Proper first base footwork can dramatically increase range and balance, making navigation around the first base bag a lot easier.
Jorge Vasquez on 1st base.  This article is about first base footwork.

Image by Frank Lauri

Why Footwork Matters.

In baseball, footwork is an essential part of any infielder’s arsenal of defensive techniques. This is particularly true for first base footwork.

Understanding where your feet need to be and how to use them properly allows you to maximize the distance you can cover while maintaining contact with the bag.  Proper footwork not only helps you as a first baseman but it makes your other infielders better as well.

1. Get to the base, ASAP!

This is important. The first thing on any ball that is not hit to you is to get to the bag as quickly as possible.

2. Square up.

Once you get your feet to the bag, turn your head and square up to where the ball is coming from.  Make sure both heels are planted on the base.  This will help you know where the entire base is without looking at it.

3. Move your foot to the ball.

Once the ball is released (very important) take your right foot to the ball if you are left handed or left foot to the ball if you are right handed. (Note: Do not do this too early. Committing too early makes it difficult to adjust if the throw is less than perfect.) Done correctly, taking your foot to the ball gives you the maximum amount of range while keeping your other foot on the bag.

4. Stay inside.

The foot that is touching the bag (right for right hander, and left for left hander) should be on the inside part of the bag. Picture a line going right down the middle of the base and half is yours and half is the runners. The runner should hit the middle to outside part of the bag.

5.The Stretch.

If the throw is going to your left or right, feel the bag with the foot that will maintain contact and move that foot as far to the corner as possible. Stretch towards the ball keeping your toe on the bag. Sometimes every inch counts when trying to stay on the bag. Learn to move up and down the bag to get as much reach as possible.

The Exception.

First base footwork on a bunt or a batted ball that is between the catcher and the mound is a little different. Keep your left foot on the 1st base (this is the same for both lefties and righties) and square up to the play. You will not be able to make a long stretch for the ball. There can be a tight throwing window and you want to give the thrower a large target (hence squaring up). If you stretch towards the ball you will get your feet tangled up in the runner and run a very big risk of not being able to stay on the bag on a throw that is not perfect. If the throw takes you into the runner you can adjust and try to at least knock it down.

More Fielding Instruction for First Basemen:

About Author

Avatar für Doug Bernier

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT 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. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies


  1. Avatar für Adam

    Crazy that I’m just now reading this in ’23, but the state of first, especially defensively, has been relegated to the status of little league right field. Such an important aspect of the game yet so many teams don’t have a real first baseman. So many commit their feet in a receiving position as they arrive at the bag and even before they look to where the ball is coming from, which then basically requires a good throw and a slow runner because there’s no lateral adjustment and they’ll have to wait for the ball to come to them.
    Excellent description of the footwork and it’s purpose. The only “issue” I have is the throw from in front of the mound can be stretched for by a lefty, just not down the line. Everything is more advantageous for a lefty at first, like holding runners and throwing to other bases (except throws to first for balls hit towards 2nd, so almost everything. Hey, it’s the only infield position for us that we can play more than once a week!)
    Getting the out is the goal, but keeping runners from advancing is paramount. Proper footwork gives the player a much greater chance of getting the out, saving a run, or a teammate’s throwing stats.

  2. Avatar für Nicole

    You are correct for a RH 1st baseman but this is not true if LH you should have left foot on bag which gives much greater range of motion in all directions & much greater streatching ability plus your already set to throw home in one step. If a LH used the foot you suggested (right foot on bag) & they had to throw home they would have to step twice to throw. I’m pretty sure its the same for baseball and softball as I was a softball 1st baseman. I do believe most coaches don’t usually notice this but for 1st baseman it makes a dramatic difference. In Softball streatching is way more common since the distance is considerably shorter & every microsecond matters. Another thing to remember is your square on the bag until the ball is actually thrown which determines where your outstretched leg actually goes. For LH your outstretched leg is your right leg or glove side leg.

  3. Avatar für lee young

    I played first base for years as a RH in various leagues. I haven’t played in 10 years (I am 60).

    On a bunt (or slow roller), I would square up towards the thrower and put my right glove just outside my right shoulder as a target (I would prefer a throw right at me or to my right). Then, depending on where the throw was going, I would put my RIGHT foot on the base if throws were high, low or to the inside of the base. Thus I had more stretching range.

    If the ball went into the runner (which didn’t happen nearly as often as the other throws), I had zero problem reaching towards the runner and a) catching it or b) knocking it down because ONLY THEN would I switch to my left foot (remember that I started out squared up to the thrower and then could pivot off either foot quickly and easily).

    If I was leaning off of my left foot on any of those non-baseline throws, it would hinder greatly my ability to make plays on those types of throws. Also, that extra two feet of stretch TOWARDS the thrower gives the defense a little more chance against a bang bang play.

    Why is this not taught this way anymore? This was NEVER taught when I was playing. I was always taught to square up (both feet on the bag) and then lean off of the right foot on all throws but baseline throws. This new way seems very counter intuitive.

    Thanks for your time.

    • Avatar für Doug Bernier

      Thanks for sharing a different way to take the throws at first base. The way we are taught is if the ball is not hit past the imaginary line that connects first base to the pitching rubber to third base then have your left foot on the bag and have your chest squared up to the thrower. I know as a third baseman I like seeing the first baseman squared up to me when i am throwing on the run, usually I can’t see a lot before I make the throw so a big body helps.

      But keeping the left foot on the bag lets me see the ball better with both eyes and it eliminates the switching of feet on a thrown ball which can be difficult for some people. I feel like it makes a poorly thrown baseball easier to catch or at least keep in front. I have to do this routinely as a second baseman covering first base on a bunt or the handful of times I have played first base. I think they try to keep things as simple as possible for the person covering first base. Hope that explains things a little bit. Thanks for your question.


  4. Avatar für mike williamsen
    mike williamsen on

    Younger first basemen get caught in the trap of keeping their foot anchored on the bag at the risk of missing the catch. Pulling the foot is better than a runner at 2nd. I used to nudge the bag with my bag-foot toe to show the umpire I had contact.

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