Category Archives: Catching

It’s not just about the pitch count

We live in a world of pitch counts and innings limits.  Most of the time, these rules are set by tournament and league officials with the good intentions of protecting young arms.  Coaches usually keep a close eye on pitching limitations.  Some do it because they don’t want to see a young player get hurt, while others do it so they don’t get kicked out of a tournament.

So, if coaches are monitoring pitch counts, then what is the problem?  The problem is not many coaches or parents take into consideration what the pitcher does when he isn’t on the mound.

If a 12-year old travel ball pitcher is your “ace”, then he is probably a pretty good all-around player.  Let’s assume he starts the game on the mound and throws 40 pitches in three innings.  That is perfectly acceptable by MLB/USA Baseball Pitch Smart guidelines.  By those standards, he should rest two days before taking the mound again.

Here is the issue and I have seen it happen over and over again.  The kid with the rocket arm leaves the mound and heads into the dugout – TO PUT ON CATCHER’S GEAR!  Are you kidding me?  The reverse is just as bad.

Pitching and catching in the same day borders on lunacy.  Catcher is the most physically demanding position on the baseball field.  Coaches forget that when the pitcher throws a pitch, someone usually needs to throw it back to him.  Sure, those aren’t terribly taxing on the arm but combine that with attempting to throw out baserunners and you will be surprised how much the catcher throws.

Pitching requires you to use your legs.  A kid with tired legs who just took off the catcher’s gear will involuntarily transfer that stress someplace else.  That’s right…his arm.

Check out this statement from the American Sports Medicine Institute.

A pitcher should not also be a catcher for his team as it is the next most throwing-intensive position and results in far more throws than players at other positions. ASMI found that amateurs who played catcher while not pitching were 2.7 times more likely to suffer a major arm injury.

Don’t be an idiot.

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The Catcher/Umpire Relationship 

As soon as his team takes the field, the catcher has a very important job.  Before he receives a single pitch, a good catcher introduces himself to the umpire and shakes his hand.  This should be done at every level from youth baseball to the Major Leagues.

This simple gesture shows the umpire respect as a person and game official.  Addressing the umpire by his name instead of “Blue” shows that you recognize him as a human being, not some machine calling balls and strikes.

Talk to the umpire. Where is he from? How long has he been umpiring? Was he a player? What position did he play? If you were taking a girl out on a date, she would appreciate you wanting to get to know her. It’s the same principle. 

If you establish a relationship with the umpire, you will get that close call. You can ask him questions about a call. It’s not just when you are behind the plate either. The umpire knows who is stepping into the batter’s box. 

Call it gamesmanship if you want. I call it smart baseball. 

Catching Stances

Every pitch will begin with the catcher positioned in the sign stance.  This is where the you will give the pitcher the sign for the pitch that has been selected.  After the sign is given, you will transition to the receiving stance.  There are two types of receiving stances.  The game situation will dictate whether you will use the normal receiving stance or a blocking stance.

imageSign Stance

  • Comfortable, relaxed stance on your toes with feet under butt
  • Knees pointed toward middle infielders
  • Imagine giving sign to the shortstop (slight shift to block view of 1st base coach)
  • Hang glove off left knee to block view of 3rd base coach
  • Keep thumb against cup
  • Only move fingers – not wrist or forearm
  • Transition to receiving stance by sliding – DO NOT HOP

imageReceiving Stance – Normal

  • Give the pitcher the best target and the umpire the best view
  • Follow your glove and slide into the slot
  • Throwing hand behind ankle
  • Glove slightly out in front of knees
  • Elbow outside knees, loose and bent
  • Get low – turn toes slightly out, insides of feet
  • Keep chest up to give bigger target

imageReceiving Stance – Blocking Situation

  • Use when runners on base or two strikes on batter
  • Widen feet a bit with weight on inside of big toe
  • Butt up, chest out
  • Protect throwing hand
  • Still a receiving stance – one thing at a time

Pop-Fly Priority

A pop fly should be an easy play.  Any kid playing travel ball should be able to catch a routine popup.  However, the plays often create a circus in the field because players are not prepared.  A team that is prepared and communicates well should not have a problem.

  • CF has priority over corner outfielders (LF, RF)
  • Outfielders have priority over infielders
  • SS has priority over everyone in the infield
  • Middle infielders (2B, SS) have priority over corner infielders (1B, 3B)
  • Corner infielders (1B, 3B) have priority over P and C