First basemen occupy one of the key positions of a team’s defense. Every runner must go through him, and he’s part of every pickoff play. He needs to compensate for bad throws from other infielders and make the out. We have put together here 9 of the best first base drills that will help your first baseman hold the runner on base, improve his flexibility, and improve his reflexes which are so necessary for the position.
First base is often referred to as “the other hot corner” (3rd base is the original hot corner), because so much action occurs at first. First baseman are often left handed, so these drills are designed with lefties in mind. For a team with a right handed first baseman, we will make brief notes about executing them for righties. First place is played predominantly by left handers because most of the balls thrown from the infield and the pitcher (when there is a runner on the bag), are to his right.
First Base Stride Setup and Catch Drill
When a ground ball is hit to either the shortstop or the third baseman, first base players will often stretch their body and line it up with the shortstop or third baseman’s position too early. Then, when the ball is thrown further away from them, the first baseman must adjust his stretch, and when he is unable to do so in time, it results in errors from passed balls.
The proper time to stride is after the thrower releases the baseball, not before. Then, the first base player will know the direction the ball is coming from.
For this drill, the coach is at home plate with a fungo bat and baseballs. The shortstop and third baseman are on their positions and will field balls hit by the coach at home.
The coach hits a baseball to shortstop in all three locations: directly at him, to his left and to his right. He does this because if the shortstop fields balls hit near or away from him, it will directly impact how he will throw the ball. This, in turn, affects where the first baseman fields it in relation to the bag.
The left handed first baseman stands next to the bag on the left side, the side of his foot touching. The coach instructs him to wait until the ball is thrown by the shortstop or third base fielder before his stretch and stride.
Once your first baseman is adept at setting up his stride after the ball is caught, you can simulate real game situations by adding a runner to the drill. The coach hits to the two infielders and the runner heads to first base. This will add a level of “stress” to the drill, but it will make your first baseman adapt and become comfortable with a runner plowing towards him from home. This is how it will be in real games.
This drill is very similar to the first drill above, except it focuses on specific areas where the ball will be thrown. This Stride Drill can be done before the previous Setup and Stride drill as well, to help prepare for the challenge of the uncertain location of the ball thrown from shortstop and third base.
This drill requires the first baseman to have a partner who will throw balls to first base. The first baseman will always maintain his position with the side of his left foot touching the side of the bag.
The partner stands about 20 to 25 feet away. His throws to first will be chest high to the first baseman. Next, the partner will make his location unknown to the first base player and throw to his left, his right, down at waist level and so on.
Then, the first baseman waits until the ball is thrown to make his stride, and not before. The ball should be caught at the same exact time his leading, stretching foot lands on the ground. This is the most critical point of all: first base players will catch the ball easiest when they coordinate their stretch and stride with catching the baseball. It is all one fluid motion, body moving forward, and foot hitting the ground at the same moment the ball lands in the glove.
Benefits from this drill, like every other team drill and personal drills players do, require lots of repetitions. The more, the better. Anyone wishing to perfect whatever job they do or art they perform, get to be one of the best by constant repetition. A pianist cannot play and perform the challenging Beethoven piano sonatas without lifelong dedication. Being great at anything is only the result of consistent effort and self-correction.
Playing Position Shift Drill
During a good part of the game and depending on what kind of day the pitcher is having, there will be either few or many runners getting to first base. Some of them are fast in the infield running lanes while others are slow. The first baseman’s job is to hold the runner at first, and also to field the part of the infield in which he plays at the same time.
This drill involves the coach and the first base player. After a time, a runner can occupy first during the drill.
The coach will use words and phrases that instruct the first baseman on what to do. The first baseman pretends there is a runner on first base, and a pitcher on the mound. First base is holding the runner on.
The first baseman gets down into his ready position by assuming a slight crouch, and facing the pitcher. His left foot is against the side of the bag. He is holding the runner on.
The coach stands 20 feet away. There are 2 real game scenarios this drill will cover.
“Ready, Go.” This situation is when the pitcher checks first base, then winds up and throws to home. The coach says these words and the first baseman moves off the bag in ready position and moves to fielding position.
When the coach says, “Ready, Go” the first baseman shuffles off first, taking two strides with his feet and legs off the first base bag in the direction of second base. Then, he gets into ready position for the play.
“Hit Ball.” The moment the coach speaks this command; the first baseman recognizes that a ball has been hit. He then runs back to first base and gets into his ready position. The coach will then throw a ball to the first baseman in ready position.
Wild Throws Around First Base
This drill focuses on throws made around the entire semicircle that’s around the first base bag. First basemen get to practice balls thrown all around the semicircle, preparing him to field throws that are irregular and wild but must still be fielded.
The coach stands closer this time, about 10 to 15 feet away from the first baseman, who receives each of the coaches’ throws in ready position.
The coach makes throws to first base, first near the first base baseline. The first baseman stretches and catches the ball for the out.
Next, the coach throws to the center of the imaginary semicircle around the base, and the first baseman strides out to catch it, his left foot always holding the edge of the bag.
The coach can test the first baseman further by throwing wild throws low or high. He will be ten feet away so the coach has a maximum amount of control over where he throws the ball.
Turning the Double Play Drill
When the first baseman anticipates there is a double play happening, he needs to get back to the first base bag to get the second out.
