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In Baseball, What is a Middle Infielder?

A man playing baseball.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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In baseball, a middle infielder is a player whose position is one of the two infield positions that are closest to second base — either shortstop or second baseman. The term "middle infielder" is based on the fact that second base is closest to the middle of the field; first base and third base are on the sides, next to the foul lines. The shortstop plays on one side of second base — the side closer to third base, or the left side when viewed from home plate — and the second baseman plays on the other side of second base. The first baseman and third baseman are called corner infielders.

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Responsibilities

Playing a middle infield position requires a great deal of athletic ability, especially agility and quickness. Middle infielders typically must be able to cover more ground than corner infielders, which means that they must be quick enough to run a greater distance in time to field a ball that has been hit. Either the second baseman or shortstop usually is responsible for catching a throw to second base, so they must maintain constant communication to determine which player will cover the base in the various situations that might occur. Which player covers the base typically depends on factors such as who is throwing the ball to second base; where the ball went, if it was hit; or whether a right-handed batter or left-handed batter is at the plate, if a runner at first base is trying to steal second and the throw is coming from the catcher.

Double Plays

One key aspect for a middle infielder is turning a double play. This occurs when a runner is on first base and the batter hits a ball to any of the infielders, the pitcher or the catcher. The infielders then coordinate to throw out both the runner heading toward second base and the batter running toward first base. When both players are thrown out successfully in the same play, this is called a double play.

The most common type of double play involves both middle infielder positions, as well as the first baseman, and is called a 6-4-3 double play, with the numbers indicating the player’s position on a scorecard. This type of play means that the shortstop fielded the ball, then flipped or threw it to the second baseman covering the base, and the second threw the ball to first base to record the second out. This type of double play requires communication and agility on the part of both middle infielders. Agility also is important, because the runner attempting to reach second base often will try to slide into and thereby disrupt the middle infielder who is trying to turn the double play. The middle infielder often must be able to throw the ball to first base while leaping out of the way of the sliding runner, in order to avoid a collision and possibly an injury.

Gloves

Middle infielders often wear smaller gloves than most other players on the field, with second basemen typically wearing the smallest. Wearing a smaller glove helps the middle infielder be able to reach into the glove after catching the ball and take out the ball quickly to throw it. This is important after the infielder fields a batted ball, and it is crucial when he or she is trying to quickly turn a double play. Even a slight delay or fumble as the middle infielder tries to take the ball out of the glove could mean the difference between the batter being safe or out at first base.

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Discuss this Article

backdraft
Post 5

It should be pointed out too that playing the middle infield can be be a dangerous position on a baseball diamond. Runners will try to disrupt a double play by sliding into the legs of middle infielders. In some extreme circumstances they may even try to drive the spike on their cleats into the infielders legs. Oftentimes, these players have to practice self defense while they are playing defense.

tigers88
Post 4

@chivebasil - Infielders do have specialized gloves, but they are not drastically different than other kinds of gloves. The webbing is a little more curved and cup like to make it easier to scoop ground balls out of the dirt. These gloves are also made to be super durable since infielders get the largest share of balls hit to them.

chivebasil
Post 3

Do these players wear a special infielder baseball glove? It seems like they might need more webbing in their glove to catch ground balls and they also need to be able to get the ball out of their glove quickly to make a fast throw.

summing
Post 2

I think the double play is one of the most exciting sights in baseball or in any sport for that matter. The lightning fast coordination and precision that happens between three different players is really remarkable. It kind of makes me think of the alley-oop in basketball except even harder. When a double play is executed successfully it looks like ballet.

jonrss
Post 1

Playing the middle infield is one of the hardest positions in baseball and it is often these players who are responsible for the most spectacular plays. We have all seen shortstops who dive through the air horizontally to snatch a ball or successfully field a ball that is bouncing unpredictably through the dirt. Every team has middle infielders, but there have been few truly great ones in baseball history just because these positions are so hard to play.

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