielder
Outfielder is a generic term applied to each of the people playing in the three defensive positions in baseball farthest from the batter. These defenders are the left fielder, the center fielder, and the right fielder...

s are often moved to first base due to deteriorating health or if their fielding abilities at their original position are detrimental to the team.

Position


When first base is not being occupied by a base runner, the first baseman usually stands behind first-base and off the foul line. The distance he plays from the base and foul line is dependent on the current hitter and any runners on-base. The normal position is behind first base and off of the foul line, distances from first base and the foul line will depend on the first baseman's experience, preference, fielding ability and the current hitter. For a known right-handed pull hitter
Pull hitter
In baseball, a pull hitter is a batter who usually hits the ball to the side of the field from which he bats. For example, a right-handed pull hitter, who bats from the third-base side of the plate, will usually hit the ball to the third-base side of the field, termed "left field" according to the...

, the first baseman will be position himself further towards the second baseman's normal fielding position. For a known left-handed pull hitter
Pull hitter
In baseball, a pull hitter is a batter who usually hits the ball to the side of the field from which he bats. For example, a right-handed pull hitter, who bats from the third-base side of the plate, will usually hit the ball to the third-base side of the field, termed "left field" according to the...

, the first baseman will position himself closer to the foul line in order to stop balls hit down the line.

To protect against a bunt on the first base side of the infield, the first baseman will position himself in front of the base and move towards the hitter as the pitch is thrown. As soon as the pitcher commits to throwing towards home plate, the first basemen will charge towards the hitter to field the bunt. During these plays, it is the responsibility of the second basemen to cover first base.

With a base runner present at first base, the first baseman stands with his right foot touching the base to prepare for a pickoff
Pickoff
In baseball, a pickoff is an act by a pitcher or a catcher, throwing a live ball to a fielder so that the fielder can tag out a baserunner who is either leading off or about to begin stealing the next base....

 attempt. Once the pitcher commits to throwing towards home plate, the first baseman comes off the bag in front of the runner and gets in a fielding position. If the bases are loaded, or if the runner on first base is not a base stealing threat, the first baseman will position himself behind the runner and appropriate for the current batter.

When waiting for a throw from another player, the first baseman stands with his off-glove foot touching the base, then stretches toward the throw. This stretch decreases the amount of time it takes the throw to get to first and encourages the umpire to call close plays in favor of the fielding team. Veteran first basemen are known to pull off the bag early on close plays to convince the umpire that the ball reached his glove before the runner reached first base. The first baseman also has the responsibility of cutting off throws from the any of the three outfield positions on their way to home plate. Though highly situational, the first baseman usually only receives throws from the center or right fielder.

Double play


The first baseman is usually at the end of a double play, though he can be at the beginning and end of a double play. Unusual double plays involving the first baseman include the 3–6–3, 3–4–3, 3–2–3, or a 3–6–1 double play. In a 3–6–3 or 3–4–3 double play, the first baseman fields the ball, throws to second, where the shortstop or second baseman catches the ball to make the first out and then throws back to the first baseman who reaches first base in time to tag first base before the batter reaches first base. For a 3–2–3 double play, the bases must be loaded for the force-out
Force play
In baseball, a force is a situation when a baserunner is compelled to vacate his time-of-pitch base—and thus try to advance to the next base—because the batter became a runner. A runner at first base is always forced to attempt to advance to second base when the batter becomes a runner...

 at home plate or the catcher must tag the runner coming from third base out. With a force-out at home plate, the first baseman fields the ball, throws to the catcher, the catcher steps on home plate for the first out, then he throws it back to the first baseman to complete the double play. The 3–2–3 double play with a tag out at home plate is usually not attempted because of the possibility of the catcher not being able to tag the runner and/or block the plate. If the runner at third base is known as a good or fast baserunner, the first basemen will make considerable effort to make sure the third base runner does not advance to home plate for a run by "looking" him back to third base. The primary goal of the first baseman in this instance is to ensure the runner doesn't advance and that the team records at least one out, especially in a close game.

A first baseman can theoretically make an unassisted double play by catching a line drive and returning to first base to tag the base before a baserunner can return. This is rare because the first baseman is usually slower than most baserunners who generally return to their bases on line drives near any fielder.

Left-handed throwing first basemen


A left-handed
Left-handed
Left-handedness is the preference for the left hand over the right for everyday activities such as writing. In ancient times it was seen as a sign of the devil, and was abhorred in many cultures...

 throwing non-pitcher is often converted to or begins his career playing at first base. Although usually promoted as being better-suited for the left-hander, a left-handed throwing baseball player that is not particularly fast or has a weak arm (and therefore not well suited for playing in the outfield) will be relegated to playing first base. This is because the only other positions available to the player (catcher, third base, shortstop or second base) are overwhelmingly held by and better-suited to right-handed throwing players.

The same advantages of being a right-handed throwing catcher, third basemen, shortstop or second basemen apply to the left-handed first baseman. These advantages surface in plays where the player is required to throw to another infielder after fielding a batted ball. In these instances, a right-hander will be required to turn more towards their target before throwing, whereas a left-hander will usually already be positioned to make a throw. Unlike the advantage for the right-handed throwing third baseman, shortstop or second baseman, these advantages for the left-handed first baseman are slim to none, because a majority of right-handed first baseman preempt (mainly by backhanding the batted ball) the need to turn before fielding a batted ball. In addition, a majority of plays only require the first baseman to receive a throw, not to field or throw himself. This is attributed to the overall majority of baseball players batting right-handed, and therefore, a majority of batted balls are hit to the left side of the infield and fielded by the third baseman or shortstop. Left-handed first baseman are also advantageous in attempting to pick off baserunners at first, as the left-hander can catch and tag in one motion, often doing both at the same time, while right-handed first baseman must sweep their glove across their body, costing them a crucial fraction of a second in applying the tag.

