Baseball Positions & Responsibilities
For anyone trying to get into baseball, the most daunting thing to learn and understand is who does what. With nine unique positions, each with their own specific roles, baseball has room for any type of athlete to find success on the field. From the quick and almost acrobatic outfielders to the stoic, big-armed catchers, it can be a lot to keep track of. But not to fear, here are the nine positions and what you need to know about them
Outfielders (Center Field, Right Field, Left Field)
There are three outfielders that are evenly spaced apart behind the infield, at varying depths depending on the situation. These players catch batted fly balls as well as field and return ground balls and line drives that make it through the infield. Outfielders are expected to back-up the infielders during plays at a base, in case a ball gets by an infielder.
- Right Field: The right fielder stands on the right side of the outfield and has the responsibility of catching and fielding any ball hit on the right side of the outfield grass. They often have the strongest arm in the outfield because they are situated the furthest from third base. Right fielders also back up the first baseman on any thrown ball from the pitcher or catcher and the second baseman on any thrown ball from the left side of the infield.
- Center Field: The center fielder stands in the center of the outfield and acts as the leader of the outfield. On any fly ball hit in between right and center field or left and center field, they have the priority of coordinating who catches the ball. On plays where they do not catch the ball, they are expected to back up the outfielder catching the ball. Because of this, center fielders are generally the most athletic in the outfield due to their need to cover the most ground.
- Left Field: The left fielder mirrors the right fielder in position and responsibility. The main difference is that they often have the weakest outfield arm due to their close proximity to third base, where many runners attempt to advance to off fly balls. A left fielder is also expected to backup any throws to third base from the pitcher or catcher.
A first basemen plays just off of first base and will receive the majority of throws in any given baseball game. This is because base runners start a play by running to first base. In spite of this, first base isn't as athletically demanding as the other infield positions due to the expectation that the first baseman must stay near the base to receive thrown balls, thus decreasing the range needed to play first.
When a runner is on, the first baseman will position himself with one foot on the base in order to prepare for a pick off attempt from the pitcher or catcher. On lengthy outfield throws, the first baseman will also sometimes receive throws from the right or center fielder and redirect them to home plate.
The second baseman and the shortstop have the same basic responsibilities, which are to field batted balls and turn double plays.
The second baseman stands in between first and second and is shaded towards the second base side.
The shortstop stands in between second and third and is also closer to the second base side.
The second baseman covers second base on a double play when the ball is hit to the shortstop. When the ball is hit to the second baseman, the shortstop takes over the role of covering second base.
One of the two players should have the primary responsibility of covering second base on a stolen base attempt, with the other backing up the bag.
Each player should act as a cut off man for balls hit to the outfield; the shortstop for balls hit to left field and the second baseman for balls hit to right field.
The third baseman has the responsibility of fielding batted balls on the left side of the infield that are beyond the shortstop's range. The position is known as the "hot corner" due the amount of high velocity balls hit on the third base side, so great reflexes are needed at third.
Third basemen also tend to have the strongest arms in the infield because of the need to throw across the infield to 3rd base. Third baseman also need to be able to field bunts as well as throws to third base on stolen base attempts and force-out opportunities.
Catching on the surface may seem like a simple job but the position of catcher is quite complicated. Their basic duty is to catch pitches and block balls in the dirt, and then return the ball to the pitcher. But pre-play they relay signs to the pitcher to let them know what pitch to throw.
When runners are on base, the catcher has to be mindful and throw to the appropriate base if a runner is stealing or gets too far of a lead off.
Catchers should also know how to block the plate for plays at the plate, ideally without getting hurt. Veteran catchers often also have the responsibility of being in charge of infield defensive alignments.
The pitcher delivers the ball to the plate to start every play, with the goal being to retire the batter by strike out, fly out or force out. Pitchers have a variety of pitches to use to accomplish this. These include the fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, and more.
Pitchers also need to be able to field their positions, catching pop flies and charging to field short dribblers or bunts. They also act as the back-up on plays at the plate, in case the ball gets by the catcher.
There are multiple types of pitchers employed by a team:
- Starters start the game and generally have the most stamina.
- Relievers come in after a starter gets tired or puts up a poor performance. They generally pitch one to two innings.
- Closers finish the game when there is a close score and are expected to perform in high-intensity situations.
Chris Callaway started writing professionally in 2007 and has worked as sports editor, managing editor and senior editor of "The Racquet" as well as written for the "La Crosse Tribune" and other newspapers in western Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts in English and communications.