First basemen are often underrated in the game of baseball. To play first base well, a player must have excellent footwork around the bag. This includes receiving throws to the base, fielding the baseball and positioning themselves for throw overs from the pitchers. Here are several first base drills to help a first baseman prepare for the position.
One of the biggest issues first basemen have is knowing where the bag is when they are receiving a throw. The foot on the bag is usually going to be the dominate foot. When the first baseman receives the throw, it should be at the closest point between his glove and the ball coming in. This is why first basemen will stretch out for the throw. That milli-second gained can be the difference between a runner being safe or out. That said, the art of stretching while keeping your foot on the bag is an important one.
When a first baseman stretches for a throw, they often have their foot slide off the bag. This can cause the runner to be called safe. To practice this, have the first baseman receive several throws a day in practice at various angles to get used to the positioning. The first baseman should spend the bulk of their defensive practice time on this drill.
Another big issue for footwork is fielding the ball. The first baseman will often be anxious to run to the bag with the ball and rush their ground ball fielding. Have them field balls over and over, stressing that they have to keep their entire body in front of the ball. The pitcher will cover first if they have to range too far, so there is no reason to rush the fielding.
Throwing to second when turning a double play is another situation that first basemen have trouble with their footwork. They have to field the ball, pivot around and deliver a strong throw to second base. Often, they will have to then retreat to the bag to receive the throw back from second. This takes practice over and over.
Fielding a bunt is another key to being a great first baseman. When a batter squares up to bunt, the first baseman must know if they are responsible for fielding the bunt, or covering the base. This varies depending on the play and the team’s personal philosophy. First basemen must practice this skill over and over as well.
Being an excellent first baseman is about much more than just being a power hitter. They have to be excellent in all phases of the game, including foot work, fielding and throwing. Practice is the key, like with any baseball position. Repeating these skills every single day can make a player become nearly automatic.