Third Base Coach — An Overlooked but Important Position in Baseball
When you think about baseball, you think about outfielders, infielders, pitchers, catchers, managers, pitching coaches and umpires. You almost never notice the bench coaches, hitting coaches, trainers, or even the guys that are on the field every single inning — the third base coaches. How many of you have heard of Gene Glynn, Ron Washington, DeMarlo Hale, or Jeff Datz? If you haven’t heard of any of these guys, the description you’d give of third base coaches is that they’re old guys standing in a white box that does nothing but make funny signs with his hands and high-five players rounding third after a homerun. Well, here’s the story behind those funny old guys.
The third base coach’s role is to give signs to the hitters and baserunners, as well as to make decisions on whether a baserunner can score on a play and signal that to them. To do this, they have to be very knowledgeable about the speed of each of the players on their team, along with the arm strength of the opposing catchers and outfielders. In other words, the third base coach is the non-player equivalent of the catcher because of all the things they have to remember in an instant during the game.
There are also different strategies that third base coaches use. In normal terms, there are aggressive, passive, and “scientific” third base coaches.
- Aggressive coaches, such as Gene Glynn of the Giants (now you know who he is), take many risks, signaling baserunners to steal bases and try to score almost every time. Aggressive third base coaches are usually on teams with questionable hitting. This forces them to take chances to try and manufacture runs because the ensuing hitters have a very small chance of driving in the runners.
- Passive third base coaches, such as the Red Sox’ DeMarlo hale (there’s another), take very few risks, advising runners to steal rarely, and almost never sending runners home on uncertain plays. Most passive third base coaches are on teams with very good hitting; this allows them to be confident that the following hitters will score the runners without taking any chances.
- Scientific third base coaches, such as Ron Washington of the A’s and Jeff Datz of the Indians (two more for your rapidly increasing third base coach vocabulary), rely on percentages when deciding whether to be aggressive or passive with their baserunners. Washington is considered one of the best third base coaches in the game, because he knows the scouting reports on the opposing players very well, and is almost always correct in his decisions to send or hold his runners. Scientific third base coaches fit on basically any team, because they adapt to each specific scenario, although high-powered offensive teams rarely have “scientific” coaches at third base.
Whatever strategy your team’s third base coach uses, he’s plays a crucial role in almost every play your hitters or runners make during the game. Now that you know how important your third base coach is, give him a cheer when he’s introduced by the PA announcer, before the game.