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Friday, April 5, 2013
Baseball with three players? Here's how

By Jim Caple

One of the negative aspects to baseball is that it takes a lot of players, some equipment and a diamond to play a game. And, if you're a major leaguer in Miami, a $600 million publicly funded stadium with a retractable roof.

But there are creative ways to play the game with fewer players. When I was a kid, I played a game by myself by throwing a rubber ball against the house and fielding the rebounds. I did this for endless hours every day (just ask my poor mother who endured the constant thump-thump-thump).

My brother and I also played games against each other in the backyard. We would pitch to each other and our hits would be determined by where a batted ball landed (if we didn't strike out, that is). A grounder past the pitcher was a single. A line drive past the plum tree was a double. A fly ball over the cedar trees and into the alley was a home run. A fly ball over the alley and through a neighbor's window was the end of a game.

All of this brings me to this weekend's National 3-Man Ball tournament at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Fla. What is 3-Man Ball? I'll let one of the founders of the National 3-Man Ball League explain.

"3-Man Ball is basically the pickup version to the game of baseball," Eddie Diaz replied in an email. "Growing up, putting together a full-blown game was never an easy task. 3-Man Ball allowed us to play with minimal equipment, a minimal amount of players and it's a game that we could play anywhere.

"What we enjoy most about 3-Man Ball is the fact that, for the most part, everyone is on an even playing field. Speed is not a factor on offense, arm strength is not a factor on defense and pitching is never a factor."

3-Man is described as a hybrid of baseball and softball played on a V-shaped field, with the width of the playing area ranging from 45 feet (past the infield) to 120 feet in the outfield. The game tests your fielding skills as well as your ability to place the ball as a batter.

Each side pitches underhand to itself while the other team positions three players on defense. Where you hit the ball, and whether one of the three defenders fields it, determines whether you singled, doubled, tripled, homered or made an out.

The only baserunners are phantom runners who are moved along one base when forced. A runner on second base moves to third -- and no further -- on a double. A runner on third can only score when another runner forces him off the base (with say, perhaps, a triple or bases-loaded single).

"The only challenge we see in playing the game would be individuals that try to field a team with their three best players and not their best [3-man] players," Diaz went on. "It is a fast-paced game that involves chess-like strategies. As with anything new, the other challenge is getting the word out and making 3-Man Ball a household name."

For more information on playing 3-Man, go to www.N3MBL.com.