Where are all the good catchers (of the baseball)?
Infielders take routine ground ball after ground ball working on angles, hops and reads. Outfielders chase down fly ball after fly ball working on simple routes and angles. Pitchers throw bullpen after bullpen to as they try to sharpen their command of one or more pitches. But what do catchers do? They catch for pitchers in the bullpen and usually follow the coach's order to get loose and assist the pitcher in getting his work in. Well, if this game is built around preparation, then where is the prep drudgery for the catcher? After all, it is pretty tough to play baseball without a catcher…that’s right a catcher. A player, possibly nuts to say the least, who squats behind the plate over a 100 times a game, donned in protective gear, preparing to receive some unknown pitch being thrown in his direction at speeds approaching 100 mph.
Catching fundamentals are complex to say the least and achievement to any degree of excellence demands the mastering the simple ability to catch a pitched baseball. At younger ages, it is alarming the lack of emphasis being placed on catching a baseball. Instead, the emphasis is put on these young catchers to throw runners out or take charge on the field as the field general, because every book says the catcher must do so. Where is the emphasis on the simple skill of receiving or just catching the ball?
One of the most important skills, if the not the most important skill a catcher can possess or develop, is the ability to handle all types of pitched balls effectively. A pitcher's sense of security is enhanced by the ability of any catcher to the receive of the ball. Everything a catcher is expected to do, from leadership ability to blocking, throwing and acting as a second pitching coach, can make a pitcher better and have major impact on the success of the team. Additionally, it would appear so logical, that, if these types of expectations are impactful on any team's success, more attention should be given to teaching, coaching and instructing the simple art (some might call it fine art) of catching.
The learning process begins with each catcher being acquainted with simple fundamentals that are conducive to catching pitches, then step two can be implemented, which is, provide the necessary time, teachings, coaching and instruction for development.
Primary instruction should been given to each catcher on the use of their hands, set up position and different stances. All three of these concepts harmonize each other. Deviation from these will only lead to serve as factors that will have a negative reflection in the way a catcher catches a baseball. Here is a video on basic, basic set up concepts that are overlooked and disobeyed ALL THE TIME!
The overall development of any catcher being a better or exceptional catcher of the ball is the ability to understand how the location of the pitch determines how the ball is caught. The location of each pitch requires the glove action which, when done efficiently, can be beneficial to the overall ability to catch the baseball. Catchers, when it is all said and done, need to focus their overall development of catching a baseball on the four locations…the low pitch, the high pitch, the inside pitch and the outside pitch. Putting the time in at the mastery of catching these location pitches, with simple yet effective teachings, will undoubtedly pay dividends. Not only will catchers catch more pitches, keep more strikes in the strike zone, influence a pitcher's confidence and affect the outcome the outcome of a game, they will become much more habitual and automatic...and ultimately be part of more winning teams.
Rick Johnston, Head Coach & Co-Founder - The Baseball Zone
PS - We have a great interactive workshop coming up called "Pitcher & Catcher Communication" on October 21 at 7PM. Find out more details below and hope to see you there:
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