I’m in Italy right now doing MLB’s European baseball academy. This is the third year I’ve done it and it’s a lot of fun. Some of the future blogs will feature a few of my adventures here…keep checking in. Anyway, I’ve been out of the loop for a week or so and just got a chance to check in…and I’ve got about 19 messages asking my thoughts on Indian catcher Carlos Santana’s injury during a collision at home plate. For those who didn’t see it and wish too, click here.
Alright, so here’s my take. Collisions at the plate are part of the game. It’s every catcher’s responsibility to figure out a way to deal with this play safely and effectively because it’s inevitable. Eventually, someone’s gonna run into you – like it or not.
You don’t want to be a catcher who is scared of getting injured and you don’t want to be that guy who pulls the rip cord and bails when things get dicey. Whether you actually are a tough guy or not, you want to at least appear like you’ve got the balls to hang in there. This may sound goofy, and for sure it’s an intangible thing, but your team needs a strong presence behind the dish. Having toughness in that position contributes in a big way to the fabric and make-up of a team’s personality. Simply put, a guy who shys away from contact (in my opinion) isn’t helpful.
So what to do? Well for one, DON’T do what Carlos Santana did. Or what I see Russell Martin do all the time. Throwing that left leg out into the baseline like a hockey goalie is poor technique, dumb, and a recipe for disaster. Don’t believe me? Watch that video clip. It’s a miracle the same thing hasn’t happen to Martin yet (look at the photo.)
In order to gain enough confidence to hang in there and complete this play, the first thing you need to do is buy my book. I’m serious. Buy it now. You’re still gonna be terrified when a tattooed giant like Josh Hamilton is bearing down on you at full speed, but at least you’ll have a plan and will be in a good position if the worst case scenario happens. And that might just give you enough guts to hang in there. Or maybe not…he is pretty big, fast, and tatooy.
Amongst the key points you’ll learn in the book: How to get low (if you’ve ever played football, you know that the lowest guy usually wins in a collision.) How to actually have some momentum going into the play so you’re not just a sitting duck. How to get your joints (knees) in safe positions…positions that, if hit, bend in the direction God intended them to bend. Maybe most importantly, how to move into the play at the appropriate time so that you maintain as much peripheral vision as you can for as long as you can. This last one really cuts down on the surprise hits.
So in summary, I guess my point is the play is GOING to happen. It’s inevitable. Trying to avoid contact is kind of like driving on the freeways of southern California or the streets of downtown Manhattan defensively. Your best bet is to be aggressive and mix it up. Or maybe a better analogy would be a football player playing soft and trying not to get injured…his odds of getting hurt are actually increased. Simply take control, be aggressive, and learn how to make this play the right way. Your team will love you for it and if you’re anything like me (and you probably are if you’re masochistic enough to catch) you actually like getting your bell rung once in a while.
Good luck and lets all hope Santana makes a full and speedy recovery.