How to play 2nd base?

Mike Specter
Mike Specter

This is a question I was asked by one of the children on a little league team I volunteer coached two summers ago.

I answered his question with one of my own: “what’s the purpose of a second baseman?” 

He meagerly replied, “to stop people from scoring.”

From his answer, I knew the kid at least had a solid foundation. From there, we went step-by-step, using techniques handed down by some of the best coaches in the game. I’m talking about Tommy Lasorda and Bill McKechnie. That old school, pure grit and determination style. 

From my coaching experience, I developed this quick and comprehensive in-depth guide on playing second base in baseball.

From his answer, I knew the kid at least had a solid foundation. From there, we went step-by-step, using techniques handed down by some of the best coaches in the game. I’m talking about Tommy Lasorda and Bill McKechnie. That old school, pure grit and determination style.

From my coaching experience, I developed this quick and comprehensive in-depth guide on playing second base in baseball.

What core attributes does a second-base player need to succeed?

For one, the second base player needs to have great acceleration and mobility. Notice I said acceleration, not top speed. Having more speed does increase the range at which you can field balls, but it doesn’t do any good without the latter attributes. 

Since your second-base player will primarily make throws to first base, or the shortstop, a ton of arm strength isn’t necessary. However, accuracy is key. So is a keen reaction and hand-eye coordination.

Other attributes and skills a second base player needs may include

Old Fashioned Grit

In order to play second with any success, you can’t be afraid to get dirty. 

This position is going to require you to slide, dive and use your body to block the ground ball in unorthodox ways. require you to dive or slide to stop a ground ball. Depending on how you and the shortstop work, you may be required to get on your knees and block a throw to second base if it’s off-line.

You may also be forced to absorb contact with a runner trying to get to second base or return to it.

You have to be aware. Second base is the bag that runners try to steal most often, and it’s also the bag where the most action surrounds double-play opportunities.

All of the above situations will put the second basemen in close contact with a runner who is moving at a high rate of speed, along with a ball traveling to the bag at a high rate of speed as well.

Second-base players must have good hands

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Along with the necessary hand-eye coordination, it takes a solid set of hands to play second base well.

Not only must they be able to snatch ground balls and line drives out of the air or off the ground while on the run, but they must have great handwork in shifting the ball from the glove to the hand and into a throw in one smooth motion.

This exchange from glove to throwing hand may seem like a simple thing to do, but second basemen must master it to cut down on the amount of time it takes for the ball to get from them to the end destination.

Basic responsibilities of a second base player

Above all, a second baseman must be able to make snap decisions and think on his/her feet, atop their other many responsibilities.

As a second baseman, the right side of the infield is your domain – anything hit between second base and the right foul line becomes your responsibility. If he can get to the ball, he should do so. If the ball is hit toward the first baseman, it is his job to back up the play. If the ball gets into the outfield, he should sprint out onto the grass and act as a cutoff man.

For balls hit between the second base and the left foul line, the player should always cover the bag. This way, he or she can cover a throw from the shortstop or third baseman.

A very important part of any responsibility is knowing when to delegate. To this end, the shortstop and second baseman should always understand where each will position themselves during certain play opportunities.

Advanced responsibilities of a second base player

When a runner is on first base with less than two outs, second base’s top priority should always be to secure a double play. If fielded near the bag, the player should know whether to step on the bag himself or to make the throw to second base via the underhand toss.

However, the player should always bear in mind that the first responsibility is a sure out – make the throw to first if he does not think he has a chance to get the runner at second.

In the event of a bunt, the shortstop will be covering third base, where the third baseman will be charging the ball. This leaves the second wide open, meaning that the second baseman must cover the bag at second. If a runner was on first, remember that your presence is what keeps them from progressing at this moment.

Don’t try to position yourself between the shortstop and the ball. You’ll make them mess up an easy play opportunity. 

Whenever a runner attempts to steal second, both the shortstop and second baseman should break for the bag. Usually, the shortstop will cover the base, while the second baseman will back up the play a good ten feet deep. This is where delegation and practice come into play.

However, if the shortstop does not make it (for whatever reason), the second baseman *must* take the bag.

If you do play second base, and some of these techniques haven’t been driven home, no worries. It is advanced and will take routine intervention on your coach’s part to help you really drill down the muscle memory.

Once you have it down, you’ll become a force. And the opposition is sure to stay out of your way.

Three tips for anyone who plays second base

Improve your footwork

You have to be quick on your feet as a second baseman.

Running shuffling drills and working shifting weight on the balls and heels of your feet is effective for footwork. So are toe taps on the ground, or the side of the bag.

Strengthen your body

You don’t need to be a tank. So don’t go looking up powerlifting routines. You just need a strong arm to increase velocity for plays to first, third, and home base. Simple and low-resistance weight training and endurance work will do the trick here.

Watch other second basemen

Listening to a coach, like myself can tell you is valuable. However, perhaps the best way to learn is by watching how other successful second basemen play the game.

Pick a favorite player and notice the finer points of their game. Watch their body position, and how they shift weight when throwing to first base, as opposed to third. And watch how they do the things your own coach notes that you have a deficiency in.

Learning from those at the top of baseball does wonders for helping your game develop into a professional skill.

Bring it home

Not only is second base one of the most important positions on the field, but it’s also one of the most demanding. 

It’s certainly not an easy position to master. There’s a lot of ground to cover.

Plus, the position naturally takes right-handed throwers and faces them away from first base, making throws to that base much tougher than at other positions. The pros make it look like cake. But trust me, it took years of frustration, trial, and error to make it that effortless.

Second base coverage is absolutely vital and should be filled by one of the best defensive players on your team. If coached correctly, it can be a keystone of your defensive effort.

If you enjoyed reading and learning from this article, see our related articles for more tips on refining your game to the level of a professional athlete.

Mike Specter
Mike Specter
Mike hold's a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Minnesota and has held managerial and baseball head coaching roles at the college level. Mike currently consults with several professional athletes and clients in the areas of self-accountability, health, and goal orientation.