Today’s Tip: “Catcher Communication”

January 24, 2011

Here I am over-communicating with umpire Mike Reilly.

Here’s another catching tip….

As a catcher, you MUST communicate.

You don’t need to be a “rah-rah” guy, a cheerleader, or possess an out-going personality; however, you’ve gotta come out of your shell enough to risk embarrassment and verbally help your teammates.

You are the focal point of the infield, the closet player to the coach, and the only defender who looks out onto the field of play. You have a perfect perspective from which to direct traffic.

Here are a few simple suggestions passed on to me from Australian coach/scout Peter Gahan. These are automatic catcher responses to particular game situations. Memorize them and speak up every time they occur.

1. A bunter at the plate: “Stay alive”, etc.
2. Left Handed Hitter up to bat: (to pitcher) “Be ready to cover 1B.”
3. Ground ball to the right side: (to pitcher) “Get over!”
4. 2 out, runner on 2B: “Diving, keep the ball in the infield.”
5. 2 out, full count, runners moving on the pitch: “Going over to 1st base on a ground ball.”

These are just a few of many opportunities you’ll have to help out your teammates and become the defensive leader of your team. Pay attention and add to this list.

Till next week, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball…

Today’s Tip: “Vary Your Stances”

December 28, 2010

Tony Pena spicing things up with a creative catching stance.

Here’s another catching tip….

Watching a catcher do the same thing – squat, catch ball, toss back – for three hours is about exciting as watching paint dry.

As much as anything, baseball is entertainment. Here’s a suggestion on how you can do your part as a catcher to bring some showmanship, creativity, and energy to your position.

In a non-blocking, non-throwing situation (less than two strikes, less than three balls, and nobody on base) mix up your squatting style.

Here’s just a few of the many benefits that come from using multiple stances.
1. It’ll give your pitcher a different look (which is especially helpful if he’s struggling to find the zone.)
2. Breaking the one-stance monotony is fun and will help keep you mentally engaged for the whole game.
3. It’ll set you apart from the masses and help you get noticed.
4. Varying your stances will make you appear to have bounce and brings positive energy to your defense.

Remember though, it’s only for the non-blocking, non-throwing situations!

Till next time, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball.

Today’s Tip: “Seeing the Signals”

December 13, 2010

Paint Wite-Out on your fingers to help pitchers see signals.

Here’s another catching tip….

There’s nothing worse than a pitcher who can’t see the catcher’s signs. A pleasant 2.5 hour game can easily turn into an ugly 3 hour marathon when the battery can’t get their communications straight.

Getting crossed up sucks, and trying to catch when you’re unsure whether the pitcher is actually going to throw the fastball you signaled for or some other pitch is no fun either.

The fact is, pitchers don’t see very well (or else they’d be hitters, right?) I’m kidding…kind of. In all seriousness, sometimes shadows created by a catcher’s knees makes it very difficult to see.

One solution would be to open up the sign stance or give the signals higher or lower. However, doing so might give the opposition a chance to peek in and introduces a whole new set of problems.

I’ve found the best idea is to keep a bottle of Wite-Out handy. Paint the back of your signal hand fingers making them easier to see. This works better than tape because it won’t interfere with your throwing feel. In a pinch, if you don’t have the Wite-Out, moisten the back of your hand and drag it along the white chalk of the base line to illuminate the fingers.

Till next week, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball.

Today’s Tip: “Keeping a Blocked Ball Close”

November 27, 2010

Proper blocking technique helps a catcher keep wild pitches close to his body.

Here’s another catching tip….

Blocking the ball effectively means keeping a bounced pitch in front of your body and making sure the resulting ricochet stays close enough to stop base runners from advancing.

Let’s focus on the second part of the equation – keeping the ricochet close to your body. To consistently accomplish this, a few things must happen. First, the receiver’s body must be square to the incoming bounce. Secondly, the catcher must stop moving by the time he and the ball collide.

The resulting impact when two moving objects (ball and catcher) bounce off each other is explosive. Conversely, if the catcher is quick enough to be waiting for a wild pitch, the ricochet will be muted.

Now for the cherry on top. To take your blocking to the next level, EXHALE when you and the ball meet. This will soften your body and further deaden the impact. Is a ball going to bounce farther off a wall or a pillow?

Till next week, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball.

Today’s Tip: Control the Tempo of the Game

November 16, 2010

Roger Bresnahan and Honus Wagner...simpler times and shorter games.

Here’s another catching tip….

The catcher impacts the pace of a game more than just about everyone else on the field. In basketball it’s the point guard who has the option to push action or stall. In baseball, the catcher controls momentum.

As a receiver, you must take responsibility and realize that how quickly you move, give signs, catch the ball, and get it back to the pitcher has a direct impact on the length of a game.

Make no mistake about it, baseball is a game played slowly. It’s easy and comfortable to play this way. Matter of fact, ninety nine percent of all people playing this game ONLY know how to compete at a leisurely pace. Use this fact to your advantage!

Catchers, if you can learn how to hustle and play quickly, you’ll add another weapon to your defensive arsenal and have a positive impact on the game. Here are but a few of the benefits. You’ll help your pitcher find a groove and minimize the amount of time he has to think (a good thing). You’ll disrupt the offense’s rhythm and help keep your defense on it’s toes. Not to mention, you’ll make it home in time to eat dinner, do your homework, and maybe even watch some TV!

So, take control. Bounce around and push the pace. Let’s get rid of the 3.5 hour game. Trust me, your coach will love you more, the fans will love you more, and your girlfriend will love you more. But most importantly, I’ll love you more.

Till next week, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball.