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Wilton, CT
 
 
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WILTON LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL

Positional Clinics – Catcher

 

Stretches and Building Strength

  • Discuss catcher-specific stretches (in particular, for the lower body) and exercises that can be performed at home
    • Lower-body stretches and exercises
      • High knees
      • Butt kicks
      • Side shuffle and cariocas
      • High kick
      • Hip cradle
      • Walking and side lunges
      • Caterpillar walk
    • Explosive block-to-jump exercise
    • Arm, shoulder and torso stretches
    • Throwing progression and long toss

 

Positioning and Stance

  • Placement behind home plate relative to the batter
    • Set up a couple of inches to the right of center of home plate – allows for more effective framing of the pitch
    • The catcher should be able to touch the batter’s back knee with his glove when in the crouch
      • Allows the catcher to receive the ball as close as possible to the batter’s strike zone, providing the umpire with the best view of where the ball actually crosses the strike zone
      • Puts the catcher in the best position to receive or block low pitches
      • Positions the catcher closer to the bases for throw-downs
  • Feet
    • Approximately shoulder-width apart with toes pointing slightly outwards, allowing the catcher to shift his weight easily
    • Weight slightly towards the inside front edges of the feet (never flat-footed), allowing the catcher to push off and move laterally quickly
    • With a runner on base, the catcher may place his ‘plant foot’ (on throwing-hand side) slightly behind the other foot, allowing for a quicker transfer into throwing position
  • Upper body
    • Shoulders squared to the pitcher with a relatively straight back, creating a well-defined target for the pitcher
    • With a runner on base, the catcher may position his throwing shoulder slightly behind the other shoulder, allowing for a quicker transfer into throwing position
  • Crouch
    • Backside should be below the knees but should not be resting on heels once the pitcher begins his wind-up
      • Allows the catcher to remain in a low, stable position, while giving the umpire a better view of the pitch and the strike zone
      • Creates an active, flexible position from which the catcher can react to the pitch
    • “Primary” vs. “secondary” position – once the catcher gives the signs to the pitcher, he should be in the “active” position described above, even if there are no baserunners
      • Better position to block low pitches and field bunts or short ground balls
      • With a runner on base, slight shift of weight towards the front of the feet
    • Placement of throwing hand
      • Beginners:  outside of throwing-side ankle or shin
      • More advanced:  tucked into belly, behind the glove
  • Most importantly, make sure that, when you are in your stance, you are balanced, loose and comfortable

 

DRILL:  Two-player focus drill, with two players facing each other (about 8 feet away) in the proper catcher’s stance, and simultaneously soft-tossing a ball to each other

 

Receiving the Pitch

  • Goal:  After the pitch is caught, the ball (and the glove) should move as little as possible
  • When giving the target, the catcher’s receiving arm should be relatively loose with a slight bend at the elbow
  • As the pitch is arriving, the catcher’s receiving arm should begin to straighten
    • Try to have the mitt beat the ball to the ‘spot’ (i.e., where the pitch will be caught)
    • Receiving arm in a strong, relatively straight position at the time that the pitch is caught
    • The more rigid the catcher’s receiving arm at the moment the pitch is caught, the less glove motion the ball will cause upon impact
    • Hold the ball in place to make sure that the umpire has a good view of the location – hold until the umpire makes the ball/strike call
  • The catcher’s mitt should have a slight ‘give’ at the moment of impact to avoid the ball popping out of the glove
  • Holding the glove
    • Pretend that you are making an “L” with your receiving hand
      • Results in the receiving arm beginning in a relaxed position before the pitch is thrown, with the receiving elbow near the thigh
    • The mitt should be wide open, giving the pitcher a large target
    • Where the glove is held depends on the game situation, but typically square the glove between your shoulders and slightly below the batter’s knee
  • With a runner on base, the catcher may want the ball to travel closer to his body
  • Brief discussion on pitch framing – framing is for borderline pitches
    • Goals are to (1) have as little movement in the mitt as possible after the ball is caught and (2) angle the ball back towards home plate by getting the mitt ‘around’ the ball
    • Slight ‘sway’ in body position to square the mitt with the catcher’s shoulders
  • Brief discussion on giving signs
    • Keep the signs high, using legs and mitt-side arm to block view of the base coaches and the runners on first and third base

