The Importance of first Base and third Base Coaches

The snap-decision that can win, or lose a baseball game rests squarely upon the shoulders of the base coaches, demonstrating the importance of their jobs. The manager of any baseball team only selects those whose judgment can be trusted.

Multi-tasking is an understatement when describing the duties of a first, or third base coach. They are expected to know the arm strength of the defensive team in opposition to their team, the abilities of those players in their charge, and are expected to follow explicitly the manager’s strategy as the game ebbs, and flows.

Their primary duty for which they share duties with no one, not even the manager, is the decision to take an extra base when the runner is in motion. If the runner has a reasonable chance to reach base safely, the coach will enthusiastically signal him to go. Sometimes, in a close game that lacks momentum for either side, a coach may risk an out in an effort to create momentum for his team. Even when the odds may be against the runner beating the throw, the risk may be rewarded with an unforced error by the defense. Top coaches earn their keep by having a feel for the game, and knowing when to take the risk, even at the expense of becoming the “goat” of the game.

One other duty of the base coaches is signaling the managers instructions to both batters, and base runners. Since the manager cannot be seen by everyone on the playing field clearly, the coaches relay his instructions by way of complex signals, altered frequently to prevent the defense from knowing what might be happening. Those signals may include instructions to the batter to take a pitch to permit an attempted stolen base, or instructions for a “hit and run” play requiring contact of the pitch by the batter.

There are also signals for stolen base attempts, suicide squeeze plays, ordinary bunt attempts, and others. Within the scope of the strategy, the base coaches are following the instruction of their managers. Their personal judgment in the area of strategy may differ, but they follow their orders implicitly.

The business model of a professional baseball team is not dissimilar from that of any other business. The manager is the boss, the coaches are his department heads, and the players are his workers. Any coach who does not demonstrate exceptional skills in his area of responsibility will surely be replaced by someone more trustworthy. Being a coach is a high risk type of employment, with tremendous rewards for a job well done. The ultimate goal of becoming a manager is only one step higher on the ladder of success in the world of baseball.

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