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The Significance of Good Catchers to Baseball Team Defense

Rick Johnston

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| Jan 26, 2015 6:00:00 AM

Pitcher & CatcherNext to the pitcher, the second most significant player on the field is - you guessed it - the catcher. This is not to say that every defensive player is not important. However, it is simple - without a guy behind the plate that can catch, the game is very difficult to play and have success as a team.

In an earlier blog pertaining to catching, I spoke of the lack of ability of catchers to simply catch the baseball and that there was a great de-emphasis on this discipline; or that the receiving of a pitched ball was an area that has fallen secondary to that of trying to throw runners out stealing.

At younger levels, due to the importance of defense or just playing catch, countless bright coaches who recognize the importance of a good catcher will shift their better players and better athletes to the catcher position to strengthen their baseball team defense. Let’s really face it…defense begins with the ability of the pitcher throwing strikes and the ability of the catcher to catch the ball. A first class catcher will contribute much more to the success of any team than a left fielder or second baseman will. Again, not to downplay the importance of the non-catching positions, but creating a catcher out of a better player will make any team profit in the win column much more. In fact, at younger levels, honestly, teams that have one or two dominating pitchers and a catcher will have plenty of success.

Not surprisingly, this type of thought goes beyond the any levels of baseball thinking. In fact, one can shift this paradigm to softball (this story is really more about a pitcher, but without the second most important defensive player on the field, the pitcher may not have been who he turned out to be):

What was to one day become The King And His Court all began in 1946 when Eddie Feigner, an energetic strong-armed young man who had excelled as a softball pitcher before the war and in the Marines, was home buzzing his fast ball by home town batters.
There was one thing about Feigner, he had a world of confidence in himself and his ability to pitch a softball. Whenever anyone hurled a challenge at this lad in his early 20's, he had an immediate taker.
Playing in an early spring league, Feigner was pitching for a local team of 9 men in a game in Pendleton, Oregon. Eddie's team won the game by a whopping score, but afterwards his skill as a "hot shot" softball pitcher was challenged. This was too much for the "King" who brazenly announced, "I would play you with only my catcher but you would walk us both." 
The other team's manager said, "OK, you bring your catcher, shortstop, and first baseman down here and we will play you." On the way back home, the four wondered what they should do to get ready.
Because it was early spring and the local ball parks were unavailable to practice on, the 4-men requested permission to play some of the teams inside the Washington State Prison. The request was granted. With high walls as a backdrop, and the curious inmates looking on, The 4-Man Softball Team came into being. That same week, the name "The King and His Court" was chosen.
A week later 400 fans were on hand to view the unpublicized, initial 4 versus 9 game. Feigner rose to the occasion. In 7 innings, he pitched a perfect game and struck out 19 batters. One ball was hit to the shortstop, and one to the first baseman. The final score was 7-0 in favor of the Court.

The real bottom line to the significance of a good catcher is this: Both he and the pitcher are the center of attention and the center of all the defensive action on the team and during a game. The success of each team is very much determined by the performances of each of these players. If you have not thought about this as a new paradigm…start...now. Being weak behind the plate undoubtedly will mean a weak defensive team - and that is NOT a recipe for team success.

Good Luck!

Sincerely,

Rick Johnston, Head Coach - The Baseball Zone

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Image courtesy of sportsnet.ca

Topics: defence, team Defence, defensive baseball, catching, catching skills, catching fundamentals, baseball team defense, team defense, Defense

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