 

DRILL:  Soft-hands drill using a tennis ball, with the catcher using his bare hand to catch and cushion the pitch

 

DRILL: Short-toss drill using baseball and glove, focusing on glove placement, cushioning the pitch and getting the glove to the ‘spot’ with a strong arm

 

  • The catcher must track the pitch from the moment that the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand to the moment that the ball is caught
    • ‘Soft focus’ on the pitcher’s release point rather than focusing intently on the ball during the pitcher’s delivery motion
  • For pitches that are far off the plate, the catcher should take a jab-step toward the direction that the ball is traveling rather than trying to over-extend by reaching for the ball

 

DRILL:  ‘Rapid toss’ drill from about 15 feet away

 

Blocking

  • Goal:   Keep the ball in between your body and the pitcher’s mound
  • Blocking motion
    • (1) Drop mitt perpendicular to (and in contact with) the ground to cover the catcher’s ‘five hole’, with the throwing hand positioned behind the mitt and (2) drop to your knees
      • The mitt and hands lead the knees
      • Do not pinch knees together – create a larger blocking area
      • Get to your knees as quickly as possible, and focus on weight moving forward to cut the ball off closer to the point of impact if the ball will bounce in front of the plate
    • Other points to remember
      • Thumbs should point out towards the dugouts, exposing the biceps and forearms (rather than the elbows and wrists) to the ball
      • Torso should be in a semi-upright position with shoulders slightly rounded
      • Toes should be pointed towards the dugout, and your backside should rest on your heels
      • Chin tucked into the chest
    • Watch the ball into your body, and try to absorb the ball into the belly of the chest protector
    • Lateral motion
      • (1) Use the foot opposite the direction that the catcher is moving to propel lateral blocking motion, (2) touch down on the knee opposite the direction that the catcher is moving and (3) angle hips and shoulders ‘around’ the ball
      • For a pitch that is far outside the strike zone, step out (and slightly forward) with the foot closest to the ball, and let the opposite knee drag towards that foot

 

DRILL:  (1) Stationary three-ball form drill, (2) rolling ball drill, (3) live blocking drill (no hands) and (4) live blocking drill (hands)

 

  • Retrieving a blocked ball
    • Use both arms to push body back into a standing position, with momentum moving towards the ball
    • Approach the ball as if you were approaching a bunted ball
  • General rule:  Anticipate having to block the ball on each pitch, and try to avoid ‘picking’ balls in the dirt (exception is when the backstop is not deep and there is a baserunner on first or second base)

 

Throwing Out Baserunners

  • Lower body and footwork
    • Goal:  No more than two short, quick steps before releasing the ball
    • Throwing to second base
      • In the crouch, mitt-hand foot should start slightly in front of the throwing-hand foot
      • Throwing-hand foot replaces the mitt-hand foot with a quick jab step, and the mitt-hand foot steps directly towards second base
        • Allows for momentum to continue towards the target
        • Can initiate the movement before the pitch arrives
        • If the pitch is not in the strike zone, then may need to take an initial step towards the ball with the foot that is closer to the ball
      • “Jump-pivot” motion – both feet move at the same time, with the throwing-hand foot being positioned below the backside and the mitt-hand foot approximately where the target was given
        • Not ideal for pitches outside of the strike zone
    • Throwing to third base
      • Right-handed thrower
        • For balls over the plate or inside on a right-handed batter, cross the right foot behind the left foot, and step towards third base with the left foot – forces the catcher to stay behind the batter
        • For balls outside to a right-handed batter, jab stab with right foot towards the left-hand batter’s box (and slightly forward), and then step towards third base with the left foot – forces the catcher to stay in front of the batter
      • Left-handed thrower
        • Use left foot as a pivot, and step towards third base with the right foot
        • As an alternative, drive the right knee towards the third base line and into the dirt, and throw
    • Throwing to first base (pick-off)
      • Right-handed thrower
        • Use right foot as a pivot, and step towards first base with the left foot
        • As an alternative, drive the left knee towards the first base line and into the dirt, and throw
      • Left-handed thrower
        • If a right-handed batter is up, drop the right knee to the ground and throw
        • If a left-handed batter is up, cross the left foot behind the right foot towards, and step towards first base
    • Back foot – want the toe slightly in front of the heel and weight towards the instep, which assists in creating momentum towards the target
  • Upper body
    • Stay low and keep your head on the target
    • Do not over-close shoulders – mitt-side shoulder should be pointing directly at target
    • Ball transfer
      • Remove the ball from your mitt as you are bringing both your mitt and your throwing hand towards your throwing-side ear
      • Practice getting a four-seam fastball grip on the ball
      • Back of the throwing hand should be slightly behind (and facing) the throwing-side ear before throwing – avoid short-arming the throw, but do not reach back too far
    • Throwing motion
      • Before throwing, mitt-side elbow should be pointing at the target
      • Throwing arm’s arc should be straight at the target for as long as possible – this will keep the throw from tailing
      • Try to keep the mitt centered in front of your chest as you throw – this will prevent your shoulders from flying open

