"You Be The Coach"

The Situation - "Lost on the Bases"

Boston Red Sox vs. Florida Marlins at Pro Players Stadium

The score is 4-1 with the Red Sox leading in the top half of the sixth inning. There is nobody out. Jason Varitek is on first base. Reggie Jefferson is the hitter. On the first pitch to Jefferson, Varitek takes off for second base. Reggie hits a deep fly ball to left field. Jason doesn't see the ball at all and you do.

The Question

Third base coaches - get your thinking caps on! What do you need to do as the third base coach? As always, keep in mind the setting, the players involved, and the time in the game.

Give me your answer and any supporting reasons.

Here's WK's answer:

"As the runner, Jason's job is to pick me up with his eyes if he doesn't have a clear view of where the ball went. I must try to make eye contact with him to let him know the direction and trajectory of the ball. In this case, I will be pointing out to left and high into the air. At the same time, I am yelling my instructions to him. If I feel the ball will be caught, I let Jason know he will need to head back toward first. If I feel that the ball will drop, I wave him on toward third base and prepare to send him home. The hit and run will have given us a good chance to score Jason from first base on a ball to the fence. If the leftfielder makes a diving catch, we tip our hat and accept the double play fate that awaits us.

Fans - a lot of decisions are made on what you know and what you see at the time you have to make the call."

Here are some good answers from various coaches on the internet.

"Varitek needs two answers very quickly. Where is the ball and where should I go? He should be looking at the third base coach for information, so you need to hold up the stop sign (one assumes that the ball will be caught, so you need to stop his progress immediately). In the past, I've often pointed to the fielder who will handle the ball with the left hand. This gives the runner the time to look to the appropriate player and make an assessment of the situation (he may or may not be able to find the ball in flight). I still like doing this (to a degree), but it allows the outfielder to decoy the runner.

Once the runner is stopped, the third base coach needs to let the runner know where to go next (likely back toward first with that right hand, but in lower leagues where outfielders are less reliable, well, all bets are off)."

Rick Donnelly

"Since it is a deep fly ball to left, your runner will have the time to get back to first if the ball is caught. I would suggest yelling to your runner to "hold at second, ball to left field". That way, you have made your runner aware of where the ball is and he can now judge whether or not he can make it to third should the ball not be caught. If he stops at second, Jason can make third on a base hit, as he should, or make it back to first without being doubled-off!"

William Webb

"I would take the conservative approach, with a 4-1 lead, and try to get the baserunner to slow down until you can see whether the ball will be caught or not. If it is caught he should have time to get back to first base and if it is not caught, he will at least advance to second so you will have runners at first and second with nobody out.

If you don't get the baserunner's attention, there may be a double play if the outfielder catches the ball. Then you lose a chance for a big inning which could put the game on ice with only three innings remaining.

I say be conservative - then the worst scenario will be a baserunner at first with one out.

I know that at the little league level where I coach, it is relatively easy to get the baserunner's attention by yelling at him because the crowd of about twelve people (that's the parents, total of both teams, that bother to show up) will not drown out my voice as I call out to the players. I am not sure how you get the attention of major league players when there is a big crowd yelling. Hopefully at that level, the players are coached well enough to always look at you for instructions although I must admit I have seen major league players make bone-headed plays on the base paths.

Tony Timberlake
Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

"You should point to the ball. The baserunner should watch the fielders while standing short of second base."

Tom Hagan

"If I were to see the outfielder's numbers, I would have the baserunner continue to run, but not past second base. As soon as I had a better idea of the fate of the ball, I would direct him either back to first, or on to third with the possibility of going home."

Matt Bianchi

"I would holler something like "Fly ball Jason, Fly ball, half way". If the ball was caught, I would say "get back, get back". If it was dropped I would say "GO go go!" There's always a chance that you'll know that the ball will definitely drop before it hits the ground because of the outfielder's ability and where the ball was hit (eg. in a gap). You might send him early for the advantage, but you have to definitely know it will drop even though it's good to give Varitek and his slow catching knees a jump and possibly a chance to score. You still have two outs left if the ball is caught and you don't want Jason to get doubled up. With him half way if the ball is dropped, he'll still get second base and you have three more outs to make something happen."

Alex LaChance

"My reaction depends on the trajectory of the ball.

Gary Voelker

"As the third base coach I would yell to Varitek to stop halfway. Get his attention any way you can!! I would then determine by a judgement call whether or not the ball was going over the left fielder's head. Don't forget that Jefferson is still running too. If I saw that the left fielder had no chance at the ball, I would have Varitek keep running. However, if it looked as if the left fielder would catch the ball, I would send Varitek back to first."

Chris Moriarty

"Providing you "see" that the ball could possibly be caught, hold Jason at second until the outcome is known. If the ball falls, he should be able to clearly see how quickly the left fielder gets to the ball and react accordingly. If this hesitation in anyway causes Jefferson to have to stay at first with a single, you still have two aboard with nobody out and a three run lead versus a weak-hitting Florida club."

Cleveland, Ohio

"In this situation, the runner is unaware of the batted ball. In this case, he should be picking up the third base coach no later than two-thirds of the way to second base. When he picks me up, I am pointing straight up, in the direction of the ball in left field. This helps the runner pick up the ball and the outfielder and make an appropriate decision. If he doesn't see the ball, he can read the outfielder's body language and positioning (still going back, sprinting, camping under it). Since the ball to left was hit "deep," my baserunner should have time to reach second base, and still sprint back to first and beat the relay. After all, from first base, any fly ball means the runner will advance as far as he possibly can and still be able to get back safely."


"I would have the runner go only half way. He must be able to go either to second (if the ball is not caught) or back to first if it is caught. The odds are not good to beat a throw to second. We have a better chance to return to first. With the score 4-1, you do not want to sacrifice an out unnecessarily."

Mike Sollows

"I would myself (in Little League) keep the runner going. At best, you could have runners on second and third with nobody out. This gives you the opportunity to blow the game wide open. If the runner tags in our parks, he will still be thrown out at second. With the situation you gave, I keep the runners going. I think the benefit far outweighs the risk. Don't play for one run if you are up by three. Take the opportunity to bury the team now. If successful, the bullpen will surely appreciate it."

Rennald Holland

"Hold Varitek at second until you see if ball is caught. If it is, he should have plenty of time to get back to first. We are up 4-1. There is noone out. There is no need to get him to third in this situation."


Thanks for answering my situation. Be sure to include your name and where you are from with each response.

Good luck until next time!

All my best,


That's it for "Lost on the Bases".

Updated August 4, 1998