Jim Crane's Third Base Tips

Here is a position that takes two qualities to play 1) a strong arm 2) guts--. The third baseman probably has the softest job of all the infielders--if you don't mind being "beat up and mugged" once or twice a game. Good third basemen though learn all the tricks of his trade early in his baseball career and learn how to protect themselves from those hard hit drives. A third baseman by positioning himself properly according to the situation in the game and the hitter's ability not only protects himself but plays heads up ball.

1. Position:
The third baseman assumes the normal set position as the other infielders--but he now must determine is there a bunt situation. Is the number four hitter up or the number seven hitter in the lineup? These of course influence where he fields his position. If a bunt situation is on he should be up about three steps in front of the bag, but remember to be ready for the hitter to cross you up and hit away. Do not relax, always keep your head up in the ballgame.
2. Advantages of Knowing the Hitters:
If you know a hitter can get down the base path in a hurry and there is no bunt situation, play even with the bag. This will give you a couple of extra steps on the runner, especially on a slow hit ground ball. For heavy hitters, there is only one way to play third base--back about six steps or more from the bag and pray.
3. Communicating with your Catcher:
Here is a position where the infielder should try and find out from the catcher how a pitcher is throwing. If the pitcher is not fast on a given day the third baseman can expect almost anything coming his way. If the pitcher is sharp and fast he can lay off the foul line and help cut off balls hit towards the shortstop.
4. Fielding the Bunt:
The last but toughest play to be covered for a third baseman is the bunt or slow hit ground ball. On this play no matter where the player has positioned himself he must charge in as fast as he can. The ball is to be caught in his bare hand (do not try to scoop it up with your glove hand) and he then has to throw across his body in one motion. This, as was stated, is tough so you must practice until it is perfected. There is one deviation in fielding this kind of play, the ball should be fielded on your right side not in front of you. This will allow you to field the ball and throw across your body in one move, thereby eliminating any extra steps.