 

DRILL:  Throws to second base and third base, with both a right-handed and left-handed batter

 

Bunts and Short Ground Balls

  • Approaching the ball
    • Right-handed thrower
      • If the ball is up the middle or up the first base line, come ‘around’ the ball from the left side – quick two-step motion towards first base
      • If the ball is up the third base line, come ‘around’ the ball from the right side – plant right foot and step with left foot towards the base
    • Left-handed thrower
      • If the ball is up the middle or up the first base line, come ‘around’ the ball from the right side – quick two-step motion towards first base
      • If the ball is up the third base line, come ‘around’ the ball from the left side – plant left foot and step with the right foot towards the base
  • Use the throwing hand to scoop the ball into the mitt when picking the ball up – helps the catcher get a grip on the ball
    • If the ball is spinning in place, push the ball into the ground with the throwing hand
  • Stay low during the entire motion
  • For balls that are close to the first-base line, the catcher (if time permits) should take a step back towards the pitcher’s mound to provide a clear lane for the throw

 

DRILL:  Over-the-shoulder tosses to replicate bunts

 

Plays at the Plate

  • Force play
    • If no chance for a double-play, position yourself in front of the plate, with the right foot on the front-right corner of the plate – this will help avoid a collision at the plate
      • Shoulders should be squared to the position player throwing the ball
      • Use two hands to catch the ball
    • If the catcher plans to try for a double-play, start behind the plate, and meet the ball as it arrives, dragging throwing-side foot across the plate to provide the umpire with a clear view that the force out was made at home
  • Tag plays
    • Catcher should position himself in front of the plate, with his left foot near the top-left corner of the plate
    • Shoulders should be squared towards the person throwing the ball to provide a large target, and the catcher’s body should be low to the ground
    • As the ball arrives, make sure that the left foot is pointing up the third-base line, exposing the left shin (rather than the left-knee) to the baserunner
    • Drop the right knee towards the left foot in order to block the plate
    • Glove should be low to the ground, and the ball should be held firmly in the glove with the throwing hand (with the throwing hand ‘behind’ the glove in order to protect it from the baserunner)
    • Keep head down
  • The catcher is not permitted to block the plate until he has the ball, so remember to position yourself in front of the plate while awaiting the throw
  • Briefly discuss aligning the relay and calling “cut”
  • Most importantly, the catcher must make sure that he makes the catch before attempting to apply the tag

 

DRILL:  Catcher taking relay from LF, CF and RF, and getting into the proper blocking position

 

Passed Ball Recovery

  • Approaching the ball
    • Approach the ball from the catcher’s throwing-hand side
    • Side on shin guards ‘around’ the ball, leading with the throwing-hand side
    • Recover the ball with your bare hand and make an overhand, knee-high throw towards the third-base side of home plate

 

DRILL:  Passed ball recovery drill with the coach pitching and covering home plate

 

Pop Flies

  • Most importantly, step out in front of the plate and locate the ball
  • The catcher’s back should immediately turn towards the pitcher’s mound
  • Do not plant yourself directly below the ball because the spin of the ball is going to cause it to move back towards the pitcher’s mound
  • Use two hands – the throwing hand should be at the side of the open mitt, ready to trap the ball once it is caught

 

DRILL:  Catching pop flies, beginning in the crouch