Catchers have a lot of important tasks, but one of the most important for a catcher at any level is the ability to block pitches thrown in the dirt. A catcher who excels at blocking pitches can help build confidence in their pitchers as well as limiting baserunners from advancing. Over the course of a season, they will be asked to do this many times and being good at it is sure to save their team a lot of runs and help them win games.
Watching a baseball catcher blocking a pitch in the dirt is pretty cool and it is something that all youth baseball catchers should do to learn and practice a ton. The ability to block a ball will win games for the team! In this article, we will discuss some catcher fundamentals for blocking pitches as well as some tips that can help you to learn how to improve your skills in this area.
A catcher needs to be in the ready stance and should be squared up to the pitcher with their hips and shoulders. Ideally, when you see that the pitch needs to be blocked, the catcher should drop to their knees while remaining squared. Their feet should move back and their toes will end up pointed away from the body.
You also need to keep your glove down, palm up and positioned in the middle of your body. Your throwing hand will be directly behind your glove. Keep your arms close to your body and make sure your glove is positioned to stop a ball from going through your legs.
To keep the ball in front of you, use your upper body to control where the ball will bounce. Lean forward a little over your thighs while staying square to the pitcher and bend at the waist. This should cause the ball to carom off of your chest in a downward arc which will keep it in front of you. This allows you to keep an eye on the field and be in a position to make a throw if the runner takes off or is too far off the base.
Some catchers will go with a slightly lower squat position with runners on base. This allows them to get down to block a pitch quicker than if they were set up higher.
Types of Pitches
Adjustments may need to be made based on the type of pitches or the pitch location. Here are a few.
Pitches to the Side of You
Chances are, all pitches you need to block will not be thrown directly at you. This actually happens a lot and they can obviously be tougher to reach. In this case, you need to be quick on your feet.
From the ready position, as a catcher, you need to slide quickly to get to the ball, just before or while dropping down. Each catcher may have a different way to accomplish this and you’ll need to decide what works best for you. Some catchers will use both feet to push their body towards the ball. Others may just push off with their lead foot and then begin getting down. Either way, sliding one way or another to get in front of the ball is critical.
For pitches to the side, you want to continue to make sure your body remains squared to the pitcher. This will most likely create a slightly different angle then if the pitch was straight at you. There are a couple key reasons for this. A pitch moving away from you will most likely bounce off in that direction. So by changing your angle you are “directing” the ball back in front of you. Also, because the ball is to the side, you need to change the angle to remain with a true 360-degree angle to the pitcher.
When you know the pitch being thrown is a breaking ball, you need to understand the direction in which the ball will bounce. This will depend on several factors. It could be whether your pitcher is right-handed or left-handed or whether the pitch is a curveball, sinker, slider or change-up.
Most curveballs have a tendency to bounce higher so you’ll need to get close to the ball and work on smothering it. Keep your body in front of it and tilted down to soften it and negate the effects of the ball spinning.
Pitches Not Close
A pitch that looks like it isn’t going to be close to the plate will require the catcher to do what they can to get out and stop it. Many times you won’t be able to get both knees down. As you slide toward the ball drop your knee farthest from the plate to the ground while extending your other leg.