Head Coaches: Coach First Base, Not Third

article submitted by Joe Ferraro

Jason Ryals is the head coach at Pebblebrook (GA) High School and owner of Tomahawks Baseball Academy, who I met first met when he reached out to me with kind words for our KWBaseball.com podcast.

It did not take long to notice that he is both passionate about teaching and an innovator, which has led him to quite an intriguing idea- the head coach (or at least the head offensive coach) should coach first base instead of third:

Here is an abstract of my interview with him:

Why do so few coaches coach first?

Jason: “It’s a coach’s job to think, process, and then simplify for teaching. I research, read, discuss, and then process everything. Some of it dies at the coaches meeting, some spurs other ideas.

Then we go test in a controlled setting- a game- the best time to test ideas is during a blowout.

I learned that from a coach that bunted nine runs up and told me “we are going to work on stuff. Throw us out.”

I get asked all the time: Why are you at first? Why aren’t you at third?

I want to control our running game. How are you going to do that when it’s the fifth inning and not one of your players has reached second base? I used to coach third because ‘that’s where the head coach goes.’ Then when I really started implementing our base running system, I quickly found myself wanting to scream instructions across the field.

Does anyone have a sign for when the catcher’s knee touches the ground to when he lets go of the ball?

I have a rule with everyone that screws up. If you can tell me why you did what you did then I’m okay. Let’s discuss it and adjust for next time. You can’t learn if you don’t fail. If you cannot tell me why, then we have a problem. If you have your players so uptight from fear of messing up then I guarantee you they will screw up now.

How are athletes successful? They are confident.”

How does your system work?

“I verbally tell the base runners who is at first when he comes back to the bag. We have hand signals for runners on second. The third base coach looks at me as soon as the play is dead and I give him a signal of what I want. After a while he knows my tendencies so he kind of knows what I am going to do before I do it. Then he will do physical signals to hitter. While this is happening, runners are getting into position. They are instructed to peek at the third base coach and anything he says overrules me. This eliminates confusion. I may have seen something and changed the play or my coach saw something and has an idea. Our coaches are communicating with each other the whole time we are out there. Sometimes the third base coach has the better angle and sometimes I do. My coaches have freedom to call plays because I have trained them to think like me and what to look for.”

Coach Ryals’ Benefits of Coaching First Base over Third:

  1. Control the length of the lead at first base
  2. Help read the pick off move
  3. Talk to your players between pitches
  4. Can better instruct batter runner on his way to 1B

For the full interview, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ2aZUkBWO8

You can find Coach Ryals at http://www.eatbaseball.com, his charts at http://www.coachingcharts.com/ and on Twitter @CoachRyals

For more information on Joe’s podcast, visit kwbaseball.com and @FerraroOnAir

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