First Base Coach Guidelines - Ron Polk [ARTICLE]

First Base Coach Guidelines

excerpt from Baseball Playbook by Ron Polk


Before the head coach allows a player or assistant coach to assume the responsibilities of being the first base coach, he needs to spend ample time with him detailing guidelines that he needs to follow in that capacity. The following are guidelines for the first base coach including the principles of base running that were detailed in the base running section of the Playbook.

  1. Hustle to and from the first base coaching box at all times.
  2. Never say anything to a member of the other team if their dugout is on the first base side. This is especially true if they were to make comments to you that you feel are not proper. Just look like you do not hear a word they are saying.
  3. Never say anything to the umpire in regard to a call that has been made that you might disagree with. This would not be applicable if the first base coach was a member of the coaching staff. If an argument does arise, allow the head coach the opportunity to represent the ball club in the dispute when he arrives on the scene.

  4. You must know the arm strength of the left fielder since you will have the responsibility to assist the batter-runner .when a ball is hit to the third base side of the shortstop. On any ball hit from the shortstop's position on over to the right field-line, the batter-runner will be responsible for his actions.
  5. Assume a position in the coaching box as deep as you can so that the batter-runner can easily pick you up as he approaches first base on a ball hit to left field. The closer you can get to the first baseline allows the runner that much better view of you as he approaches first base.
  6. When you are going to assist the batter-runner due to the nature of the ball hit, the following visual signs are to be used:
    1. when you provide no sign at all, you want the runner to run through the base for there will be a play made by an infielder at first base;
    2. when you hold both arms up in the air, you want the runner to round the base aggressively and then find the ball; and
    3. when you want the runner to attempt to reach second base on the batted ball, you will wave one or both arms in a circular manner. You will want to provide one of these three signs at about the time the runner enters the restraining area (45 feet down the first baseline from the plate). If the sign is flashed after the runner reaches this mark, it will make for a very difficult turn on the runner's part.
  7. Make sure that you are aware of all the situations in our base running principles in regard to when we want to gamble advancing to second base and when we want to be somewhat conservative. Know the speed of all the runners on the team along with their ability to make the turn at first base.
  8. You are not to assist the runner when there is an overthrow at first base either on the batted ball or when a pick-off ~attempt gets by the first baseman. This would be an errant pick-off attempt by the pitcher or by the catcher. The runner must react on his own to the ball.
  9. You are not to assist the batter-runner in his reacting to a poor throw to first base where the first baseman has to come off the base. This is the batter-runner's responsibility.
  10. Once the runner touches first base on his turn you are not to assist him in reacting to the batted ball. This is the batter-runner's responsibility.
  11. When the runner arrives at first base, you do not need to review the situation in the ball game with the runner, unless the runner is one that has a difficult time concentrating. He should be aware himself of the number of outs; inning; score; other runners on base; outfielder's arms; etc. Make sure that the runner checks the depths and positions of the outfielder before he moves off the base. He should not have to be reminded to check with the third base coach for a possible sign, but if you observe him not looking at the third base coach he will need to be reminded of that fact.
  12. Make sure that you know the signs as well as anyone on the baseball team, so that if the runner at first base is confused by a sign, he can call time out and consult with you in the coaching box.
  13. When the runner is assuming his primary lead at first base you will never yell at him to "get back" if you observe the pitcher throwing over to first base on the pick-off attempt. This is the runner's responsibility. The same holds true if the catcher attempts to pick the runner off first base on his secondary lead. The only time you will assist the runner at first base while in his primary or secondary lead is when the first baseman is playing behind the runner. In this situation, you will face the first baseman so that you can watch him at all times. You do not need to watch the pitcher. Once you see the runner begin his movement toward his secondary lead you will glance in toward the plate so that you are not hit by the batted ball. If you want the runner to take another step toward second base on his primary lead you will say' 'okay one". If you want the runner to take a step back toward first base on his primary lead you will say' 'back one". This all depends on the position of the first baseman and his possible movement toward or away from first base. If the first baseman makes a definite break toward first base you will yell "back, back, back".
  14. Assist the runner at first base in being sure that the hidden ball trick would not be successful if tried.
  15. If you are able to read the left handed pitcher's pick-off move to first base, pass along this information to the runner. Be aware of any special type of picks the pitcher has used in past games. This would also include catcher's pick-off attempts. -Once this information is passed along to the runner, you will not assist him once he achieves his lead from first base.
  16. Look for the first baseman's sign for the pick-off when playing behind the runner. This includes pick-offs from the pitcher and catcher.
  17. If the pitcher has consistently thrown the ball in the dirt at the plate, remind the runner that he can break for second base when the catcher goes to his knees. This is especially true with two outs and in a gambling situation. With a runner at third base it should be an automatic reaction by the runner at first base.
  18. Might let the base runner at first base know which side of second base the second baseman and shortstop have pivoted on the double play.
  19. Make sure that all runners at first base take the inside lead with their heels lined up with the inside of the base.
  20. With a runner at second base, and the batter receives a walk or strikes out and the ball gets by the catcher, you should wave the batter-runner down to second base as long as we are in a gambling situation.
  21. On a base hit with the play being made at the plate on another runner, the first base coach can yell at the batter-" runner to "make the throw go through". This is so the runner does not get thrown out at second base when the ball is cut-off by the cut-off man.
  22. Attempt to read the catcher's signs to the pitcher if he was to display the signs so that they can be seen by you. In like manner, observe the pitcher's particular characteristics as he may tip what pitch he is throwing. If so, you might be able to assist the batter in knowing what type of pitch the pitcher will be delivering.
  23. When the third out is made at first base, be sure to get the runner's helmet and run it back to the dugout area.

