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Tips on Catching

Baseball Catching Techniques and Instruction

During the course of a game, the catcher is the busiest player on the field--crouching behind the plate, blocking balls, keeping track of the count on each batter, repositioning teammates defensively and so on. The catcher needs to be one of the team leaders because the catcher is much like the quarterback of the team. The catcher also needs to be one of the tougher players on the team (both physically and mentally) due to the demands of the position. The catcher has to learn the most signs on the team. A very good catcher is always one of the hardest players to find and/or develop.

Giving Signs

When giving signs to the pitcher, remember:
  • Place your glove around your left knee to shield the third base coach from the signs
  • Point your knees at the pitcher to keep the first and third base coaches from stealing your signs
  • Keep your sign hand deep into your crotch so no one can see the sign except the pitcher, shortstop and second baseman
  • Don't place your sign so low so that they can be seen by the other team
  • Practice giving signs in a mirror at home from both the pitcher's angle and the base coach's angle

Proper Distance From the Batter

  • You need to be far enough behind the batter so that you don't hit the bat and get called for catcher's interference
  • You need to be as close to the batter as you can get without getting hit with the bat
  • You should set up close to the batter to allow the umpire a good look at the pitch
  • You can get borderline pitches called strikes instead of balls by framing them for strikes when you set up close to the batter
  • A general rule is that you should almost be able to touch the batter's back elbow if you reach up with your catcher's mitt

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The Catcher's Position (No Runners)

  • With nobody on base, you should catch in the most comfortable position. This is called the primary position
  • Generally, this is when your feet are shoulder-width apart
  • You should keep your throwing hand behind your back (for protection)
  • Your catching hand should be slightly outside your knee
  • Your catching arm should be out in front with a slight bend at the elbow to allow for give

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The Catcher's Position (With Runners)

  • When runners are on base, you have to be in position for a possible steal or bunt. This is called the secondary stance
  • Your feet should be wider apart with your weight up on the balls of your feet
  • Your right toes should be about even with your left instep
  • Your legs should be parallel to the ground. Your rear end should be higher up
  • Your throwing hand now comes out next to the right side of the mitt (with your thumb tucked into your palm with your fingers wrapped around it)
  • Make sure you make the catch before attempting a throw. It won't do you any good to be in perfect throwing position if you don't catch the ball first

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Framing Pitches

Framing pitches is a very important skill for a catcher.
  • Framing is a short, fluid move back into the middle of the body with the glove after you have caught the ball.
  • It allows the borderline pitch to be called a strike more often.
  • Don't overdo it by trying to frame pitches that were way out of the strike zone (10+ inches) as the umpire will pick up on this and may use it against you.

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Blocking Pitches

The catcher is not expected to catch every low pitch, but the catcher is expected to at least keep the pitch in front of him so the runners do not advance. There are different blocking styles for different types of pitches. The first style is for pitches straight in front of you (generally fastballs):
  • Fall to your knees
  • Place you glove to the ground (fingers down)
  • Throwing hand behind the glove
  • Keep your body square to the ball
  • Hunch your shoulders forward and over the ball
  • Keep your chin down, so that you don't get hit in the throat
  • Deflect all balls back towards home plate where you can see it and still make a play if needed

The second style is for pitches in the dirt either inside or outside of you (Quite often Changeups and Curves):
  • Take a quick jab step with foot closest to the ball
  • Drive off the opposite leg and stay low while trying to get around the ball
  • Try to deflect the ball back towards home plate

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Fielding Pop-ups

Most pop-ups will tend to drift back into the field due to the spin of the ball, because of this the following steps should be used when fielding pop-ups from the catchers position:
  • Immediately look up and find the ball, take off mask if needed
  • Turn your back to the infield
  • Throw your mask far enough away so that you don't trip over it
  • Raise you mitt above you chin
  • Catch the ball with two hands above your chin

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Fielding Bunts

There are two methods to use when fielding bunts down the third base line.
  • The first is to take a small jab step with your left foot and go out and round the ball (always staying to the left of the ball). Get your right plant foot behind the ball, scoop and throw.
  • The second method is to head directly to the ball and get your right foot over the ball. Spin toward first base and make the throw.
  • On bunts directly in front of you, head straight for the ball, round off when you get to the ball. Square up to first base. Make the throw.
  • On bunts towards first base, Head straight for ball, scoop the ball up. Either step into the infield (first choice) to get a better throw angle or step into foul territory to get a better angle. Make sure you don't hit the runner.

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When to Scoop and When to Bare hand

  • Generally, when the ball is moving, it should be scooped using both the glove and hand.
  • When the ball is not moving then you may use the bare hand method.
  • When picking up the ball it is important to think of your hand as a corkscrew or pitchfork and either 'screw' or 'fork' the ball into the ground as you pick it up.
  • A common mistake is to take your eyes off the ball to look at the runner before you securely have the ball.
  • Do not take your eyes off the ball until it is securely in your hand.

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Always remember the catcher is the only defensive player on the field that can see the entire field and as such 'directs traffic'.
  • Take Charge, Be VOCAL, let your teammates know where the play needs to be.
  • If the ball needs to be thrown to 3B or Home from the outfield, let them know by calling out 3, 3, 3 or 4, 4, 4.
  • If it should be cut and thrown to 2B, let them know by calling out 'Cut 2, Cut 2.
  • Remind them of the situation, (One out, plays at First, We got White on a Bunt, etc.).
  • Remember, don't be shy, you are already looked up to by your teammates by playing the most demanding position on the field.

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