There are many skills and much knowledge that baseball catchers must have to be successful. A good baseball catcher is the foundation of a championship baseball team. If you have a skilled catcher that can field, throw and talk the game, you are well on your way to building a strong team. Here are 20 coaching points we teach our catchers.
We will always have at least 4 catchers in our program each year. Two Junior Varsity catchers and 2 varsity catchers make up our catching staff each year. Here are 12 basic things that we teach our catchers to know or do. There are others things but here are the basic 12 we start with.
1. Wear your chest protector loosely. Do not strap it on too tightly. If the chest protector is too tight to the chest, the ball will bounce farther away from the body on a block. A loose fitting chest protector deadens the energy of the ball on impact allowing the ball to fall closer to the plate.
2. With no runners on base, keep the bare had behind your back. With runners on base, depending on the level of play, the catcher may position the bare hand behind the mitt.
3. The correct blocking position requires that you drop immediately to you knees. Learn to drop to block. Kick your feet back from under your body and get the knees on the ground as soon as possible.
4. The correct blocking position has the mitt in a flattened out or vertical position to block the hole under the crotch. The mitt must be flat and vertical to prevent a ball from ramping or deflecting upward off of the mitt.
5. The correct blocking position has the chin tucked, the upper body slightly leaned forward, and the elbows slightly out from the body.
6. The correct blocking position has the bare hand behind the mitt.
7. If you see that pitch is going to be in the dirt assume the blocking body position immediately. Learn to react quickly. Do consider catching it, you job is simply to keep the ball in front.
8. If time allows use a circling or rounding technique to get around the ball and direct it back to the plate. This is possible with slow pitches but is impossible to do with high velocity pitchers. Keeping the shoulders square is the only alternative when your pitcher is throwing the heat.
Know where the breaking ball in the dirt will bounce and position yourself a shade in that direction when you drop to block.
9. Know how to hide signs when you give them. Keep the legs as close as possible. Keep the sign hand as deep as possible and high enough that the fingers are in the crotch and not visible below. Put your left forearm your left thigh. Turn your arm so your mitt palm is in the hand-shake position off the front of your knee. This will prevent the 3rd base coach from stealing signs.
10. Establish a good rapport with the umpire. Keep the climate positive around the plate. Should he ask you a question, always respond with a Yes, Sir or No Sir. Do not turn around on any calls and never shake your head in reaction to an umpires call. Making an umpire mad is easiest done by two players on the field, the catcher and the pitcher. Do not dig a hole for you team by showing negative emotion.
11. When a ball needs to be retrieved near home plate. There are two people that can go get it, the catcher or the umpire. If you are lazy and make the umpire pick it up, you are asking for trouble. Hustle and get every ball and hand it to the umpire.
12. Run out to the plate between innings. Walking out sets a bad tone. Make quick crisp throws back to the pitcher during warm-ups.
13. Talk and communicate on every play. Make loud calls that everyone can hear.
14. Move slightly outward during the game to see how far off the plate the umpire will call a pitch a strike. If you move so far that he calls it a ball move slightly back in and know where that magic spot is so that you can use it to get the call on the outer half of the plate.
15. Keep the mitt low. It takes more effort to keep the mitt at a low target spot but you must do it. It is important to keep your pitcher down in the zone.
16. On pop-ups do not remove or discard the mask until you know exactly where the ball is. If you throw the mask too early, you may trip or stumble over it as filed the ball.
17. On a passed ball or wild pitch learn to execute the slide-by and pick up technique with your throwing hand. As you slide by the ball, you pick it up, come up on your left knee and make the throw to the pitcher covering home. The throw must be low and at a tag high spot to insure that the tag can be quickly applied to the runner.
18. When making throws to the bags stay low. Learn to get the ball up as soon as possible. The action requires getting the elbows up and even as if they are on a table. Step directly toward the target. Drive the hips through on the throw. Do not take unnecessary steps, catch the ball and fire it. Get on top of your throw and learn to throw hit a tag high spot at the base every time.
19. When making you throw to 2nd between innings, take it serious, and make a solid throw. Lobbing the ball down there is useless.
20. Learn to discreetly frame. Meaning that you should learn to frame with making it so obvious. Always try to get outside the ball and catch it coming back toward the strike zone. Do not hold the catch spot too long because that will only agitate the umpire.
I know that there are many other things that catchers must know, but this was as many as I could think of at the moment. I hope that this information is beneficial to you and your team.
Good luck till next time, Nick Dixon