Catchers do the dirty work in baseball – blocking wild pitches, crashing into base runners, bounding after bunts, spilling blood. Lumps and bumps and emotional strain are part of the job description.
It’s never too early (or late) then to work on the basics.
Rick Saggese, a Miami-based baseball/softball coach and mentor, suggests some drills for beginners and more advanced catchers.
The ability to handle pitches in the dirt is a basic job requirement. In the drill, a coach stands 30 feet from home plate, intentionally tossing balls that land in the dirt in various locations: right, left, in front of the plate. “The catcher works on developing the proper mechanics to block a ball: keep shoulders upright and chin tucked,” Saggese said.
Young catchers tend to take an extra step to get more “oomph” on the throw. It’s more important to release the ball quickly. In this drill, the catcher works on his footwork so he’s ready to throw immediately. A coach stands 30 feet in front of the player at first base for two throws, 30 feet in front of second base for two throws, and 30 feet in front of third base for two throws. The goal is to “work on quick feet and release time from glove to throwing hand,” Saggese said.
From his normal position behind home plate, the catcher works on foul balls in all areas. A coach tosses or hits a ball high in the air. This drill helps beginning catchers develop quickness out of the receiving stance. Also, “a catcher needs to learn to find the ball toss, and toss the mask to the opposite side of where he is running. This is harder than it sounds, as there are many factors the players need to learn to deal with on foul balls,” Saggese said.
A a coach tosses balls to the catcher, the catcher tries to catch them with his glove held completely horizontal (as if framing a strike). The coach varies the location of the pitches: from top right to low right, to low left, to top left of the strike zone, and so on.
In full gear, a catcher squat jumps all the way from home plate to first base. He does not get out of his catching stance; instead he uses his legs and ankles to move.
Blocking and Receiving
Put three balls in a line. Two catchers line up on opposite sides of the balls. Moving laterally in one direction, then coming back to where they started, the catchers mirror each other’s blocking motions. In the receiving part of the drill, they catch balls with their gloves, then their hands, and finally with their thumb and index and middle fingers. They end with a quick toss with those three fingers.