About the Author...

Legendary Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk, the winningest coach in any sport in the history of the Southeastern Conference, enters his third season as UAB's volunteer assistant coach in 2010. Polk came to UAB in the summer of 2008 after announcing his retirement from the Mississippi State program.

Polk has helped UAB to back-to-back winning seasons in his two years with the Blazers, including a 30-win campaign in 2009. He has helped the Blazers to victories in eight of 16 Conference USA series since his arrival, including 2009 series wins over both fourth-ranked Rice and eventual College World Series participant Southern Miss.

"It has been a personal highlight in life for me to be able to learn under Coach Polk in the 80's at Mississippi State and now work with him again at UAB," head coach Brian Shoop said. "I have more respect for Coach Polk than any coach in college baseball. No one has had more of an influence on our game and on countless young coaches, including myself. Our players love him and appreciate the sacrifices he makes to be involved with the UAB baseball program. We are better in so many ways because of Coach's decision to donate his time to Blazer baseball."

In July 2009, Polk was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1995. In 1988, he was presented with the Lefty Gomez Award, the highest award given by the ABCA.

Polk retired from Mississippi State in 2008, following his 29th season at the school. He ranks seventh all-time in NCAA career head coaching victories.

Polk concluded his 35-year career as a head coach with a career record of 1,373-700-2 (.662). In his career, which also included stints at Georgia Southern (1972-75) and Georgia (2000-01), Polk led his teams to a total of eight College World Series appearances, five SEC championships and 23 Regional appearances. He is one of only three coaches in college baseball history to take three different programs to the College World Series.

Polk mentored current UAB head coach Brian Shoop when the Blazer skipper was on his staff at Mississippi State from 1983-89. The Bulldogs won three SEC championships and made one trip to the College World Series during that time.

At Mississippi State, Polk recruited and coached some of the game's all-time greats, including Major League standouts Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jonathan Papelbon. Those are just a few of the 185 of his former players that have signed professional contracts and a few of the 23 that have played in the Major Leagues.

A three-time National Coach of the Year, Polk held the position of Assistant Athletics Director for Special Projects at Mississippi State following his team's College World Series run in 1997. While in that position, Polk spearheaded a successful campaign to expand Polk-DeMent Stadium in Starkville. He returned to coaching at Georgia in 2000, where he spent two years before making the move back to Mississippi State for his final seven seasons.

Perhaps Polk's most talented Mississippi State squad ever was the 1985 version. That club finished the year 50-15 and was SEC champion before going on to appear in the College World Series. The 1985 Bulldog club featured future major league stars Brantley, Clark, Palmeiro and Thigpen.

In his 35 years as a college baseball coach, Polk produced 35 All-Americans and more than 75 All-SEC performers.

In addition to Polk's work in the collegiate ranks, the Boston, Mass., native has completed seven tours as a member of the coaching staff for the USA National Baseball Team, twice serving as head coach. Two of the teams he coached represented the United States in the Olympics.

Polk has also impacted the college baseball world through his literary work. He has authored "The Baseball Playbook," the nation's leading college textbook for baseball, and is featured in the book, "6 Psychological Factors for Success: America's Most Successful Coaches Reveal the Path to Competitive Excellence."


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23 Aug 2016

By Ron Polk - Baseball Playbook
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