Baseball Coaching – Don’t Forget Your Catchers

There’s this certain “thing” about baseball coaching and baseball practices that I’ve noticed over the years. It isn’t just High School teams or just teams in summer leagues…it’s a common problem the way I see it. Some teams/coaches can be worse than others when it comes to this, but many times it appears to be much the same story.

If you are a baseball coach, player, or have watched a lot of team practices, you’ve gotten the idea that repetition is a BIG thing. Repetition is what develops the “Muscle Memory” that allows the brain and body to perceive a complicated task as just an ordinary routine task. Many coaches know this and if you watch a number of different teams practicing you’ll see the following things being practiced over and over and over:

  • Batters hitting off tees
  • Batters doing soft toss
  • Batters practicing bunting
  • Infielders taking ground ball after ground ball until they “get it right”
  • Outfielders taking fly balls and ground balls
  • Outfielders practicing cutoffs, throws to third, throws to second and home
  • Shortstops and second basemen turning double plays
  • Pitchers throwing and throwing
  • Pitchers running banana routes
  • Pitchers throwing over to first…pickoffs to second

Now, think back to these same practices. How many times did you see one of the coaches take two or three catchers and go off somewhere and block balls in the dirt? Correctly, I mean. And not three, four or five balls at the very end of practice. I mean a bucket or two each. In the dirt, center, left and right…correctly. Probably not often, maybe never.

How much footwork did you see the catchers doing at practice? Did you see coaches working the feet? I mean with no baseball or throwing…just footwork…fast, correct footwork. You probably didn’t see that or remember just a little bit in the season.

Did you see the catchers fielding bunts down third and first and making the play? Again, not one or two. I mean ten times, like the reps all of the other infielders got when practicing their required skills.

What I mostly see is common…throws to second and a few to third and first during infield practice. That means a catcher might throw down to third three or four times. Big deal. During a practice, a shortstop will field fifteen to twenty ground balls and make the throw to first.

Now, here’s the part that’s even more funny. During games, now, the coaches have the same expectations of the catchers and their skills as they do their shortstop, second and third basemen. If there is a bunt down the first base line and the catcher throws it away, it’s possible he’ll get hammered by a coach. But it’s also possible that he hasn’t practiced that throw since the beginning of the season. I think this is one reason why I see so many balls thrown away at third and first by catchers. There just isn’t enough repetition there. No “Muscle Memory.”

Seasons start out with good intentions…with a lot of promises. The catchers will do this and the catchers will do that. But guess what? It usually ends up the same way in a relatively short time. The catchers will do a little bit of infield and then go right to the mounds to catch pitchers. All of the pitchers. At the same time, when it’s getting dark, everyone’s tired, parents are waiting and the coach who is pitching to what he thinks is the last batter turns around and yells, “Who hasn’t hit yet?”

Guess who raises their hands? You got it. The two catchers. So they’ll bat last. Coach is tired. He’ll throw some to one catcher and then some to the other. They’ll get half of the pitches that the first five guys got, if they are lucky, and these are sometimes crappy pitches anyway. Sometimes they will get the promise that they’ll hit first the next practice…right. Yet, they are expected to hit like the other guys.

I’ve watched catchers with good size and cannon arms. If someone steals and the pitch is a good one, that catcher nails the runner by two steps. Unfortunately I’ve watched these same catchers and find that they can’t block a beach ball. They’ll let the easiest ball in the dirt get by them. I’d see seven to ten balls back to the screen, runners advancing and runs scoring. This just tells me the coach found a guy with a cannon arm and basically did nothing else with him. Happens a lot.

But I’ve seen some great coaches who have coached their catchers well and boy these guys are great to watch. You can immediately recognize a well coached catcher. They are just fun to watch. Umpires love them.

So coaches, don’t forget your catchers. They’ll win you for you games if you help them…they’ll lose games for you if you don’t. They have more skills to master than the other players. That’s just the nature of the position. They need time too. Not at the end of practice when everyone’s tired and wants to go home, either.

Oh, one more thing…Don’t Forget Your Catchers.

What Should A 10 Year Old Practice To Play Catcher In Little League?

This is my second article about what a Little League catcher needs to practice. If you have not read the first article, please read “What Should An 8 Year Old Practice To Play Catcher In Little League?” before continuing. Once they have mastered those concepts, they will be ready to move on. At this age, it is important to work on the footwork, as that will help them with everything else they will learn. Then they should work on blocking more pitches, including those that are to their left and right. Another new element for them in this age division is the fact that the runners can run, either stealing bases or advancing when a catcher cannot handle a pitch. This gives the catcher an opportunity to throw more runners out. Finally, the catchers will need to work on making plays when the ball is hit.

A catcher’s footwork is essential to their success. A catcher who has good feet can get to more wild pitches, throw more runners out, and get to more balls in time to make the out. This footwork starts with the squat. The feet should be about shoulder width apart. The catcher should be on their toes and balanced both left/right and front/back. Now the catcher is in a good solid starting position for any movement they will need to make.

The first footwork drill that they should master is a small hop to the left and right. They should try to move an entire body width without standing up. The goal is to move quickly to one side or the other and stay low enough to block a ball in the dirt. It is important to be able to do this without crossing one leg behind the other, which would cause the catcher to trip or stumble.

Then next footwork drill is going from a squat to a throwing position. This involves going from a squat where the feet are to the left and right to standing with the right foot behind and the left foot in front. Most of the catcher’s weight should be on their right foot, ready to step forward with the left to complete the throw. It is very important to be able to do this quickly. The quicker the catcher can be in a throwing position, the more runners they will be able to throw out.

