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Pitcher Cover First – Practice Makes Perfect

Imagine this: It’s the bottom of the ninth in the championship game, bases loaded, two outs, and your team is clinging to a one-run lead. The batter hits a sharp grounder to the left of the mound, right between the pitcher and first baseman. In that instant, the game’s outcome hinges not solely on talent, but on a play you’ve drilled into your team’s routine—the pitcher covering first.

Incorporating this routine into your practice sessions and warm-ups not only sharpens your team’s execution but also highlights your knowledge and skills as a coach. While this situation might arise only a few times a season, when it does, you’ll prevent the dreaded infield hit that could lead to a coaching debacle.

Life Lessons

I’ve always told my players that baseball isn’t just a sport but a masterclass in life. The sport teaches us patience, resilience, the value of teamwork, and the importance of practice to hone your skills and ensure you’re never outworked by the competition.

It’s very common to hear from young players, “I don’t need to practice because anyone can do it,” until they fail miserably during a game. Whether it’s the discipline of daily practice or adapting to the game’s ups and downs, I’ve tried to instill baseball lessons that go far beyond the outfield.

So, let’s break down what the pitcher covering first (PCF) base is and why we need to practice it.

What is PCF?

First, let’s clarify that this scenario usually applies to a hard grounder, not a weakly hit dribbler. There are two primary reasons why a pitcher needs to cover first base when a grounder is hit between the gap:

  • Reason #1 – After throwing a pitch, it is very difficult for the pitcher to reposition his body to field a sharply hit grounder.
  • Reason #2 – When the first baseman aggressively moves towards the gap, his momentum makes it difficult for him to turn around and get back to the base.

For these reasons, most skilled teams practice and execute a flawless defensive play where the pitcher becomes the pseudo first baseman.

The Play

When a hard grounder is hit to the pitcher’s left, he needs to bolt to first base using a ‘banana route’. A banana route is when the pitcher aims two-thirds down the line, then peels off parallel to it, running alongside the runner and stepping on first base with his right foot before veering left. Why not just sprint directly to the base? There are several reasons:

  • A direct sprint can lead to a collision with the runner, or worse, the pitcher could get stepped on by metal cleats (remember, pitchers are valuable assets).
  • A direct sprint forces the pitcher to awkwardly look back at the first baseman to catch the ball, which may result in him dropping it.

It is also important for the first baseman to throw to the spot where the pitcher will be, or else the ball could end up behind the pitcher.



During pitcher’s fielding practice (PFPs), explain and demonstrate to your players why this defensive play must be learned and executed properly. The initial phase of teaching your pitchers and first basemen the drill should start with 4 to 6 repetitions. Once they have mastered the skill, the drill should be repeated during every practice with 3-4 repetitions.

During pre-game infield practice, most teams work the ball to the infielders only. Keeping in mind that young players often get nervous and forget their roles on game day, line up your pitchers and first basemen for PCF practice at the end of the warm-up.

Step # 1 – Avoiding the Collision (A,B)

When a grounder is hit between the pitcher’s mound and first base, the pitcher needs to sprint using a ‘banana route’ to first. This is done by instructing the pitcher to aim about two-thirds down the foul line (on a 60×90 field, this would be about 50 feet), then adjust to run parallel to it, reaching first safely without a collision hazard.

Step #2 – First the ball, then the play (C,D)

Remember, the pitcher doesn’t have the luxury of time to look around. His initial move must always be toward first base. You should emphasize to the pitcher that he must secure the ball in his mitt before looking toward first base. This sequence helps avoid missteps and keeps the play smooth.

Wrapping up – No Blame Game

Many youth players experience natural nerves on game day. This nervous energy can cause kids to freeze during what should be routine plays, so it’s crucial to consistently practice defensive maneuvers like the Pitcher Covers First (PCF) until they become second nature.

As a coach, remember that your players’ performance on the field ultimately reflects on you. If a pitcher remains on the mound while the batter takes an easy base, that indicates a gap in your coaching, not the player’s fault. I’ve seen too many young pitchers unfairly blamed for these oversights.

I’d like to wrap up by sharing a personal story. One season, while coaching a recreation team that included several of my travel players, including my son, we witnessed a flawless execution of the PCF by my son (pitcher) and a first baseman who was also a travel team player. Their smooth performance left the other kids in awe, eager to learn how to execute the play themselves.

This is the kind of environment you want to create—one where kids are inspired to learn and play more baseball.