3 tips for understanding your fielding location responsibilities

Elvis Elvis

Establishing your fielding location as a shortstop or second baseman is dependent on several different factors. Each position has their own responsibilities that may include anything from covering second base, to helping out at first or third base, to running into the outfield to become a cut-off man.

While the responsibilities of the middle infielders may seem daunting, memorizing a few rules of thumb can have you moving to your right spot on every play.

1.) Fielding location for bunts.

When the offense has initiated a bunt play, both corner infielders (the first and third baseman), the catcher, and the pitcher will become preoccupied with fielding the baseball.

If there are no runners on base or a runner on first base only, when the bunt goes down it becomes the responsibility of the middle infielders to cover the bases.

Without the immediate need to cover third base, if you’re playing second base you’ll need to move over to first base and essentially become the first baseman … getting yourself into a fielding location similar to how a first baseman would when receiving throws.

3 tips for understanding your fielding location responsibilities

This naturally leaves the shortstop to cover second base. With third base open, it then becomes the responsibility of the third baseman to get back and cover the bag if he didn’t field the bunt, doing so before the runner advances toward third. If the third baseman is unable to get back to cover his fielding location, the catcher would advance to cover third base while the pitcher would move to cover home plate.

On plays where there is a runner on second base and the bunt is executed, the third baseman will stay at third to cover third base, while the first baseman, catcher, and pitcher become responsible for the bunted baseball. The shortstop and second baseman cover both second and first base, similar to what was noted above.

2.) Fielding location for balls hit to the right side of the diamond.

If you’re playing second base and the baseball is hit to your side of the infield, you have one of three tasks. You must either field the ball, backup the first baseman (either for a wild throw or to field any ball that gets by him), or move to cover first base.

Once at first base, be prepared to receive the throw. However, if the first baseman fields the ball be aware that the pitcher should also be moving to cover first base. He has first prerogative, so in the cases where he is able to reach first base before you, move into a fielding location to back up the throw from the first baseman.

Because the second baseman is pre-occupied with either fielding the ball, backing up the first baseman, or covering first, if you’re playing shortstop, you should move over to cover second base.

3.) Fielding location for balls hit to the left side of the diamond.

While one of the most highly featured players on the diamond, surprisingly, when playing shortstop you are considered the second choice to field baseballs if hit to your side of the diamond.

This is because the third baseman is considered to be the “vacuum”. The third baseman’s role is to cut in front of the shortstop and scoop up any ball he can reach on the left side of the baseball diamond. This leaves you, the shortstop, in the role of backup – fielding any ball that the third baseman can’t reach.

The rational for this is three-fold. First, the third baseman typically has a better angle when throwing to first base because he often needs to move toward first base to field a groundball, whereas many times the shortstop is moving away from first base.

Secondly, because the third baseman is able to cut in front of the shortstop, he often has a shorter throw … cutting precious seconds off the throw.

Lastly, where most action occurs at first or second base, and with the middle infielders faced with many responsibilities, the third baseman can be more readily available and displaced from his natural fielding location in order to make a play on the baseball.

Because of the role of the third baseman on balls hit to the left side of the infield, as the shortstop your initial goal should be to backup the third baseman – giving your team a second shot at making the play if the baseball should get through to you.

If you do field the ball, go ahead and make your throw. If, however, the third baseman fields the ball, third base is now uncovered. It becomes your responsibility to move over and protect third base. This while the second baseman has second base covered for any throw in that direction.