To be a great first base coach you should not just understand the intricacies of the game, but you should also understand the players, stay alert, work on communicating with the team, while also be able to make wise split-second decisions under duress.
Running between the bases is an essential part of the baseball game. A player may be a spectacular hitter, but that skill would be of little use unless he knows how to run bases.
This is where a good base coach comes in.
Baseball coaches (much like football coaches) are in charge of all the players of a game. For a baseball game, there are first base coaches, as well as third base coaches to ensure the game runs smoothly and fairly.
Despite the fact that the first and third base coaches have different roles, they each play a vital role in a game of baseball. First base coaches are considered to have a lasting impact on the rest of the game, thus having a good first base coach is sometimes all a team needs to win the trophy.
Since the importance of an excellent first base coach can’t be understated, here is a quick guide on what it takes to be a great one.
Let’s dash across!
What is the Job of a First Base Coach?
Positioned behind the first base bag, the first base coach stands on foul ground, ready to relay signals to batters as well as base runners from the dugout.
This particular coach in a baseball game is responsible for aiding base runners in choosing the right time to steal a base, while also ensuring that base runners know when pitchers try to retire them using a pickoff throw.
The rules of the game state that a first base coach should remain within the specified area for coaches, by the home plate side of the first base, before every pitch. Like the third base coach, the first base coach can leave the allocated area to guide players once the ball is in play.
It is important that coaches remember that in order to ensure a clean game, they must not interfere with the game in any way.
There are four specific things that a first base coach is supposed to do:
- Motivating the hitter to hustle down the first baseline for each infield hit
- To indicate if there was a foul ball
- Call on runners to take the chance on an additional base, while also indicating when to round first base and then hold up
- Helping runners remember the number of outs
- Aid runners regarding the distance to catching a pop fly
- And of course, to encourage players!
Thus you can see how important first base coaches are to a baseball game.
5 Tips to being a Terrific First Base Coach
Knowing what a first base coach does is slightly different from actually being one. The main mode of difference is because of the fact that coaches teach by example.
There are many minute nuances on what it takes to be a good first base coach, and keeping these five tips in mind can help you be the best one around.
Tip 1: Perfect your Communication
The first thing that an efficient first base coach should remember is the significance of being able to communicate instructions to players effectively.
Baseball is a fast game, with actions happening rapidly which can have a direct influence on the outcome of the game at large. Sometimes tiny tips, observations, and instructions can help determine the winning and losing of a game.
It goes without saying that a great first base coach must have a fast eye, but it is far more important to remember that in order to be an effective coach you must have a fast and efficient manner of communication with all the players.
Here are some examples of instances where a good communication is vital:
- Reminding the runner of the exact number of outs as well as what he should do in the case of a ground ball/fly ball.
- In the chance of a pitcher making a pick-off move in the direction of the first base, an alert first base coach would shout “Base” to the runner. Doing so will ensure that the runner is cognizant of the fact that he must go back to the base.
- When the ball is batted onto the outfield, a first base coach must successfully communicate to the hitter whether if he should attempt for a second run, or hold up after a single.
A good communication between players and first base coaches should be a mixture of loud verbal support along with clear hand gestures.
Smart first base coaches would decide beforehand with their team what the hand motions or verbal communications would be, in order to ensure that everyone understands exactly what is happening even if the least amount of words are used to describe something.
Tip 2: Quick Thinking
To be a first base coach, it is important to remember that each decision you make will have consequences. You must be able to think fast on your feet in order to ensure that the decisions you make are beneficial to the team, and serve as a stepping stone towards a team victory.
Sometimes critical moments arise in baseball games where the runner who is leading off first base finds his vision of the ball is blocked by a left-handed hitter. It becomes the job of the first base coach to quickly make the call whether the runner should go to the second base or not.
First base coaches need to think critically about every move in the game, making confident decisions at the spur of the moment. Any hesitations at such moments could easily cost runners vital seconds that could determine their ability to make a second run.
Similarly, on the occasions when a runner tries to steal a ball when it is in the air, it is the role of a first base coach to decide whether there is a chance for the ball to be caught. It requires a quick evaluation process to thus determine whether the runner should be called back. Such reckoning is the difference between an “out” and a “safe”.