First-baseman's mitt


The first baseman's mitt
Baseball glove
A baseball glove or mitt is a large leather glove that baseball players on the defending team are allowed to wear to assist them in catching and fielding balls hit by a batter, or thrown by a teammate.-History:...

 is similar to a catcher's mitt in that it has extra padding and has no individual fingers. (In shape, it is closer to a mitten than a glove.) It is much larger than the other infielders' gloves; it is wide, very deep, and it is crescent-shaped at its edges, allowing the first-baseman to use the mitt like a scoop in catching errant throws from other players on the infield.

Since many throws to first base are made in great haste, the first baseman must be prepared to catch balls that are either high or low, as well as balls thrown quite a distance to either side, all while maintaining contact with the base (using one foot or the other). This requires a fair amount of agility and physical coordination. Among the most difficult plays a first baseman is normally required to make are the "short hop" and the "tag play", both of which are far easier to execute when the fielder is wearing the first-baseman's mitt, rather than another type of glove.

The short hop


Every ground ball hit to an infielder becomes a race between the batter-runner and the team in the field; the fielder must catch the batted ball and throw it to first before the batter can reach the base. Consequently, part of the first baseman's job is to step toward the in-coming ball and stretch his body so that his catching hand makes contact with it as soon as physically possible. (Doing so, as opposed to catching the ball while standing passively on the base, shaves a fraction of a second from the time that the runner can use in reaching base.) When the ball is thrown too low and bounces before reaching the first baseman, catching the bouncing ball, especially while he is in a "stretch position", is difficult. A throw caught shortly after its bounce, that is, while the baseball's path, rebounding from the turf, is sharply upward, is called a "short hop". Since a ball that strikes the ground is always subject to the possibility of encountering a pebble or a rut or a spike-mark that sends it in a radically new direction, it is best that the first baseman catch the ball on the short hop by swiping or scooping the ball as close to the ground surface as possible. This technique also minimizes the amount of time required to make the putout
Putout
In baseball statistics, a putout is given to a defensive player who records an out by one of the following methods:* Tagging a runner with the ball when he is not touching a base...

.

The tag play


The second-most-difficult play for a first baseman is the "tag play". Whenever an infielder's throw is so far off the mark that the first baseman must abandon his base in order to catch it, the first baseman is left with only two options. In order to put the runner out, he must either lunge back to the base before the runner reaches it, or he must tag
Tag out
In baseball, a tag out, sometimes just called a tag, is a play in which a baserunner is out because he is touched by the fielder's hand or glove holding a live ball while the runner is in jeopardy...

 the runner before the runner reaches the base. A tag
Tag out
In baseball, a tag out, sometimes just called a tag, is a play in which a baserunner is out because he is touched by the fielder's hand or glove holding a live ball while the runner is in jeopardy...

 involves touching the runner with the ball (or with the gloved hand holding the ball) before the runner reaches the base. At first base, the typical tag play occurs when the infielder's throw is high and to the left of the first baseman, causing him to jump and stretch his long mitt to catch the ball before it sails into the dugout
Dugout (baseball)
In baseball, the dugout is a team's bench area and is located in foul territory between home plate and either first or third base. There are two dugouts, one for the home team and one for the visiting team. In general, the dugout is occupied by all players not prescribed to be on the field at that...

 or the grandstand
Grandstand
A grandstand is a large and normally permanent structure for seating spectators, most often at a racetrack. This includes both auto racing and horse racing. The grandstand is in essence like a single section of a stadium, but differs from a stadium in that it does not wrap all or most of the way...

. The tag is made, after the catch, by swiping the mitt downward, toward the in-coming runner's head or shoulder, often in one fluid motion that is integrated with the act of catching the ball. Performed properly, the tag play can be spectacular to see.

At or near the ends of their careers, good hitters are often moved to first base as their speed and throwing arms deteriorate, or their teams become concerned with the likelihood of injury, are often moved to first base to allow them to remain as regulars. Such players include Hall of Famers Johnny Bench
Johnny Bench
Johnny Lee Bench is a former professional baseball catcher who played in the Major Leagues for the Cincinnati Reds from 1967 to 1983 and is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame...

 (originally a catcher), George Brett
George Brett (baseball)
George Howard Brett , nicknamed "Mullet", is a former Major League Baseball third baseman, designated hitter, and first baseman. He played his entire 21-year baseball career for the Kansas City Royals. Brett's 3,154 career hits are the most by any third baseman in major league history, and 15th...

 (third baseman), Rod Carew
Rod Carew
Rodney Cline "Rod" Carew is a former Major League Baseball first baseman, second baseman and coach. He played from 1967 to 1985 for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels and was elected to the All-Star game every season except his last. In 1991, Carew was inducted into the National...

 (second baseman), Al Kaline
Al Kaline
Albert William "Al" Kaline is a former Major League Baseball right fielder. He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Kaline played his entire 22-year baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. Kaline still works for the Tigers as a front office official. Because of his lengthy career and...

 (right fielder), and Mike Schmidt
Mike Schmidt
Michael Jack Schmidt is a Hall of Fame third baseman popularly considered among the greatest third basemen in the history of Major League Baseball. He played his entire career for the Philadelphia Phillies....

(third baseman).