Jim Crane's First Base Tips

Right off let's look at the most important attribute a firstbaseman must have which is often overlooked. This is his footwork!! A firstbaseman in sandlot ball more often than not is chosen because of his height. The thinking here is that he presents a bigger target for the infielders to throw to and he can reach the high throws. Give me a smaller agile ballplayer and he will become a better firstbaseman.

1. Footwork:
Footwork, put simply, means the proper positioning of the feet in fielding the ball whether the ball is hit or thrown. For a firstbaseman this is tough since during the delivery of the pitch, without a runner on firstbase he naturally assumes the same position as the rest of the infielders. That is he is standard, about ten feet behind the base and about five feet inside the foul line, his body is bent at the waist hands resting on his knees with his feet comfortably spread apart. Once the ball is hit the firstbaseman is put to work and I do mean work!! At this point, the firstbaseman must run to the bag (notice I said run not walk to the bag);once he gets to the bag his feet are to be positioned in front of the bag, not to the side and by no means behind the bag in foul territory. Once this position is assumed the firstbaseman is in position to receive the throw from the infielder. This position of having your feet in front of the bag enables you to use footwork or shifting of the feet with the flight of the throw. If the ball is thrown directly at the firstbaseman he has an easy play; he merely puts the tip of his right foot on the edge of the bag and stretches directly in front to catch the ball.
2. Home Plate Side of the Bag Throws:
If the throw is toward the home plate side of the bag he must now shift his feet, and as was stated in catching, never cross your feet just glide. On this type of throw, toward the home plate side of first, your left foot is to be shifted towards the plate while dragging the tip of your right foot to the corner of the bag. Here your should remember one thing: if the throw is too far off the bag do not stretch while trying to keep your right foot on the bag. Get off the bag and catch the throw. At least if you catch a wide throw you have possession of the ball and you have a chance to get your foot back on the bag in time and in some instances tag the runner before he gets to the base. Don't forget, you have to have the ball before you can make a putout.
3. Wide to the Outfield Side of the Bag Throws:
If the throw is wide to the outfield side of first base then the feet are to be shifted starting with the right foot gliding towards the position of the throw with the tip of the left foot touching the outside corner of the bag. The thing to remember again is if the throw is too wide get off the base; since a ball thrown to the outfield side of the bag cannot be properly backed up by the catcher any ball missed in this position will allow the runner to take an extra base.
4. Balls in the Dirt:
On low balls in the dirt, which any firstbaseman will tell you, comprise ninety percent of infield throws (as you see most first baseman tend to exaggerate), the best way to handle these are with the tip of one foot on or near the bag according to the direction of the throw and shorthop the ball. The term shorthop simply means trapping the ball before it has a chance to come up on you and handcuff you. If you can get out in front and keep the ball from coming up on you your chances of catching the ball improve one hundred percent, especially with the size of the firstbaseman's mit.
5. Balls Thrown in Foul Territory:
The last and probably most confusing ball to handle at firstbase is the ball thrown to the inside and foul territory side of the bag. Here the firstbaseman must not only glide but he must be careful not to trip over the bag when coming across it. This may sound funny but try coming across the bag with a runner coming straight at you and you have your eye on the ball. So if you practice footwork you'll be a better firstbaseman and live longer.
6. Foot Position:
One thing that has been stated over and over and not explained is the use of the tip of the foot and the corners of the bag. You must remember the runner has as much right to the bag as you have, so you should not put your foot on the bag; use the tip of your foot on the edge or corners.
7. Holding a Runner On:
The position for holding a man on base is in itself elementary, but there is a correct and incorrect way to do it. The firstbaseman should straddle the inside corner of the bag giving the runner at least half of the bag. You are not allowed to block the bag since interference can be called on you; the runner, as stated before, has as much right to the bag as the firstbaseman.
8. Staying Involved:
As in the fielding positions do not be a spectator if you do not have a play at firstbase. If a ball is hit to the outfield, watch to see if the runner touches first base as he rounds the bag. You should then be ready to back up throws coming in from the outfield and even cover second base if the second baseman and shortstop have gone out for the relay.