Confessions of a Third Base Coach

For the past six years I have been a third base coach in Dixie Youth Baseball. I started out in TeeBall. Like most parents/coaches I was drafted into coaching because I showed up at the first practice and hung around to watch.

I started my son's first game as the first base coach. But even then I had my eye on the third base coach's spot where our team manager was working. I could see that third was the action spot.

Importance of the Third Base Coach

The first base coach is responsible for the baserunner from the time they hit the ball until they reach first base and until they leave first headed for second. That's all. Until they actually make contact with the ball the batter is the responsibility of the third base coach who is giving the signals. And once they leave first base, whether they are stealing or moving with the next batter's hit, they again become the responsibility of the third base coach.

The first base coach's responsibilities are few:

  • He encourages the runner to run through the base so that the runner does not slow down.
  • He may signal the runner whether to make the turn to go to second or to hold at first.
  • He congratulates the hitter for his hit.
  • He also tells the baserunner when to steal second.
  • He must notice the depth of the infielders.
  • He tells the runner when there is an infield fly - he can't wait for the umpire to call or signal it.
  • He must be sure the baserunner knows the current number of outs.
  • He needs to know the strength of the catcher and where the catcher normally throws the ball when he is throwing out a runner trying to steal second.
  • He needs to know who takes the throw-down - whether it is the second baseman or the shortstop.
  • He then uses this information to tell the baserunner where best to slide to avoid the tag at second base.

While this may seem a lot to remember it doesn't come close to the duties of the third base coach. Listed below is a preparatory course for future third base coaches.While this is written about youth baseball, most of the points apply to softball as well.

Foremost the third base coach must stay focused at all times. I often miss the action on the field because I am focusing on one or two players only. You can't afford to get upset about a call and let it affect your focus. There have been times when I got so upset about an umpire's call that I caused our team to miss a scoring opportunity.

Third Base Coach Responsibility:

No.1: Tell each baserunner the number of outs.

Make runners aware of certain situations such as infield fly rule, what to do if the ball is hit to the left side of the infield, etc. It doesn't hurt to remind the baserunner whether or not he has to run when the ball is hit.

On plays where there is a possibility of an "infield fly" the coach should watch the umpire's hands to see if he signals that "infield fly". Most umpires just provide a hand signal. This means that the runners advance at their own risk. The coach should already have made a decision about what to do if the infield fly is signaled.

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