The baseball fielding vacuum – third base

Elvis Elvis

As far as baseball fielding goes, third basemen typically have the best reflexes and strongest arms on the team.

Often being required to play closer to home plate than any other infielder, while attempting to deceive the hitter, along with having to make consistently long throws across the diamond (often while on the move), makes third base a highly specialized position.

The “vacuum” of the infield.

Baseball fielding can appear complex when you’re not sure who should attack the baseball and who should backup the play when it’s hit between two fielders. Particularly for balls hit between the first and second baseman or the second baseman and the shortstop.

However, when it comes to who should attempt to field a ball hit between the shortstop and third baseman, there is no question. The third baseman is considered the vacuum in the infield.

As the third baseman, you should not hesitate to attempt to field any ball within your reach on the left side of the diamond. The primary reason is that you naturally have the best angle to throw to first base, as you’re moving from the third base line toward first base to field the majority of grounders. Conversely, the shortstop is moving away from first base on fifty percent of ground balls he fields.

Because you will be cutting in front of the shortstop, you will also have a shorter throw than the shortstop would. This can take precious seconds off the time it takes to get the ball to first.

The baseball fielding vacuum   third base

Lastly, base runners reach third base less frequently than the others. With the shortstop often occupied with runners at second, and with the shortstop’s role being to help and backup both second and third base (as well cutting off throws for the outfield), you can take on more responsibility fielding ground balls. Doing so frees the shortstop to fill his role.

If the ball does get by you, not to worry, your shortstop teammate will provide a second line of defense behind you, before he continues on to cover third, as is his role.

Body adjustments to optimize your reflexes.

To optimize your baseball fielding reflexes, you’ll want to have a slightly wider stance than the other infielders. The typical infielder’s feet position is approximately shoulder width apart. As a third baseman, you’ll want to position your feet just outside of your shoulders.

Once your feet are positioned, you’ll want to maintain a lower center of gravity than your teammates. Bend at your waist more than you normally would when playing a different position. This extra bend will help you to spring higher or side to side if necessary, rather than help you move farther distances (as required by the shortstop and second baseman).

Standard baseball fielding position.

Not taking into account any specific situational play, you should take your baseball fielding position approximately ten feet behind third base and fifteen feet off of it. These dimensions are based on a full-sized baseball diamond. Positioning yourself in this playing range should give you ample time to field the ball and throw the runner out on a standard ground ball.

If playing on a Little League diamond, these baseball fielding dimensions are narrowed to approximately six feet behind the third base and ten feet toward second base.

Double play positioning.

If the double play is on, time is of the essence. Align yourself with the third base bag while still maintaining a distance of fifteen feet off the base (ten feet for Little League).

The drawback to moving in toward home is twofold. First, you have little reaction time if any baseball is hit hard your way, making it more likely you’ll mishandle the ball. Secondly, the amount of ground you can cover is diminished because of the lesser distance to home plate.

The significant benefit is that if able to field the baseball, you’re more likely to throw the baseball to the appropriate base in due time in an effort to turn the double play.

Baseball fielding to prevent the double.

In close games, particularly in the late innings, you may be called upon to play closer to the line than you normally would. The rational behind this is to prevent the hitter from doubling down the line and getting into scoring position. If you move closer to the line you minimize that possibility.

The drawback to playing close to the base is that you open a wider hole between you and the shortstop. However, any grounder that makes its way through that hole is likely to be picked up by the left fielder (because of where he is naturally positioned) … holding the hitter to a single and thus accomplishing your goal.

When called upon to play closer to the third base line, move to approximately half the distance from the line that you would normally play while still playing back at your normal distance behind the bag.