Making wise decisions under duress is a trait of an excellent first base coach. Here are some ways to help make good decisions:
- Pre-pitch strategy planning: anticipate common potentialities of a game, and then make plans about what players should do in specific situations. When such situations arise, you would know exactly what needs to be done.
- During unexpected situations: just go with what ‘feels’ right. The best decisions sometimes come simply because they are hardwired into the brain due to the number of hours you have spent immersed in the game. When in doubt, trust your gut!
Tip 3: Understanding the Team Players
Let’s face it; everyone has their particular areas of expertise. A good first base coach would try to maximize the strengths of each of the players on his team, while also working on those player skills that need improvement.
Some players are able to reach bases quicker than others, thus can be trusted to make a run for a second base. There are other players for whom it is safer to stick with the first base run. Some players respond well to pressured situations, while others tend to get nervous and fumble with the ball.
It is the responsibility of a good first base coach to understand the strengths of the members of his team and bear those in mind when making decisions on the field during a game.
Tip 4: Staying Alert
To make a superb first base coach you need to maintain a state of constant vigilance. Nothing happening on the field should escape your notice.
As mentioned before, baseball is a very fast game. A first base coach must be alert at all times to ensure that their team is treated fairly on the field. Since it is the job of a first base coach to identify and voice if a foul has been made, it is a must to stay alert at all times.
Additionally, sometimes players get caught up in the heat of the game and break out into a scuffle. A scuffle can easily accelerate into a full-blown brawl unless some immediate actions are taken. Runners often think that they are victims of a unjust call-out, which makes them angry.
A first base coach is strategically positioned on the field, nearer to most players, thus most likely to reach on the scene of the scuffle faster and able to neutralize negative emotions and prevent players from being ejected from the game.
Players can easily get ejected from a game if they misbehave with the umpire or the manager, or even with other players. Getting into fights and physically manhandling people on the field can lead to a ruling that would bench the player for the rest of the game (and even for a whole season in some cases).
Since negative emotions such as anger have the power to easily poison the healthy competitive atmosphere of a baseball game, it is helpful if a first base coach alertly identifies and manages the situation without letting it bubble over
Tip 5: Being there for the Players
Perhaps one of the most vital things about being a first base coach is to remember who you are manning the field for; the players! Apart from understanding your players’ strengths and weakness in terms of baseball sills, it is crucial that you think of them as people who need motivation and encouragement as well as words of advice.
To be a fine first base coach you need to be able to match the energy of your team, and then boost their overall energy. This can be done through a variety of different ways.
- Be motivating: giving players the motivation to push through even after they undergo a rough game. Sometimes a missed run or a dropped catch is enough to demotivate even the best players, and a kind word by a coach can help revitalize the team and not let them give up.
- Help them focus: sometimes there are slow patches in games, and first base coaches need to vocalize the need for players to keep their heads in the game and focus. Verbalizing the score, the number of outs and even potential player responses can help coaches keep players focused.
- Be a good listener: as a coach, it is important that you give your complete attention to players, and be ready to hear out any concerns by them during (or out of) a game. Prove to the players that they can trust you with their thoughts and observations.
Having a healthy player-coach relationship is a key to success.
How is third base coaching different from first base coaching?
Third base coaches have slightly different roles to play in a baseball game. They are responsible for letting runners know whether they should stay on third base, or head home. They judge the ball and subsequently instruct runners to come in sliding or standing in order to reach base on time.
Third base coaches also let runners know when to run and vocalize the number of outs to facilitate their game.
Can a coach touch a base runner?
The simple answer is ‘No’. If a base coach touches the runner during a game, the player gets out. This is because touching, holding, or giving any sort of physical support (even a fleeting support) is considered to be an ‘inference’ with the player, which leads to immediate disqualification.
Baseball can be really exciting. Being a first base coach can give you a degree of field time, while also giving you the perfect opportunity to share your baseball knowledge with players.
There are specific things that you can practice in order to give your team the finest support they can have, and helping them understand and love the game just as much as you do!