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.
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.