You arrive at the first team meeting for the spring baseball season for your child’s team and the coach asks you to volunteer to be the third base coach for the team. Naturally, you agreed because you love that connection to your child, but you have never coached third base. You read our previous article about the responsibilities of a third base coach, but you do not want to be an average third base coach.
What Makes a Great Third Base Coach?
A great third base coach must possess three characteristics during a game:
- Know when to be aggressive
- Be loud and animated
- Have no fear
You know what the three main characteristics are for a great third base coach, but what do each of those characteristics mean and how can you personify each of those characteristics? In the following paragraphs, we will discuss each characteristic and give you examples of how you can demonstrate each characteristic and become a great third base coach.
Characteristics of a Great Third Base Coach
Know When to be Aggressive
Never make the first or third out of an inning at third base is an old baseball proverb you have possibly heard while watching a baseball game. Knowing the appropriate time to take a chance when advancing a runner and when to play it safe is a must for every great third base coach. But when should you play it safe and when should you be aggressive? That depends on how many outs are in the inning.
Less Than Two Outs
You have heard the baseball proverb mentioned above from the color commentator who used to play baseball, but what does that exactly mean? A runner is considered in scoring position once they reach second base because they will likely score a run on a base hit to the outfield.
Since a runner on second base is likely to score on a base hit to the outfield, the need to be aggressive and force the runner to third base is minimized with no outs. But does a runner have a better chance to score if they are at third base? That is correct and that is why moving that runner to third base with one out can be vital to scoring a run.
A runner on third base can score on a fly ball out to the outfield, a wild pitch, a passed ball, an infield ground out, a base hit, or an error. The runner on third base can even steal home plate with the right timing. With so many ways to score, you want to be aggressive sending a runner to third base with one out.
Why is it more important to move the runner from second base to third base with one out but less important with no outs? With no outs, you have a great chance of scoring a run from second base, but that chance of scoring from second base decreases with each out.
You also want to be less aggressive when telling a runner to advance to home plate on a hit to the outfield with less than two outs. With so many ways for the runner to score from third base, always choose to hold a runner at third base if you have any doubt they may score.
With Two Outs
A great third base coach will be very aggressive in advancing a runner to home plate with two outs. The only time you want to tell the runner to hold at third base with two outs is if you are certain the runner will be an out at home plate.
This includes a ball hit in the infield. If you have a speedy runner on base and a slow ground ball is hit to an infielder that you know will be the second out, you may choose to send the fast runner home to place extra pressure on the defense to make two good throws to cut down that runner at home plate.
If a ball is hit between two outfielders with a runner on first and two outs, you should tell the runner to advance to home. The opposing team will need to make two good throws to cut down your runner, one from the outfielder to the relay player and one from the relay player to the catcher. Only hold the runner if you are certain they will not reach home plate safely.
Be Loud and Animated
It is late in a tie baseball game and you have a runner on first base with two outs. The ball is hit between the right fielder and the center fielder and rolls to the outfield fence. The crowd is loud and the parents on both sides are screaming instructions at their players.
You already know as a third base coach that you want the runner to try and score, but how will the runner know your intentions with all the noise? The runner will know your intentions because you will give clear signals while using a loud voice. Another key is the baserunning drills you have used during practice.
What Animations to Use?
You know that you need to be animated and give signals to the runner, but what animations do you use as a third base coach? Active.com explains the three signals commonly used by a third base coach to let the runner know what you expect of them.
- Slide – Hold both hands out wide apart with palms down. All players should slide if there is a possibility of a play on him.
- Stand Up – Hold both hands out wide apart with palms up.
- Go Home – Windmill motion with left arm.
The signals are used by every third base coach so how can you separate yourself as a great third base coach using these signals? We will look at how to be a great third base coach with each of the above signals.
Slide – So you know how to signal the runner that you want them to slide into third base. A great third base coach will give the signals while being on their knees to let the runner know to get down. An ordinary third base coach will remain standing while giving the signal.
Stand Up – A great third base coach will hold their arms high above their head to let the runner know to stand up and stop at third base. If the runner has rounded third base, you can try to move closer to the runner so they can see your stop sign. Be careful to not touch the runner during the play.
Go Home – A great third base coach will be very enthusiastic with the windmill motion. You can jump up and down while you give the signal to the runner and move with the runner for a few steps down the third base line toward home plate. An ordinary third base coach will not exhibit any enthusiasm.
Baserunning Drills During Practice
You know that you want to be loud while giving the signals, but how can you have the runner distinguish your voice from all the noise going on while they are running the bases? The answer to this is to incorporate baserunning drills in practice.
The key to having your players recognize your voice is to use the same voice in practice that you will use in the game. This way they will be trained to listen for your voice in the most stressful of times during the game. You also want to use the same animations during practice with the same enthusiasm as you will during the game.
I always have my team perform baserunning drills in the final 10 minutes of practice. Some of the baserunning drills are covered in the, “What Makes a Great First Base Coach” article.
One drill I use is that I have my players start at home plate and run to second base as if they hit a double. I teach them to look at me halfway between first and second base and I have the animated stop sign showing while I also use my loud voice to let them know to stop.
I then have the players run as if they hit a triple and I give them either the slide or stop sign as they round second base. The runner should have their eyes on the third base coach after they have rounded second base.
The final drill I use is I have the players run as if they have hit an inside the park home run. This allows each player to see my animation and hear my voice as I tell them to advance to home plate.
Have No Fear
Third base coaches will inevitably make a wrong decision and cost their team a run. That run may even be the difference in the game. The players and parents will be upset, and you may be upset with yourself. How you handle this situation will distinguish you as a great third base coach.
The first thing you can do is admit that you made a mistake. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Admit this to the team first away from the parents and even apologize if you feel so inclined. Then admit the mistake to the parents and again apologize if you desire. This may not lessen the anger from the parents, but it can give them pause to realize that you are admitting your mistake.
What you cannot do is allow the anger and disappointment felt by you, the players and the parents to affect your decision in the future. If you know that you made the right call to send the runner when you analyze the call in your mind and talk to the other coaches on the team, you must make that same decision the next time.
You cannot allow the fear of failure to keep you from making the right call and forcing the defense to make a perfect play. Sometimes, you have to give the defense credit for making a solid play and getting your runner out while also knowing that you will make that same call again the next time.
Does the Speed of the Runner Matter?
Of course, the speed of the runner is an important factor for a great third base coach to consider. As Rocky Bridges once famously said relayed by azquotes.com,
“The main quality a great third base coach must have is a fast runner.”Rocky Bridges From Source
When Should the Third Base Coach Correct A Mistake Made by A Runner?
The best time to correct a player for making a mistake during the game is in practice. A coach should remain positive during the game and make notes for areas they notice need to be corrected during the next practice. When you make corrections during practice, you can go into greater detail about the mistake and show the player the proper way to perform the action.
What Should A Great Coach Always Remember?
A great coach must always remember to have fun. Have fun with the kids and enjoy the moments and memories you make each season. Keeping baseball fun for each kid will help each kid want to continue to play the game.