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First Basemen

Tom Greve
Vero Beach, Florida 32964

© 2010 Rourke Publishing LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or
by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the
PHOTO CREDITS: © Illustrious:: illustrations; © Eliza Snow: Title Page; © Joseph
Abbott: 5; © Associated Press; 7, 12, 13, 18, 19; © Andrea Pelletier: 9; © Bill Fowle:
10; © James Boulette: 11; © Matt Matthews: 15; © Donald Linscott: 17; © Ronald
Manera: 21; © H Peter Weber: 22
Editor: Jeanne Sturm
Cover and page design by Tara Raymo

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Greve, Tom.
First basemen / Tom Greve.
p. cm. -- (Playmakers)
Includes index.
ISBN 978-1-60694-332-8 (hard cover)
ISBN 978-1-60694-831-6 (soft cover)
1. Fielding (Baseball)--Juvenile literature.. 2. Infielders
(Baseball)--United States--Biography--Juvenile literature.. I. Title.
GV870.G74 2010
Printed in the USA
Post Office Box 643328 Vero Beach, Florida 32964


Table of Contents
First Basemen


Skills in the Field


Skills at Bat


So You Want To Be
a First Baseman?







First Basemen
Aside from pitchers and catchers, first
basemen are involved in more plays during a
baseball game than any other players on the
team. Any ball hit to an infielder must end
up in the first baseman’s glove before the
batter can run to first base. When this
happens, it’s called an out. Many times the
first baseman is involved in all three outs
made in an inning.

First basemen use a padded,
fingerless mitt instead of a
regular baseball glove. It’s
larger than other gloves to help
catch wild throws and scoop
balls out of the infield dirt.


The first baseman’s main defensive job is to
put one foot on first base and catch balls
thrown by the othe; r infielders. The throw has
to reach the first baseman’s mitt before the
batter touches first base. If it does, the batter
is out. If not, the batter is safe.

First basemen use their mitts to give the other
infielders a throwing target.


The first baseman also has to be able to
stop ground balls hit anywhere near first
base, especially balls hit right down the
first baseline.

More left-handed players play
first base than any other infield
position. At higher levels of
competition, first basemen are
the only left-handed infielders.


Albert Pujols is perhaps the best first baseman
currently playing in the Major Leagues.

Albert Pujols plays for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2001, he was Rookie of the Year, and in
2005, he was the National League’s Most
Valuable Player. He helped St. Louis win the
2006 World Series. Pujols is right-handed. He
weighs 230 pounds (104 kilograms) and is
6 feet 3 inches (1.9 meters) tall.


Skills in the Field
First basemen must be good at catching
balls, even ones thrown off-target. They’re
usually tall, with quick reflexes, and can hit
the ball well on offense. Their height helps
them stretch toward throws to shorten the
distance the ball has to travel to reach the
mitt. Sometimes a stretch makes the
difference between a base runner being
safe or out.


Training exercises can help a first baseman’s ability to
stretch toward throws. Some can even do the splits!


Quick reflexes help first basemen defend the
first baseline and the hole between first and
second base. They field ground balls and either
step on the base themselves for the out, or
they toss the ball to the pitcher who runs over
from the mound to cover first base.


Practice makes perfect! First and third basemen only
get a split second to react to hard-hit balls. Sometimes
players call those positions the Hot Corners.


Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray is among the greatest
all-around first basemen in history.


Eddie Murray did it all. He won three Gold Glove
awards for defensive skill, and he switch-hit on
offense. That means he could bat left-handed or
right-handed. In fact, he once hit a right-handed
and left-handed home run in the same game two
times in a row. He is also one of just four players
in history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He
played from 1977 until 1997, mostly with the
Baltimore Orioles.


On defense, first
basemen hold runners
at first base. Base
runners usually take
several steps toward
second as the pitcher
prepares for his next
pitch. The first
baseman stands over
the base giving the
pitcher a target in case he throws back to first
to try to tag out the runner. With the pitch,
the first baseman quickly moves back to
his normal defensive position.

