How to Play Third Base in Baseball

If you're looking to learn how to play this challenging role, look no further.
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Mastering third base in baseball requires quick reflexes and a strong arm, as players cover the “hot corner” where sharp grounders and fast line drives are the norm.

  • The third base position is a corner infielder that is responsible for protecting the foul lines and sharing great responsibility with other infielders.
  • A good third baseman must have a strong arm to make accurate throws across the diamond, quick reflexes to field hard-hit ground balls, and be aware of all possible game scenarios.
  • Third basemen can practice their skills by long-tossing to improve their arm strength and accuracy, as well as working on fielding ground balls hit hard.

How to Play Third Base

The third base is considered a corner infielder. Corner infielders protect the foul lines that go up the edge of the infield. While this position is in the corner, it shares great responsibility with the other infielders.

Every infield position plays a crucial role in the success of a baseball team. You know what they say—defense wins championships!

What makes a good third baseman?

A good third baseman can consistently field a ground ball and make strong throws. As a corner infielder, it can be normal to see hard-hit ground balls hit you.

Your reaction time must be up to par to make the play. Even after the play, third base is the furthest position from first base.

A strong throw is required for two reasons. The first is the distance the throw must travel, and the second is that a weak throw would never have a chance of beating a runner to the base. Speed and quickness are essential but not as magnified here at 3rd base.

What does a third baseman do?

A third baseman shares many responsibilities with the other infielders. One different thing is that a 3B typically never holds on to a runner. It is debated by many, but it has seemed to become a tradition in baseball not to hold a runner at third.

A 3B is also responsible for fielding a bunt near him. A bunt is an intentionally hit ball that rolls a couple of feet. In this case, whoever fields a bunt has to be quick to field and throw.

As expected in the infield, the 3B field ground balls were hit by him and threw to a specific base. He also catches any fly-balls hit at him or in foul territory. 

Is third base hard to play?

Third base can be a difficult position to adjust to. There is no throw in the infield that replicates the one 3B makes. It is a long throw that has to travel across the entire infield to reach first base.

The most challenging part of 3B is the throw to first base. It can be difficult to field ground balls consistently.

This is increasingly true as competition levels rise. It can be agreed by many that any infield position is a tough position to play. While it may be easy for some, it was always hard at one point for them.

No one starts playing infield for the first time and immediately dominates. It takes some adjusting and training to be able to find success in an infield position such as 3B.

What does a third baseman do?

A third baseman is responsible for fielding any ball hit at him. If a ball is hit on the ground to him, he must field the ball and make the throw to first base. If a ball is hit in the air, all he must do is catch the ball before it hits the ground.

One unique responsibility of the 3B is fielding a bunt. When a bunt is laid down, either the pitcher or 3B typically fields it. A 3B also covers the bag if a base runner attempts to steal third. However, it isn’t too common for this to occur.

Another responsibility for the 3B is to guard the foul line. He can make the difference between an out and a double or triple. If a ball sneaks down the line without being caught, the base runner is just about guaranteed a double.

What skills do I need to play third base?

A strong arm is one of the most important skills needed to play third base. The third base is the furthest base from the first. If a ground ball hits 3B, the 3B must make a solid and accurate throw to record an out.

Quickness is necessary for any infield position. However, the amount of speed you have is magnified at some points more than others.

For example, a shortstop and second base must be quick to be successful. A 3B cannot be as quick, but his strong arm can compensate for the lack of quickness. You usually won’t find a stronger arm on defense besides the RF.

Awareness and knowledge about the game are huge for all infield positions. You must be ready for any possible situation.

How do you practice being a third baseman?

You can practice being a third baseman by working on your arm strength. It is a debated topic all over the world. What is the best way to improve my arm strength?

Some say the best way is through long-tossing; others would say band work and flexibility training. One certain thing is that you can’t go wrong with both!

Long-tossing will help your arm adjust to throws that require a great deal of effort. It would be best if you also aimed to be accurate with every single throw.

As is typical with all infielders, a 3B should make sure he is constantly working on fielding ground balls. This is especially true with the ones that are hit the hardest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the third base located?

Third base is located on the far-left side of the infield or the grass/dirt area of a baseball field. A third baseman will typically play behind the base and a tad off of the foul line. This helps him guard the line while also assisting the SS to guard the left-side hole. When going counter-clockwise, the third base is the 3rd one in order.

Do I have to have a strong arm to play 3B?

In all honesty, the answer is yes. When you begin playing on a big-league-size field, you will know what I mean. The throw from 3B to 1B is no joke, and not many are built for it. Some may have a strong arm but lack accuracy. It can also be the other way around sometimes. Many positions have specific skills that they must master. For example, 1B must master catching every ball thrown at them. The third base must master making a strong and accurate throw across the infield.

Third Base: The Position of Strength

Third base is similar to the other three infield positions. Each infield position has one specific skill they hone in on in training.

For 3B, it is their arm strength. As competition rises, arm strength begins to set good 3B’s apart from great 3B’s.

Some third basemen in the MLB can make throws in the low to mid-90s across the diamond. This is about the same velocity as the average pitch from a pitcher.

Every infield position plays a huge role and holds great responsibility. The third base is no different.