Now that the catcher’s footwork is getting better, they are ready for some more difficult pitches to block. The balls should be thrown just off the plate where it will bounce before it gets to the catcher. The catcher will need to hop to the side and then block the pitch. They will need to concentrate on staying low and keeping their glove down and between their legs. When done right, the catcher will end up in the same position they do when the pitch is in the dirt over the plate.

The next step for catchers is to be able to throw to the bases. We will not worry about first base now, as that is not a throw that many catcher’s make. The most common base for a catcher to throw to is to second base. Throwing to second involves the footwork that we already worked on. The catcher needs to hop straight up, with the feet moving into throwing position. From this position, the catcher should be able to get a strong throw off. They should work on strong accurate throws. The throw needs to go to second base and not the fielder, as the fielder is usually moving when the throw is made.

The other common throw for a catcher is to third base. If there is a left-handed batter, the throw is relatively easy, as the catcher can just stand up and step towards third base. However, if there is a right-handed batter, the batter is in the way. In this case, the catcher needs to move to the left in order to clear the batter. Once that is done, the catcher should be able to throw to third. Once again, it is important to throw to the base and not to the fielder.

So far, the catchers have been working on what happens when a pitch gets to them. Now let’s look at what happens when the batter makes contact. There are three main plays that a catcher needs to practice. The first is a foul popup. Then they should practice covering bunts. And finally, they need to learn about covering home during a close play at the plate.

Foul popups are very tricky, especially the ones directly behind the plate. They tend to move back towards the field. The best way for a catcher to field these is to turn around and try to keep the ball in front of them. If the catcher over runs the ball, they will be forced to back peddle in order to catch the ball. It will take a while to get used to just how far the ball will drift. On top of that, it is hard to replicate the movement during drills. The drifting comes from how the bat hits the ball when it is pitched.

Bunt coverage is another important aspect of catching. Catchers need to be able to pounce on the ball and deliver a strong throw to first base. The best way to do this is not to run straight to the ball, but rather take a route where the catcher is going towards first base when they get to the ball. That way, when the catcher picks up the ball, all of their momentum is heading towards where they are throwing.

One of the most dangerous plays for a catcher is a close play at the plate. It is very important to be in the proper position during this play. The catcher should be in front of the plate while waiting for the throw. This gives the runner the whole plate to aim for and they will not have to make contact in order to score. Once the catcher has caught the ball, they should start moving to block the plate so they can apply the tag before the runner scores. It is very important that the catcher has their feet on the ground when they do, just in case the runner runs into them. That way, the catcher would fall backwards, but their feet will not be caught under them. Even though running into catchers is not allowed at this level, it will happen. If the catcher blocks the plate properly, the runner will not see any of the plate. And if the catcher blocks the plate late, the runner may not have time to change what they were going to do.

So to sum up, 10 year old catchers need to work on three groups of drills. The first is footwork, which the other two build on. The second is making throws to second base and third base. The last group is making plays when the ball is hit, including foul popups, bunts, and close plays at the plate. A 10 year old catcher that can do all of these things will be a standout catcher for years to come.

The Importance Of Wearing Complete Baseball Catchers’ Gear

The game of baseball is a team sport which requires the players to occupy a specific position. Some of these positions include the basemen, outfielders, catcher and pitcher. Perhaps one of the most important positions in baseball is the catcher. He is responsible for catching all the throws made by the pitcher and is oftentimes viewed by the opposing team as the only obstacle in getting a score. So why is it important to wear complete baseball catcher’s gears?

Since this position is always open to various circumstances, like being hit with a fast throw or bumped by a player of the opposing team trying to score a home, the catcher is always the one who wears the most gears. The catcher’s gears include a full-face mask, mitt, shin guards, chest protector, cup, knee savers, inner protective glove, and throat protectors.

Catcher’s Mask

Since the catcher’s face is in direct trajectory line of the ball thrown by the pitcher, he wears a full-face mask to protect it from potential serious or even fatal, injury. These masks cover the face, a great part of the sides of the head, and also the throat. Modern catcher’s masks are similar to those worn by hockey goaltenders which include protection for the top of the head.

Mitt

The mitts used by catchers are larger than the standard gloves worn by any other player on the field. It has extra padding built into it to minimize the impact of a fastball which can come hurtling at them, sometimes at the speed of over a hundred miles an hour.

Shin Guards

These gears are used to prevent an injury which might occur when base-runners advance home with their shoe cleats, or spikes, in upward position. Shin guards are also effective in protecting the knees and legs against strong impact from a fast ball that the catcher may have been unable to catch.

Chest Protectors

These gears are usually padded with rubber or plastic foam and are designed in such a way that it will protect the body of the catcher even if it gets hit by a fastball.

Cup

This is worn by catchers under their uniforms to minimize the risk of serious injury to their groin in case a wild throw by the pitcher strikes that area.

There are also other specialty gears that are worn by catchers to accord their body a maximum degree of protection. Some of these include knee savers which protect against knee ligament injuries which can be gained from prolonged squatting position of the catcher, Inner protective glove which is worn inside the mitt to help absorb the shock of a pitched ball, and throat protectors which prevent injury from being caused to the wind pipe.

Although the gears that catchers are required to wear are bulky and sometimes takes a while getting used to, they are very efficient in protecting your body against potential injuries which can be caused by a speeding ball or an opposing player running home.