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Building Better Relationships Between Pitchers and Catchers

One underrated aspect of good defense is the relationship between pitchers and catchers, says Joe Lackey, president of the Maroon Crush travel softball organization in Roanoke, Va. No matter how young or old players are, he says it’s important for battery mates to always be on the same page.

Sometimes relationships come easily, but often it takes time to build up the trust it takes to make a good relationship work. Lackey believes it’s something worth working toward.

“I think it is very important for pitchers and catchers to have a good relationship and chemistry on the field at any age level but especially at the younger ages where success is not nearly as much of a given,” said Lackey, who has coached softball players of all ages and now works exclusively with the Maroon Crush 12U.

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“The battery being able to read what each other is feeling and experiencing emotionally during a game is vital. The face that a pitcher is looking at most is that of her catcher, and it is my belief that a great catcher has the ability to calm her pitcher should the pitcher become rattled or is struggling to find the zone during an inning.”

Lackey said even at a young age there are non-verbal cues a catcher can give her pitcher to say “settle down, we got this” and give the pitcher confidence in that moment.

When non-verbal cues don’t work, Lackey said a good catcher always knows when to call time and go talk to the pitcher to give a reset or change the tempo of an inning.

And any good relationship goes both ways. Lackey said that pitchers also have to know ways to help a catcher after a mistake.

“Should the catcher maybe have a dropped third strike, or a passed ball that runners advance on, the catcher needs that pick-me-up of looking out on the mound and seeing reassuring body language, expression, and words,” Lackey said. “I think this chemistry can only be achieved by lots of time spent working together at practice, lessons, and game time experience.”

As with any teammates, the best way to build a good relationship between a pitcher and catcher is with time, Lackey said. He said he likes to advise his catchers to catch their pitchers during pitching lessons to build cohesiveness. This way, catchers see how the pitchers handle frustration, and the time spent together makes it easier to read and understand their body language.

But while teammates spend a lot of time together on the field, Lackey said sometimes it’s just as important for them to be able to bond outside of the game. Sometimes those moments even have ways of helping during tough times in the game.

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“I had an instance where my ace was struggling to hit her spots, was getting a little beat up, and giving up some walks. My catcher called time, went out and talked to her, and next thing I know they are giggling out on the mound,” he said. “My catcher heads back to the plate, the pitcher hits her locations and pitches and gets a K to get out of the inning.

I asked my catcher as she came off the field what she had said to my ace out on the mound, and her response was, ‘Nothing much. I asked if she remembered that time the guy at the movie theater tripped and threw his popcorn everywhere.’ It was enough to give my pitcher that little reset and help her close out the inning. An off-the-field experience that they had shared together ended up having an on the field impact.”

From GameChanger and Cara Cooper.

Softball, Softball Player Development