By Eric Johnson
Third base can be a changeable position at the college level. Ideally most teams would like to have a big hitter with above-average defensive skills. However, you’ll see players with lots of different skill sets playing third.
The key to being a collegiate third baseman is being a good situational thinker. As a third baseman, you’ll be responsible for a lot of the plays put on by your team. In many programs, you’ll call the bunt plays, and be one of the main actors in them. You’ll always have huge responsibilities for first and third plays. You are going to have to be one of the captains of the infield and will have to be aware of the hitter’s situation on every pitch.
Teams will have scouting reports that include your defensive strengths and weaknesses at third base. If you don’t crash well on bunts, they’ll exploit that. Learn to compensate for your weaknesses. Cheat in on players that can play the short game. Hug the lines to cut off the double on righties that are dead-pull hitters. As a third baseman, you can take away hits by being smart and moving just a step or two in any direction depending on the hitter.
As a hitter, third basemen usually stereotype as the middle of the order, RBI guys. This is far from universal. Teams use different types of guys at third, depending on the choices they have. But the most common third baseman is going to be a run producer. If you really want to play third, learn how to have a successful approach at the plate with runners in scoring position. This does not mean you have to hit balls into the gaps and out of the ballpark. It means you have to know how to take a good at bat with a runner at second or third. A run producer does not blink when the pressure is on. When there are runners in scoring position, a good hitter has to stick with his approach towards the middle of the field and not get overly excited. A hitter who tries to crush balls in that situation will get himself out. A hitter who tries to barrel balls to the middle of the field to pick up his hits and RBIs will have success.
If you want to be a third baseman at the college level, be realistic with yourself right now about your strengths and weaknesses. If you think that you’re both offensively and defensively sound, focus on situational play, or the mental game. Third base is a well-rounded position. Make yourself into a well-rounded player.