The catcher in baseball has an important part to play within the team. To keep runners from stealing signs, the receiver uses two methods. One is called “light and dark.” If the catcher holds the glove elbow away from the body, the pitcher can see daylight between the arm and body. That could mean the curve or fast ball, whichever the battery mates agree upon.
If the elbow is against the body-“dark”-it could also mean “curve” or “fast ball.” The catcher sometimes uses his glove for the sign. If the glove is held with the little finger pointing down, as it normally is, that’s the fast ball. If turned so that the palm faces the ground, that could be the signal for the curve.
Naturally, if the catcher uses “light and dark” or the glove, he still gives signs, false ones, with his throwing hand.
Covering the Plate
The catcher in baseball, and managers, should pay particular attention to the fundamentals involved in guarding home plate against the runner trying to score. The catcher wants to “know” where the plate is located as he watches the ball wing toward him from the outfield or infield. To do this, he should straddle the plate. If the ball is hit to right, the catcher leaves the right field corner open. This forces the runner to slide in front of the catcher, with only a small area of the plate to touch.
If the ball is hit to left, the catcher again faces the throw, but leaves the left field corner of the plate open. The catcher-like the second baseman -should never stand in front of the plate to await the throw, nor should he stand up the line toward third.
This writer never likes to use the term “block the plate” when teaching catchers. It gives catchers the impression they are to hold the runner off. If a catcher attempts to stand between home plate and the runner with, or without the ball, he’s going to get hurt. The runner has no place to go, but right through the catcher. Very often, the runner won’t slide because there’s no room to slide. Furthermore, if the catcher doesn’t have the ball in his possession and the runner makes contact with him, the runner scores on the interference rule.
Play the Ball – Then the Man
Give the runner a place to slide. If the throw is late or wild, go after the ball and forget the runner. If you have the ball in time and the runner slides, block the foot reaching for the base with a knee. If the ball is coming from right field, drop the left knee-after the runner starts his slide, not before. If the throw is coming from left field, drop the right knee.
Naturally, the throw isn’t always going to be exactly where the catcher wants it. Ball and runner occasionally arrive at the same spot at the same instant. This may mean a collision. Again, though, the catcher should not try to hold the runner back. If the runner is standing up, he should make the tag and roll with the runner-letting the runner turn him around. If the runner is sliding, the catcher should drop on top of him.
On all tags, the catcher should turn the back of the glove toward the runner. When the bases are loaded, the catcher doesn’t need to make a tag. With less than two out, the play is often home-to-first.
After catching an infielder’s throw, the catcher must make the put-out and relay to 1st without hitting the batter. To accomplish this easily, the catcher puts his left foot on one side of home base and faces the fielder. After the catch, he steps forward with his right foot, pivots right and throws to the first baseman, who should be standing well inside the line with his left foot on the inside edge of 1st base.
In every game, the catcher in baseball has a crucial role to play.