The position of the first baseman
First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a base runner in order to score a run for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense who fields the area nearest first base, and covers most plays made at that base. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.
There are six ways a batter can reach first base without getting a hit:
- Reaching base on a fielding error;
- Receiving a base on balls as a hitter;
- Being hit by a pitch while batting;
- Reaching base on a fielder's choice;
- Reaching base due to the catcher obstructing his swing while batting (catcher's interference); and
- A dropped third strike with two outs and/or an unoccupied first base, with the batter reaching first base before being tagged or thrown out.
The first baseman tries unsuccessfully to keep his foot on the base while receiving a throw from an infielder
Also entitled 1B, first base, first sacker or cornerman, the first baseman is ideally a tall player with good flexibility. The flexibility is needed for two main reasons. The first baseman ends up receiving most balls hit to the infield to get the runner out at first base. He must be able to stretch to the ball to help to get it before the runner gets to the base on close plays. Also, first base is often referred to as "the other hot corner"—the "hot corner" being third base—and he must have reflexes to field the hardest hit balls down the line, mainly by left handed batters.
Players who throw left-handed are preferred at this position for two reasons:
- They do not need to make a turn before throwing the ball to another base. This makes it easier to field bunts and throw to any infield position.
- When standing at first base to receive a pickoff throw, a left-handed thrower is in a much better position to make an instantaneous tag on a sliding runner than a right-hander. The left-hander does not have to sweep his glove hand across his body to make the tag.
For the above reasons, first base is the only infield position at which naturally left-handed players typically excel.
When holding a runner on, the first baseman straddles the base with his feet while waiting for the throw. In a fielding play, the first baseman generally stands with his off-glove foot touching the bag, and then stretches toward the throw. This stretch is to decrease the amount of time it takes the throw to get to first, and encourage the umpire to call close plays in favor of the fielding team. The first baseman's glove has an elongated webbing which helps a first baseman to catch throws.
Because the nature of play at first base often requires first baseman to stay close to the bag to hold runners in place or to reach the bag before the batter, first baseman are not typically expected to have the agility and quickness required of middle infielders. As a result of this, and because first basemen are often among the taller players on a team, first basemen are widely expected to be among their teams' stronger hitters, usually with some power.
List of popular players at first base
(*) Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
Bold indicates a currently active player.