Skip to Content

Why Do Catchers Throw to Third After a Strikeout

Have you wondered why the catcher throws the ball around the infield after the pitcher strikes out a batter?


When you see players executing a crisp throw between infielders, what is your first impression of that team? Good? Bad?

Read below to learn why catchers immediately throw the ball to 3rd base (or to the first baseman) after every strikeout.

What does “around the horn” mean in baseball?

Baseball defines throwing the ball around after a strikeout or put out as around the horn.

The primary purpose of performing around the horn is to keep infielders mentally focused, their arms loose, and give a bit of time for the pitcher to relax and re-energize before facing the next batter.

For youth baseball players, well-executed around the horn quickly and efficiently boosts confidence. Fans also see that the junior team has matured and achieved the status of a “real” baseball team.

Throwing around the horn is also used to describe a certain double and triple plays.

Click on the image to play a video

A triple play is uncommon in baseball, but the play begins when a third baseman fields the ball, steps on the bag, then throws the ball to the second baseman. The second baseman steps on the bag and then throws the ball to the first baseman for a final out.

If your team is heading to Dreams Park or All Star Village tournaments in in Cooperstown (NY), both offer a timed, around-the-horn competition for fun.

The History Behind “Around the Horn”

How did the baseball phrase, around-the-horn, come about?

Most baseball historians think the term around-the-horn terminology originates in nautical history during the early 19th century and evolved over a long period through different teams and players (to this day, many MLB teams have their way of performing the around-the-horn throwing sequences).

Traveling by the sea

Before the Panama Canal opened in 1914, sailing ships had to travel around Cape Horn (the southern tip of Chile in South America) to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and vice versa. Going around the horn was considered the most round-about route to travel between the two coasts.

Since traveling across the country was unsafe, most folks, including baseball players, preferred the long and roundabout way (but safer) to travel by sailboat from East Coast to West Coast and back.


Today’s baseball differs from the early era because old baseball lacked formal rules and standardized equipment. Still, the desire to entertain the fans was as strong during the bygone era as today.

Since there were no clear rules about many things, both infielders and outfielders would try to outdo each other to perform circus-like acts to excite the crowds. The performance included tossing the ball around bases after a strikeout (or putout) to show off their deft, flashy glove skills.

According to Major League Baseball’s historian, John Thornton, traces the original showmanship way back in 1869. Harry and George Wright (two brothers playing for the Cincinnati Red Stocks – yes, the same famous team where the concept of baseball glove was born) would dazzle fans with their intricate infield drills prior to games

Around this time, players and fans started using the words around-the-horn to describe the roundabout way to get the ball back to the pitcher (or to travel between two coasts).

Thorn told that in the beginning, this showmanship was limited to pregame activities, but fans could not get enough of it, so the around the horn tradition began in between outs.

When do you throw the ball around the horn?

A team can go around the horn after:

  • Striking out a batter (when there are no runners on any bases)
  • Runner is putout out at first base (batted or pickoff; when there is one out of less)
  • Double or triple play that moves the ball around from third base to first

At What Age Should a Baseball be thrown around the horn?

Young ball players are still developing their throwing skills and physical strength, so it is advisable to wait until they are nine or ten before attempting to toss the ball around the horn.

Remember that there is no one set way of tossing the ball around the horn, especially in youth baseball, so you can get creative.

For a youth baseball team with inexperienced players, I suggest this around the horn pattern:

Around the horn – Pattern A (youth)
  • A – catcher takes few steps towards to third baseman before making the throw
  • B – third baseman throws to shortstop
  • C – shortstop throws to second baseman
  • D – second baseman throws to first baseman
  • E – first baseman takes a short walk towards the mound before flipping the ball to the pitcher

In youth baseball, it pays dividend to evenly distribute playing opportunity for all players so you should reverse the above pattern every other play and also swap out infielders and outfielders.

For an older and more experienced youth baseball teams, the most common pattern is this:

Around the horn – Pattern B
  • A – catcher throws to the third baseman
  • B – third baseman throws to second baseman
  • C – second baseman throws to shortstop
  • D – shortstop throws to the pitcher

Many young players feel nervous or anxious during the game that may lead to over-throws and under-throws. Most kids hit their receiver around 50% of the time, and since five consecutive throws are needed to complete the sequence, the chance of executing a successful around the horn is less than five percent!

Math Lesson
= Catcher –> Third –> Second –> Shortstop –> Third –> Pitcher
= 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5
= 3.125% chance of a successful around the horn

Around-the-horn is a type of choreography in baseball. While it is visually appealing when executed correctly, it can be time-consuming and often counterproductive, especially for youth baseball teams.

Many young players need help with this seemingly routine exercise, leading to errors that can be demoralizing and time-wasting.

Some coaches feel that it is more important to practice other essential skills rather than committing time to practice around the horn.

However, practicing precision and teamwork can dramatically improve by practicing round the horn. Around the horn is a perfect culmination of these skills, so dedicate 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each practice.

Why is first baseman ignored?

Some catchers do throw to first on occasion (identical to when an out is made at first) but for the most part, first baseman is ignored during a post-strikeout round the horn.

If you think about the game, other than a pitcher and catcher, a first baseman touches the baseball most frequently as most outs are made at first. So the logic is that first baseman is automatically more focused and loose than other infielders.

Throwing Sequence with third baseman receiving the ball from the catcher

  • Catcher throws the baseball to the third baseman
  • Third baseman throws the ball to the second baseman
  • Second baseman throws it to shortstop
  • Shortstop throws the ball back to third
  • Third baseman either walk it over or does a short flip to the pitcher

Throwing Sequence with first baseman receiving the ball from the catcher

  • Catcher throws to third
  • Third baseman throws the ball to second baseman
  • Second baseman throws to shortstop
  • Shortstop throws the ball back to third
  • Third baseman either walk it over or does a short flip to the pitcher

Even Professionals Make Mistakes

Before getting embarrassed, take a look at these videos of MLB players making mistakes while throwing around the horn. Keep remind yourself to not take baseball too seriously and help your players.

MLB – Errant throw during around the horn

Final Thought

A traditional “around the horn” is initiated after a strikeout by throwing the baseball to first or third base. Who gets the ball first in purely depended on the team and/or catcher’s preference, or even where the batter is standing.

The root of the around the horn is obscured by time

, or after a putout at first base with no runners on base.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

  • Which MLB catcher throw first for around the horn (instead of throwing to third)?
    • Ivan Rodriguez (ex-Yankee catcher) preferred to throw to first base; Wilson Ramos (Nationals catcher) varies his throws depending on the batter’s stance, etc.
  • What is the around the horn throwing order?
    • Regardless of throwing to third or first base by a catcher, the around the horn ends up with the third baseman who flips the ball back to the pitcher
  • When the catcher come behind first base to back up the throw, does he participate in around the horn?
    • Sometimes a first baseman flip the ball to the catcher so he can throw it to the shortstop
  • Who does catcher throw to after strikeout?
    • After a batter strikes out, the catcher will throw the ball either to the third or first baseman
  • What is the purpose of throwing the ball around the infield after making an out?
    • After recording an out, a ball is thrown around the infield only if there are no base runners. It’s part tradition and part an attempt to keep the infielders focused and loose
  • Why does a pitcher turn around after a striking out a batter?
    • Not all pitchers do this but most turn around to watch the ball being thrown around to help him rest and relax a bit and get mentally ready for the next batter
  • Why doesn’t the first baseman get the ball after a strikeout?
    • After pitcher and catcher, first baseman “touches” the ball more than anyone else in the infield so around the horn focuses on other infielders.