Bare hand plays, difficult plays to handle on tough hops, and utilizing long hops on your throws are unique plays that can make an average 3rd baseman very good, if used correctly.
Player Doug Bernier offers free instruction and pro tips for how to field a ground ball

Doug Bernier, shortstop for the NY Yankees, barehands a bunt by Michael Bourn during a NY Yanks v Houston Astros 2009 spring training game.

Bare hand plays

  • You should only attempt a bare hand pay when the ball is rolling slowly or stopped.
  • This is a do or die situation and, is your only chance at getting an out.
  • To field the ball, a trick that was taught to me, as you are running toward the baseball, open your hand and make it as big as possible. Once you go down and are about to field the ball, relax your hand. Naturally your hand will relax and start closing with the baseball. This will give you a good chance of catching the ball cleanly in your hand.
  • As quick as you can, but under control, throw the ball to 1st base.

Difficult plays to handle on tough hops

  • There are routine ways to field all ground balls, but sometimes the routine way won’t put you in the best position to catch the ball with the most regularity.
  • Often times at 3rd base you will either get easy to handle grounders or tough topspin missiles.
  • I believe this can put you in a better situation when you are caught in between (not sure whether to go in or back) when you are about to get a real tough play. If you read the hop late or it is hit really hard take your left foot or right foot (depending on how you want to play the ball right at you) and bring it back.  Now you are opened up a little and it might give you a little more fielding space.
  • You will be playing this ball into a fore hand or backhand type play. Almost the same way a first baseman will get to one side or the other on pick in the dirt.
  • In this position you will almost have your feet in line toward the baseball or squared up to second base (however you want to think of it). From here you will get about another 3 feet or so longer hop and your head will be on the side of the hop instead of staring straight at it. Being to the side can give you a better perception of where the ball is going.
  • This gives you the best chance of fielding the ball. Either you field it or it goes by you into the outfield. You have taken “keep the ball in front” out of the equation. Sometimes even if you keep your chest in front of a missile the ball may kick pretty far away.
  • This is used if you believe you can field the ball. If you are not quite sure, then chest the ball up and maybe the ricochet will be close by and you can throw the runner out at first base.

Using long hops (aka turf hops)

  • Being comfortable with throwing the ball short and making a nice long hop to handle, can make throwing a lot easier.
  • You can use this on a backhand, or some type of play where you may be a little off balance. Using a long hop is much quicker than throwing a big rainbow over to first base.
  • Pick a spot out in front of the first baseman about 15-20 feet. Throw the ball into the ground at that spot. The ball should take a nice easy one hop to the first baseman. Throwing the ball that far in front of the first baseman makes the play easy on him.
  • If you throw it to close to the 1st baseman you will make the play difficult on him. It would be better to make the throw to far from him even if it took an extra bounce. It would still be much easier to catch than a normal pick.
  • Think of this play as a weapon you can use when you need to make a long throw and are off balance a little.
  • Practice this play often, it can help you complete some difficult plays.
More Tips and Technique for 3rd Basemen

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About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger's AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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