The pitcher may try and cover the bag but it will be hard for the shortstop to aim well to the pitcher when he’s running to the bag. The throw will likely be less accurate than it would be when making the throw to the first baseman in ready position. If at all possible, the first baseman should get back to the bag and field the shortstop’s throw instead.
This is a drill that will involve the first baseman, second baseman, the shortstop, two runners, a pitcher and a hitter. You can substitute the coach hitting the ball instead to second with a fungo bat. The drill tests the first baseman’s athletic abilities when it comes to moving off the bag, staying out of the baseline to make a more accurate throw to second base.
Tip 1: The first baseman should get in front of every ground ball that he can, no matter if the ball is hit to his right. Spin in a counterclockwise direction to be in a good position to make the throw.
Tip 2: First baseman must remain out of the baseline path and the path of the runner. In this way your throw to the shortstop at second won’t hit the runner. Staying clear of the running path also provides him a clear throwing lane without the runner obstructing his view and his throw.
Once he has a clear throwing lane, the first baseman moves towards the catcher. Or, he might need to move two or three steps depending on how close the base runner is to the infield grass in his run.
For this drill, the coach is at home plate with a fungo bat. A runner is placed on first. There is also a runner at home plate who substitutes for the coach and will run to first base as soon as the coach hits the ball.
The first baseman is holding the runner until the pitcher winds up and makes his throw. He makes two wide shuffles towards second with his feet and legs – left foot, right foot in a wide stride and shuffle, always facing home plate. He shuffles and makes a second stride.
The runner at first moves, and the runner at the plate heads to first base. The first baseman now covers the bag as the shortstop throws to second, and the second baseman throws to first. This is a 6-4-3 double play.
Now the coach hits a ball accurately with his fungo bat to the second baseman. In this case, the second baseman will flip the ball to the shortstop covering second for the first out. The first baseman follows the play and moves to set position, getting ready to stretch his stride.
The shortstop throws to first base. The first baseman stretches to catch the ball for the second out. This is known as a 4-6-3 double play.
Backhand Catch and Throw Drill
Often when there are runners on base or the first baseman is fielding a difficult throw, he sometimes needs to make a backhand catch. This may occur in regular play or in double play situations. This drill tests the first baseman backhanded catching and throwing skills. After the catch, the first baseman will need to throw the ball to second base.
For this drill, the coach places a runner at first base. The shortstop and the second baseman also play a part in this drill.
The coach hits the ball to the shortstop. The shortstop throws to the right side of the first baseman. First base catches the ball backhanded.
Next, the first baseman sets to throw to the second baseman. The first baseman must have a clear throwing lane to make his throw. He will need to throw to the right of the runner in the baseline to second.
The first baseman sets up by placing his feet in the direction of second base. He throws to second and gets the runner out.
Note: If the first baseman’s feet are not moving towards second base when he makes his throw, the play will be much more difficult than it should be. The speed of the ball to second base may be slower, or the throw will be less accurate.
When fielding a backhand throw, the first base man should be facing in the direction of the pitcher. Once the ball is caught, he repositions with his two feet in the direction of second base to make the throw.
The advantage to setting up this way is that it allows the first baseman to watch the play developing at second base.
The first baseman, when making his throw, should never show his back to the runner or the shortstop.
Team Infield Drill
This is an infield team drill. It is designed to simulate real game situations. This drill should be performed prior to the start of a game.
Before the game, the coach hits grounders to every infielder. The purpose of this drill is to make every infielder make a strong throw to first base. The first baseman catches the ball and throws it to the catcher.
As the drill continues, the first baseman will pick up his ground ball, touch the bag at first, and then throw the ball to the third baseman.
Once every infielder has handled and thrown five ground balls to first base, the catcher rolls the ball to the fielder who caught the last grounder. This fielder runs to the ball, retrieves and throws it to the catcher. Then he runs into the dugout.
The catcher lobs a ground ball to each infielder as they return to the dugout bench. The first baseman will be the last infielder left on the field, besides the catcher.
On most bunt plays, the first baseman will need to charge in, pick up the bunted ball on the right side of the infield, and throw the ball to second base.
In this drill, the catch is at home plate. There is a player at second base, and the catcher will be behind home plate.
The coach bunts the ball. The first baseman runs in to retrieve the ball, and the catcher calls out the base where the ball is to be thrown.
This drill is important for the first baseman. He doesn’t get many opportunities to make competitive throws to take runners out on the bases.
The first baseman should have 10 bunt plays in a row during each practice.
Short Hop Catching and Throwing Drill
First basemen routinely field balls that are line drives throws to first. His stride and stretch over time becomes second nature, which makes him a reliable first baseman everyone knows will make the play.
However, there are situations when the ball makes a bounce on its way to first. Depending on the bounce, this can be a difficult ball to catch if not done right. The first baseman is nevertheless expected to field and throw these short hop balls as well as fielding and throwing line drives.
This drill requires the first baseman, and two other infield players to participate. It is preferred that the shortstop and third baseman play their positions in this drill.
Shortstop and third base each throw five hard one hop balls from their position in the infield. The angle of each throw will be different and therefore a challenge for the first baseman.
The first baseman fields the one hopper and throws it back to the shortstop. Next, the third baseman throws five hard one hop grounders to the first baseman to field, then set and throw back to the thrower.