Baseball is obviously a team sport, as opposed to tennis or wrestling or any of the contests in which the competition is solely between two combatants. Yet the principal drama is between the hurler and the hitter on every pitch, until the ball is in play. And then the principal action typically revolves around one fielder once the ball leaves the bat. An unusual triple play occurred over the weekend in the Rangers-White Sox game which showed a team aspect of the game on defense that underscores why clubs go through so many drills to simulate these actions during spring training.
Here’s the beauty of the sequence. The Rangers load the bases with no one out, and on an 0-1 count a ball is lined toward the right field corner setting the runners in motion. But the ball is caught on a nice play, so the runner at first scrambles to get back and the RFer fires it a bit off line to first base giving the runner ample time to return. Were there a speedier runner on 3B he would have tagged to go home, but it’s the lumbering Prince Fielder. Knowing this, the first baseman lunges after the runner who has overrun the first base bag into foul territory in his zeal to get back to the bag.
Look at the communication on the play, as the second baseman notices that Fielder has frozen a little off 3B, but the there’s a logjam there as the Rangers’ player on 2B took off for 3rd thinking Prince had ample time to lumber down the line. So the second baseman motions to the first baseman to throw home. Then watch the beautiful communication by the pitcher who has run home to back up the play — he immediately points to 2B, seeing that the runner is trying to scamper back from third toward second so he doesn’t get tripled off the base. The shortstop takes the throw and chases the runner back toward third, and the lumbering Prince now has no choice but to head home. As he does, the shortstop tosses the ball to the catcher, who throws to the third baseman to apply the tag to Prince.
The quintessential team play involving exquisite nonverbal communication.