Third base coaches are like umpires or referees. If you know their name, chances are they screwed up. But, if you are an avid follower of a certain team or a season ticket holder (particularly one with tickets along the third base line) you probably know your team’s current third base coach. Maybe even a few former ones.
There are a couple keys to being a well-liked and memorable third base coach. First, and most importantly, a third base coach can’t consistently get guys hosed. Nothing pisses fans off more than seeing a third base coach send a guy who is thrown out by 15 feet. Prime examples include former Diamondbacks’ (yes kids, they used be called the Diamondbacks) third base coach Eddie “Green Light” Rodriguez and former Firebirds/Giants/Red Sox/Cubs’ third base coach Wendell “Wave’em In” Kim. These guys never saw a ball hit to the outfield they didn’t fall in love with.
(Of course, as this MLB 09: The Show clip proves, you can’t put up a stop sign for ignorance.)
Next, a third base coach needs to have personality. This is a much more complex quality to analyze and even harder to master because these guys basically just stand around all game. By my count, there are three basic areas where a third base coach can gain notoriety by exhibiting some personality.
First, the infamous chopper foul down the third base line. We all know and love this play. Any good third base coach will try to field these balls barehanded. Any coach that merely lets them go will never be legendary. I submit to you that the best third base coaches are those who attempt and fail to field these balls cleanly. It always nice to watch an old guy (hopefully former player) get eaten up by a slow chopper. It provides a moment of genuine levity (as opposed to the manufactured crap coming out of the booth) in a sometimes monotonous game.
Second, the third base coach must have good interactions with the players that reach third base, including the all-important handshake rounding third after a home run. We have seen countless versions of these.
In case you were wondering, here’s how not to interact with a runner as a third base coach: (Sound must be on to get the full effect of this clip.)
Two quick observations on this clip:
- Riley, please see the late George Carlin’s “Guys Named Todd” rant. Sorry buddy. Hope you have a middle name.
- Don’t you just love how the kids could not CARE LESS about playing in this game but the parents are clearly stoked? Besides Riley’s ignoring the “turn-around” instruction, watch the third baseman. He is priceless. Little League. It’s FAAAAAAANTASTIC!
Lastly, when an all-out brawl starts a third base coach needs to hold his own. Nothing will get players and fans to trust a coach more than knowing he will run head first into a fight with finely tuned athletes half his age.