Holding runners at first helps prevent base runners from
stealing second base, a move that would improve their
chance of scoring.


Skills at Bat
First basemen are usually among the best
hitters on their teams. A good first baseman
has a high batting average, and can hit
home runs. First basemen often lead their
teams in RBIs.

First base is 90 feet (27.4
meters) from home plate in
the Major Leagues. In Little
League, the distance is 60
feet (18.3 meters).


Many first basemen bat fourth in the lineup. The fourth
batter is called the cleanup hitter since a home run
cleans the bases of runners.


Hall-of-Famer Lou Gehrig was among the best
batters in history.


Lou Gehrig played first base for the New York
Yankees from 1923 until 1939. Fans called him
the Iron Horse because he played in more than
2,000 consecutive games. In 1934, he earned a
rare triple-crown honor for having the league’s
highest batting average, most home runs, and
most RBIs. He hit 23 grand slam home runs, still
the all-time record. Sadly, his career was cut
short by a disease called ALS, which for many
years was known simply as Lou Gehrig’s disease.


So You Want to Be a
First Baseman?
First basemen see plenty of action on
defense, and they need to produce runs on
offense. They are usually tall and can catch the
ball, even when throws miss their mark.

When there’s a runner on first
and there’s a ground ball in the
infield, the throw goes to
second base for one out, then
quickly from second to first to
beat the batter for a second
out on the same play. This is
called a double play.


First basemen are among the run producers on an
offense. They frequently come to bat with runners
on base.


First basemen make plays nearly every time a
batter hits the ball to an infielder. They keep one
foot on the bag while catching the infielder’s
throw before the batter reaches first base.
If you are a tall, dependable ball catcher who can
also hit the ball, then grab a fingerless mitt and
head out to play first base.


batter (BAT-ur): the baseball player trying to hit the ball thrown by
the pitcher
batting average (BA-ting AV-uh-rij): number that reflects how
frequently batters succeed in hitting the ball and reaching base safely
consecutive (kuhn-SEK-yuh-tiv): happening in a row without interruption
grand slam (GRAND SLAM): a home run hit with the bases loaded
ground balls (GROUND BAWLZ): balls hit by the batter that bounce
along the ground
infielder (IN-feel-dur): players on a baseball team who play defense on
or near the base paths, including the third baseman, shortstop, second
baseman, and first baseman
inning (IN-ing): the segment of a baseball game when each team gets a
chance to bat and each gets three outs
mound (MOUND): the raised hill in the middle of the infield where the
pitcher stands to pitch
out (OUT): when a batter fails to hit the ball or hits it but fails to reach
base safely
RBIs (AR-BEE-EYEZ): short for runs batted in which result in scores
safe (SAYF): to reach base before being thrown or tagged out
stretch (STRECH): to extend one’s body to its maximum length
tag (TAG): touching, with the ball, an opponent who is trying to
reach base


batting average 16, 19
catching 8, 22
cleanup hitter 17
defensive position 14
double play 20
first baseman’s mitt 4, 5
Gehrig, Lou 18, 19
ground balls 6, 10
hold runners 14
infielder(s) 4, 5, 6, 22

inning 4
Lou Gehrig’s disease 19
mound 10
Murray, Eddie 12, 13
out(s) 4, 5, 8, 10, 20
Pujols, Albert 7
safe 5, 8
skills 8, 16
switch-hit 13

Websites to Visit

About the Author
Tom Greve lives in Chicago with his wife, Meg, and
their two children, Madison and William. He enjoys
playing, watching, and writing about sports.


What does it take to play first base? Are you better suited to be
a linebacker or a running back? Different positions in team sports
appeal to different people. In this exciting series, explore some of
the more popular positions in team sports and learn how each
contributes to the thrill of the game.
Titles in this Series:

Basketball Centers


First Basemen

Hockey Goalies


Running Backs

High Interest