A third baseman, abbreviated 3B, is the player in the sport of baseball whose responsibility is to defend the area nearest to third base, the third of four bases a baserunner must touch in a counterclockwise succession in order to score a run. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the third baseman is assigned the number 5.
The third baseman requires good reflexes in reacting to batted balls, as they are often the closest infielder (roughly 90-120 feet) to the batter. They also need a strong arm, since they have the farthest to throw to first base after fielding ground balls, and sometimes must throw quickly to second base in time to start a double play. The third baseman must also field fly balls in fair and foul territory.
Third base is known as the "Hot Corner", since most right-handed hitters will tend to hit the ball hard in this direction. In this situation, the third baseman needs fine hand-eye coordination and quick reactions in order to catch hard line drives. And third basemen often must begin in a position even closer to the batter if a bunt is expected, creating a hazard if the ball is instead hit sharply. As with middle infielders, right-handed players are standard at the position because they do not need to turn their body before throwing across the infield to first base. Some third basemen have been converted from middle infielders or outfielders since the position does not require them to run as fast.
Expectations of how well a third baseman should be able to hit have varied a great deal over time; in the early years of the sport, these expectations were similar to those for shortstops, the third baseman being merely the less skilled defensive player. Players who could hit with more ability often were not suited for third base, either because they were left-handed or because they were not mobile enough for the position. However, the beginning of the live-ball era in the 1920s created a greater demand for more offense, and third basemen have since been expected to hit either for a high average (.290 or better) or with moderate to substantial power. Since the 50s the position has become more of a power position with sluggers such as Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt and Ron Santo becoming stars. Brooks Robinson is generally considered the greatest defensive third-baseman of all-time. George Kell was a prominent third-baseman of the 1940's and 1950's who combined high batting average with great defenswive skill, and he was selected for the Hall of Fame. He is probably most famous for narrowly edging out Ted Williams for the 1949 AL batting title, .34291 to .34276 .
With the notable exception of John McGraw, surprisingly few third basemen have gone on to have successful managing careers, with Jimmy Dykes and Negro Leaguer Dave Malarcher being perhaps the next most prominent managers who began their careers at third base.
|Outfielders:||Left field | Center field | Right field|
|Infielders:||3rd base | Shortstop | 2nd base | 1st base|