Playing the position of catcher in baseball, is quite possibly the most grueling and demanding position on the team. Obviously physical size and strength are definite assets, but a player can overcome much of the disadvantages of lacking size, with excellent technique.
Working behind the plate is not as simple as just squatting down and catching pitches, that’s only the very basic skills which most of all catchers possess. Technique, is the honing of skills to a bright finish, which are performed perfectly on a consistent basis, which determines whether a catcher is rated as fair, good or great.
Let’s exam one particular play, the Play at the Plate, which technique can be just as important as physical size of the catcher. In this particular play, the catcher has several duties and decisions, which must be analyzed and decided upon in a split second, indecision can end up in disastrous consequences.
The catcher’s primary responsibility is to stop the runner from scoring, but let’s look at the entire scenario.
There is a runner on second base, one out, and the batter hits a line drive over the second baseman’s head into right field. The right fielder charges the bouncing ball, fields it cleanly and throws home trying to throw out the runner as he attempts to score.
As the catcher, he should discard his mask, which is not required if the player feels he can see well enough with the mask on and likes the extra protection the mask affords him, with the increased usage of the mask/helmet combination, more catchers are leaving their headgear on.
He should position himself facing the fielder as he simultaneously locates the left front corner of home plate with his left foot, which allows him to know where the plate is located and not have to look for it after he catches the ball.
***Food for thought. You’ll notice I said “facing the fielder,” which is not necessarily the right fielder, it could be the cut off man, who would be the second baseman, who may be throwing from a different line forcing him to readjust.
Here’s where everything can seemingly become very chaotic, the catcher must keep his eye on the incoming throw, but must also glance at the location of the oncoming runner.
There are two reasons for this task, should it become obvious to the catcher there is no chance to get the runner out at the plate, he must yell to the cutoff man, the first baseman, to Cut!! the ball off, which will either force the batter to stay at first or allow the first baseman to throw him out attempting to advance to second.
Secondly, knowing where the runner is in relationship to himself, allows him to prepare, time wise, for the anticipated impact of the runner colliding with him.
Catching the ball, always using two hands if possible, the catcher should lean forward, his left shoulder tilted downward, towards the third base line. At this point, his left foot and leg are blocking the plate from a base runner attempting to slide around the tag, the catcher’s body is in the best possible position to absorb the impact of the collision regardless of the runner’s size, as he attempts to run over the catcher and knock ball loose.
Remind your catcher to absorb the blow and roll backwards dissipating the force and reducing chances of injury. Teach your catchers this technique and no matter their size, they’ll become a granite wall in front of the plate.
Source by Jim Bain