In addition to transmitting signs, a third-base coach is responsible for directing most of the on-base traffic. The decision to hold a runner at third rather than send him home is not made on whim. It is based on close study of players, both friends and foes.
"Ray Shore is our advance scout, and I pick up stuff from reports he sends in," Grammas says. "Lots of little things affect the outcome of a play, so I keep up-to-date on how outfielders are charging balls and how well they are throwing."
Combining this with his knowledge of the Reds' base-running capabilities. Grammas often predetermines what he wants a runner to do on a ball hit to the outfield. But even such a routine decision is subject to instantaneous change once the play unfolds.
"For example, if the ball takes a waist-high hop so the outfielder can throw quickly," Grammas says, "I'm more likely to hold a runner than if the fielder has to reach up or bend down to catch the ball."
With fractions of a second frequently the difference between a runner being safe or out. Grammas is alert to the smallest details. One of the most minuscule: if a left-handed-throwing rightfielder or a right-handed-throwing leftfielder has to move toward center field to pick up a ball, it takes a split second longer for him to release the ball because he must pivot into position before making his throw. It is just the sort of situation in which the speedy Reds, at Grammas' behest, will take the extra base.