Your child is beginning to play baseball and you want to create a connection with your kid by being a coach, but you have no prior coaching experience. You decide to be the first base coach. You know the basics after reading the “What Does a First Base Coach Do?”, but you desire to learn more and be a great coach for your team.
What Makes a Great First Base Coach?
There are three characteristics you can provide your players and become a great first base coach:
- Provide Situational Awareness
- Remain Positive
- Practice Baserunning Fundamentals
Remaining positive can be challenging at times for you as a coach and the player, but how can you remain calm while providing situational awareness during games and incorporate baserunning fundamentals in practice? We will discuss each of these areas in the following paragraphs.
Provide Situational Awareness
You understand that you need to continually be aware during the baseball game, but what situational awareness can you provide your players? There are two main situations in a game that you as a great first base coach will want to ensure you advise your players:
- Number of outs in the inning
- Location of the infielders
Number of Outs in the Inning
The first thing a great first base coach should do before the first pitch of an at-bat is ensuring that every runner knows how many outs are in the inning. This information will help the runner know what to do in certain game situations depending on the outs. Let us look at two examples of game situations depending on the number of outs in the inning.
No outs or one out in the inning – A runner on first base must advance on a ground ball regardless of the number of outs in the inning, but what about a fly ball? A runner at first base should go halfway to second base on a fly ball to the outfield and remain close to first base if the fly ball is in the infield with no outs or only one out in the inning.
A runner on second base with no outs does not have to advance on a ground ball unless there is a runner at first base. A runner at second base will only advance on a ground ball if the ground ball is not in front of him. If the ball is in front of the runner at second base, he will want to hold at second so that he does not run into an easy out.
Two outs in the inning – With two outs in the inning, all runners must advance when the hitter hits the ball regardless of a ground ball or fly ball.
It is imperative that you not only alert each runner to how many outs are in the inning, but what they will do in each situation. For example, you have a runner on first base with one out and you will say to the player, “Good job. There is one out, so you run on a ground ball, but go halfway on a fly ball to the outfield.”
Another example is when you have a runner on any base with two outs, you will say to the player, “There are two outs, so you are running on every hit.” You want to make sure that each player is looking at you and acknowledges they heard you with each instruction.
Location of the Infielders
A great first base coach will advise the runners on first base and second base where the infielders are positioned before the pitch. Some teams will occasionally try to pull off trick plays if they feel your runner is not paying attention. Your ability to alert the runner to the position of the fielder will raise his awareness and lower the chance that a trick play would be successful.
You can also alert the runner to which infielder is holding the ball if you see the opposing team using the “hidden ball play”. The hidden ball play is where the fielding team tries to have the runner believe that the pitcher has the ball when the fielder closest to the runner actually has the ball.
When the runner steps off base, the fielder closest to him will tag him with the ball to earn an easy out. You can keep this play from being successful by loudly alerting your runner which fielder has the ball and the runner should remain on the base.
One of the biggest challenges for a coach and a player at times is to remain positive especially after a close call where you and the player feel the umpire made the incorrect ruling. It is at these times that you must remain calm and positive and do everything you can to keep the player calm. What are some ways you can remain positive during a game?
Power of Positivity
The first thing you can do is always congratulate the hitter for a good at-bat even if the hitter struck out. If a hitter strikes out, applaud them, let them know they fought in the at-bat, and finally assure them that they will have another opportunity and to stay positive.
During a game, you want to try and ensure that every word you use towards your players is positive. Baseball is a tough game where even the best players do not get a hit in almost 70% of their at-bats. Each player is constantly dealing with failure and your positive outlook will allow them to have the proper mindset facing their next at-bat.
High fives are also very important after each at-bat and after returning from the field. Encourage the players to always give their teammate a high five when they return to the dugout following an at-bat whether they scored a run or had a strikeout.
Some players will feel the desire to let the umpire know that they did not agree with a call whether during an at-bat or on the bases. You can prevent this confrontation by remaining positive and getting in front of the player immediately to calm them down even when you may not agree with the umpire’s call.
You as a coach must always keep control of your emotions and be a positive example for the players. If you lose your temper and proceed to berate the umpire, who is usually a volunteer or making very little money in the lower levels, your players will follow your example and your team’s performance will suffer from the negativity.
Practice Baserunning Fundamentals
Baserunning is a very important part of the game and should be incorporated into every practice so that the players will have a better understanding of what you expect from them when running the bases during a game.
We have covered some baserunning drills in the “What Makes a Great Third Base Coach?” article and we will cover some different drills that pertain mainly to the first base coach here. There are two main drills involving the first base coach to practice:
- Run Through and Turn
- Turn and Look / Turn and Go
Let us take a deeper look into how to properly perform each drill so you and your players will thrive running the bases during a game. It is important that you use the same voice you will use during the game. Try to simulate the game situations as often as possible.
Run Through and Turn
This drill is ideal for when a runner is trying to beat out a ground ball hit on the infield for a single. The turn part of this drill is critical because if a player turns the wrong way, they can be called out if tagged by the opponent.
The player will start at home plate and simulate a swing. I prefer to have a player simulate a swing with the bat, so they also practice dropping the bat to run and not taking a chance of having the player called out for throwing the bat during a game.
After simulating the swing, the player will run full speed towards first base. You, the first base coach, will be in the same position where you will stand during the game. The first base coach will encourage the runner to run fast and, “run through the base”. This means the runner will not stop directly on first base.
Then the first base coach will instruct the runner, “turn to your right”. The runner will run through first base then turn to their right towards foul ground. This is imperative because if the player turns toward second base, they can be called out.
Turn and Look / Turn and Go
The key to this drill is the player does not know which command you will give them as they approach first base so they will learn to listen to you, the first base coach. Just like the drill above, the player begins at home plate and simulates a swing.
The runner then runs full speed to first base. As they approach the base, you signal the player to, “Turn and go” to second base or you instruct the player to, “turn and look” and then return to first base.
The turn and go portion of this drill simulates a batter who has hit a possible double, so you are instructing the runner to advance to second base. The turn and look part of this drill simulates a player who has hit the ball well, but you want them to hold at first base for a single.
Where can I find out what a third base coach does?
You are in luck! We have an article posted on the responsibilities of the third base coach which you can find by clicking on this link. You can also see what makes a great third base coach by clicking on this link.
How big of a lead should the runner take off first base?
This depends on the speed of the runner along with whether the pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. A good rule of thumb is that the runner should initially take a two-to-three step lead off first base until they figure out whether they can take a bigger lead or should shorten their lead.