First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a baserunner in order to score a run for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense who fields the area nearest first base, and covers most plays made at that base. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.
- Reaching base on a fielding error;
- Receiving a base on balls as a hitter;
- Being hit by a pitch while batting;
- Reaching base on a fielder's choice;
- Reaching base due to the catcher obstructing his swing while batting (catcher's interference);
- A dropped third strike with two outs and/or an unoccupied first base, with the batter reaching first base before being tagged or thrown out; and
- Runner interference, in which a ground ball hits a runner who is called out, and the batter is awarded first base.
Whenever the batter-runner reaches first base by a hit or by any of these means, he is permitted to overrun first base after reaching it. On such an overrun, the runner is not in jeopardy—he cannot be tagged out. This protection is limited; if the runner makes any move toward second base, or fails to immediately return to first base, he is once again in jeopardy and will be out if tagged. Runners will typically turn to their right, toward foul ground, to make it clear to the umpire that they are not making a move toward second base, though this is not required by the rules.
Also called 1B, first base, first sacker or cornerman, the first baseman is ideally a tall player with good flexibility. The flexibility is needed for two main reasons. The first baseman receives throws from other infielders, the catcher and the pitcher after they have fielded ground balls. He must be able to stretch to the ball before the runner gets to the base on close plays. Also, first base is often referred to as "the other hot corner"—the "hot corner" being third base—and he must have reflexes to field the hardest hit balls down the foul line, mainly by left-handed batters.
Players who throw left-handed are preferred at this position because after catching a batted ball, or a ball thrown by the catcher or pitcher, they do not have to turn before throwing the ball to another base.
When there is no runner on first base, the first baseman usually stands behind first base, about 10 feet off the foul line. When there is a runner on first base, the first baseman may stand in front of the base to prepare for a pickoff attempt. In a fielding play, the first baseman generally stands with his off-glove foot touching the base, and then stretches toward the throw. This stretch is to decrease the amount of time it takes the throw to get to first, and encourage the umpire to call close plays in favor of the fielding team. The first baseman may have the responsibility of cutting off errant throws from the outfield to home plate. The first baseman's mitt is elongated, has a wide webbing, and no individual fingers. This design makes it efficient at trapping errant throws, particularly those which bounce.
Because the nature of play at first base often requires first baseman to stay close to the bag to hold runners in place or to reach the bag before the batter, first baseman are not typically expected to have the speed, agility, and quickness required of infielders and outfielders. As a result, first base is (with the exception of the designated hitter) the easiest position on the baseball diamond to fill, a notion further evidenced by the fact that many players will move to first base later in their careers, as their range and athleticism decline. Due to this relative abundance of players at the position, and because first basemen are often among the taller players on a team, they are almost universally expected to be among their teams' stronger hitters.
|Outfielders:||Left field | Center field | Right field|
|Infielders:||3rd base | Shortstop | 2nd base | 1st base|
Hall of Fame first basemen
Other notable first basemen
NOTES: Bold indicates a currently active player. Italics indicates first basemens became the team's Designated Hitter.
- § Converted from shortstop to replace the departing first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, starting in the 2006 season.
- ǂ Erstad moved back to center field in order to make room for Casey Kotchman and Robb Quinlan starting in the 2006 sesaon.