With 12 days to go until Christmas, let’s go around the field and list four common mistakes I see at the high school level by position. First up ... Catching.
Too much movement before the pitch. Ever try throwing a dart at a moving dartboard? That would be tough, right? That’s why it’s so important for catchers to have as little movement as possible before the pitch. Give the sign, set your feet and the target, and then sit still. Big league catchers move a lot more than they used to – I think too much – but it is more understandable at that level because pitchers are more accurate and the fear of opponents stealing signs and/or location is greater. However, young pitchers need all the help they can get. Stay still!
Too much movement after the pitch. By this I mean body movement and glove movement. Simply put, more movement = less strikes called. If you set up in the strike zone and the pitch is in the strike zone there is no need to move beyond reaching for the ball to catch it. The only glove movement after the ball is caught should be towards your belly button and only an inch or two (framing). To do this, the glove has to beat the ball to the location. If the ball and glove get to the spot at the same time, the force of the ball will take the glove back and out of the strike zone. Beating the ball keeps you in control and keeps the ball in the strike zone.
Too quiet. A catcher needs to be heard. The whole game is in front of you and within your view. You are the on-the-field coach and traffic cop. There is a reminder to be said before every play. Say it. It’s ok to be soft spoken off the field but not on the field if you want to be a catcher.
Too lethargic. Catching is by far the most grueling position - physically and mentally - on the field. Click here if you need proof. However, catchers should not prove this fact to everyone by appearing worn out and miserable all the time. Run on and off the field, even if your bench is five steps from home plate. Make it obvious to all observers that there is no place on earth you’d rather be than behind the plate. Block every pitch in the dirt correctly even when no runners are on base. A scout might only see you for one inning. Show them all you’ve got. Most catchers don’t play this way. Most don’t play beyond high school either.
Tomorrow: 1st Base