Why do catchers throw to third base after a strikeout?

Discover the benefits and purpose of catchers throwing to third base after a strikeout in baseball
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

One common occurrence in the game of baseball is for the catcher to throw to third base after recording a strikeout. This practice, known as “throwing around the horn,” serves a few purposes. It helps to keep the infielders’ arms warm and loose, improves communication and teamwork skills between players, and provides a way to pass the time while the next batter steps up to the plate.

In this article, we will explore why catchers throw to third base after a strikeout and the benefits of this routine.

KEY
POINTS
  • Around the horn is an old nautical saying that describes a sequence of throws in baseball after the defensive team posts a strikeout with no runners on base.
  • The term is also used to describe the routine of throws infielders make following an out at first base with the bases empty.
  • Teams use a variety of patterns when making throws around the infield, but generally, the catcher throws the ball to begin the sequence of throws.
  • The routine ends with a throw back to the third baseman, who delivers the ball back to the pitcher. This also keeps infielders busy while the next batter walks up.
  • Throwing around horn also keeps arms warm and loose as well as improves communication and teamwork skills between players.

Around the horn is an old nautical saying that describes a sequence of throws in baseball after the defensive team posts a strikeout with no runners on base. The term is also used to describe the routine of throws infielders make following an out at first base with the bases empty. 

Teams use a variety of patterns when making throws around the infield, but generally, the catcher throws the ball to the third baseman to begin the sequence of throws. The routine ends with a throw back to the third baseman, who delivers the ball back to the pitcher.

Throwing the ball around the horn also keeps the infielders busy while the next batter walks to the plate. The infield can take advantage of the time it takes for the on-deck hitter to reach the batter’s box to keep their arms warm and loose. 

Usually, by the time the defense throws the ball around, the next batter has approached the plate, ready to hit. 

The term “around the horn” is also used to describe a double or triple play on a ground ball that was hit to the third baseman, who starts a sequence of throws to second base and first base.

The term originates from a sailing route in the early 1900s. Ships sailed around the southern tip of South America, which was called Cape Horn, from the West Coast and back around New York. The path of the ball thrown by each player is similar to the shape of the route the ships took around the horn of South America. 

Throwing the ball around the horn is also a form of showmanship. Teams celebrate a strikeout by slinging the ball around the infield before returning it to the pitcher. But in the 19th century, when players did not use gloves, throwing the ball around the horn was not all fun and games.

The mechanics of around the horn

Around the horn is initiated by the catcher after a strikeout with no runners on base. The catcher usually throws the ball to the third baseman to begin the throwing pattern, but some teams prefer to start the around-the-horn routine with a throw to the first baseman. Once each infielder has made a throw, the ball is given back to the pitcher to face the next batter. 

The sequence of throws when doing the around-the-horn routine varies from team to team. However, the throwing pattern usually starts with the catcher throwing the ball to the third baseman, who then makes a throw to the second baseman. The ball is thrown back to the third baseman, who gives it back to the pitcher.

Some coaches have their infielders practice the 5-4-3, and 6-4-3 double-play throws during the around-the-horn routine since the sequence of throws is similar. While the first baseman is excluded from the traditional around-the-horn sequence, some teams begin the routine with a throw to first base instead of third base.

The benefits of around the horn

The benefit of throwing the ball around the horn includes the following:

  • Helping infielders keep their arms loose.
  • Improving communication and teamwork.
  • Keeping players engaged and focused.

Infielders can go long periods without touching the ball if the opposing teams are striking out and hitting balls to the outfield. Catchers use this throwing routine to help infielders keep their arms warm and stay mentally sharp. This routine also gives the pitcher a brief rest to walk around the mound and prepare for the next hitter.  

Throwing the ball “around the horn” also helps infielders practice catching the ball with two hands and making quick, accurate throws with the proper footwork. This throwing routine allows players to fine-tune their catching and throwing fundamentals while working on their hand-eye coordination.

Examples of around the horn in action

1. The most common pattern for an around-the-horn throwing routine is as follows: the catcher throws the ball to the third baseman, who then throws it to the second baseman. The ball is then thrown to the shortstop, who throws it back to the third baseman and then returns it to the pitcher.

2. Another popular throwing pattern for throwing the ball around the horn is as follows: the catcher throws the ball to the third baseman, who then throws it to the shortstop. The ball is then thrown to the second baseman, who throws it back to the third baseman and then back to the pitcher.

3. Some teams prefer to include the first baseman in the around-the-horn throwing routine when a right-handed batter strikes out. The pattern is as follows: the catcher throws to the first baseman, who then throws the ball to the shortstop. The ball is then thrown to the second baseman, who throws it back to the third baseman and then returns it to the pitcher.

4. An actual around-the-horn throwing routine includes each infielder, and the pattern is as follows: the catcher throws the ball to the third baseman, who then throws it to the shortstop. The ball is then thrown to the second baseman, who throws it to the first baseman, and then the ball is thrown back to the third baseman before being returned to the pitcher.

Conclusion

The around-the-horn throwing routine has been a part of baseball since the game’s early days. This sequence of throws around the infield allows players to keep their arms loose and stay mentally focused on the number of outs in the inning. Other benefits include:

  • Practicing their catching and throwing fundamentals.
  • Working on their hand and eye coordination.
  • Improving their communication and teamwork skills.

Throwing the ball around the horn also gives pitchers a quick rest to catch their breath and prepare for the next batter. This throwing routine also cuts down on the time it takes for the on-deck hitter to reach the batter’s box.

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