A solid stance is the foundation for everything you need to do as a catcher. You never know what you’ll be doing next as the catcher. You may be receiving a pitch, blocking a wild pitch, fielding a bunt, chasing down a pop-up, or trying to put out a base stealer. Which stance you utilize while catching is an important decision and can change based on the count and if there are any runners on base. Knowing the stances and when to utilize them are a key part of a catcher’s fundamentals.
In this article, we will review both stances that a catcher will need to know and also discuss your body positioning when utilizing these stances.
Goals of the Catcher’s Stance
- Big target
- Ready to move
- Give umpire visibility
Types of Catcher’s Stances
- Sign Stance
- Relaxed Stance – also referred to as receiving stance
- Ready Stance
Relaxed Catcher Stance
The basic rule of thumb for when to use the relaxed stance is when there are no baserunners and less than two strikes on the hitter. The catcher will get into the squat position with their feet the same width as their shoulders. You want your body, including hips and shoulders, to be squared up to the pitcher. Your feet should be parallel to the front edge of home plate or slightly staggered.
Balance is important as you want to make sure that your weight is carried on the inside of both feet and that you feel balanced when in the relaxed stance. When truly balanced, you should feel like you have a firm foundation with weight equally distributed between both sides of your body.
A catcher will want to stay as low as possible while still feeling comfortable. This will allow the umpire to get a good look at any low pitches and may give you the advantage of receiving some strike calls on borderline pitches. But whatever you do, make sure that you remain balanced and comfortable.
Now let’s discuss your arm positioning. Your glove arm should be relaxed and partially bent so as not to interfere with the batter’s swing. You will notice your catching elbow below your glove if you are setting up properly. The palm should be facing the mound allowing the pitcher a good target to throw too. The throwing hand should be placed behind your body to avoid being hit by foul balls during the pitch.
One of the primary goals is to make sure you present a good target for the pitcher to throw to. Normally, your glove is positioned just above your knees or the knees of the hitter. You can setup either down the middle or on the corners if your pitcher has good control. Make sure that your target is in place by the time the windup begins or right after your sign is given.
Tips For Relaxed Catcher Stance
- Be balanced
- Give the umpire a good look
- Be able to shift body to get to ball position and smoothly receive a pitch if it comes to a different location than where you setup.
- Arm not too far or too close from your body
Ready Catcher Stance
Since the relaxed stance is used with no runners and less that two strikes, the ready stance means you have runners on base or there are two strikes on the batter. In either case, you need to be ready to throw or move quickly to block a pitch.
In the ready stance, your body is positioned a little differently to allow you to react quicker. You are now in more of a raised squat position and your weight falls mainly on the balls of your feet. Even though you are raised a bit in your squat, you still want to attempt to keep as low as possible. Once again, this will allow the umpire to see more of the strike zone when the pitch arrives.
One of the differences from the relaxed stance is that in the ready stance you need to be aware of your feet and their position. In the ready stance, you will most likely space your feet a little more than shoulder-length apart while maintaining your balance. You may also stagger your feet so that they are slightly off from parallel but not so much that you are not still square to the pitcher.
The catcher’s arm position and angle are similar with both stances. Glove arm partially bent and elbow below the glove. Your throwing hand can change with the ready stance. To get a quicker transition of the ball from the glove to the throwing hand, catcher’s will make a fist and place the throwing hand behind the catching hand. This will protect it from foul tips and give you an edge in moving a caught ball to the throwing hand.
Tips For Ready Stance
- Feet wide
- Right foot slightly further back than left foot
Tips For Sign Stance
- Use thighs to shield signs from base coaches and base runners.
- Be balanced so you can easily shift to the location setup.
So those are the three key stances that all catchers should be aware of and practice. If you do, you’ll find that you can react quicker when blocking pitches or when trying to cut down runners trying to advance.