Baseball Coaching Tips for Developing a Catcher
Catching is the physically most demanding position on a baseball team. At the younger levels, a coach may get a little more than half the team to at least want to try it. I think kids like to try playing in the gear. However, a coach may only find two or three who are willing to go the distance at the position. Now the question turns from who will be the catcher ( one of the three will emerge as the starter) to how to develop them. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips For Developing a Catcher that will help the team have a solid presence behind the plate.
#1 What Type of Player Makes a Good Catcher?
A good catcher must fall in love with the gear. A coach will be able to tell almost immediately if a player loves playing in the gear. If all a player does is complain about the gear and looks like they are about to jump out of there own skin then they are probably not cut out to be a catcher. Something to consider is that a player may possess the physical tools to be a catcher but their heart might not be in it and on the other hand a less talented player maybe the best choice for the position because they are so passionate about being a catcher. I would take passion over talent in this position every day of the week and twice on Sunday! A player who is passionate about this position will eventually grow into the position. Catching requires a lot of hard work to become good at it and someone who is passionate will work hard!
#2 Getting Used to the Gear
A new catcher will have to get used to the gear. The only way to get used to the gear is to wear the gear in practice and in pre-game warm ups. A player doesn’t need to be in gear for an entire two-hour practice but the coach could rotate his catchers in practice to make sure his starter and back ups are getting enough work in the gear. Also, the starting catcher should at least be geared up for a portion of the pre-game warm ups which should include warming up the starting pitcher. Getting used to the gear also means knowing how to physically prepare to catch a game. Eating properly the day of a game and staying properly hydrated ( especially when warm weather is a factor) are very important for a catcher. The body must be properly fueled to deal with the strain that the gear can put on the body.
#3 Being A Good Receiver
Another catching skill that seems simple but should never be under estimated is receiving the pitch. Baseball is a game a repetition and again it is important to make sure the catcher is getting enough reps in practice. Simply practicing receiving the pitch will decrease passes balls which will decrease runners advancing freely around the bases.
Learn more about Receiving the Baseball as Catcher
#4 Alertness Behind the Plate
The catcher is one of the team leaders on the field because they can see the entire field and one of their jobs ( arguably the most important) is to defend home plate against scoring opportunities. For the catcher to be effective in this capacity, they must be alert at all times. The catcher must know where and also anticipate where the ball must go. The catcher must also keep base runners in check and attempt to prevent them from stealing bases. When runners are on base, the catcher should try to be on the balls of their feet in anticipation of having to make a play on a base runner.
#5 Baserunners & Throwing
The catcher must keep base runners in check and attempt to prevent them from stealing bases. When runners are on base, the catcher should try to be on the balls of their feet in anticipation of having to make a play on a base runner. The catcher must work on good throwing mechanics to all bases and a quick release. The catcher must also learn to understand when not throw the ball. It is better to recognize that a play is broken then to force or rush a throw that ends up in the outfield which will allow base runners to advance extra bases.
#6 Making Plays in the Infield
A catcher will have to make plays on balls that are bunted or hit in front of the plate. Again, the catcher’s ability to make plays in the infield will depend on the amount of reps they get in practice.
#7 Learning To Call a Game
Learning to call a game is a more advanced skill but it’s never too early to start developing this skill in practice. The coach should allow the catcher to call pitches during practice and then discuss the pitch calls at the end of practice. This advanced skill can be developed through practice and discussions between coach, catcher and pitchers on the staff.
#8 Getting the Mask Off
A catcher will have to learn when to flip the mask off. The mask should come off for pop ups ( if possible) and if the catcher can not locate the ball. This is another under rated skill that will be developed through practice and experience. Also, during my coaching days I used to see catchers flip off the mask to attempt to throw out a base runner with a low success rate. Throwing out runners is based on good throwing mechanics and a quick release. Taking time to flip off the mask will interfere with the quick release.
#9 Defensive Drill Using Tennis Balls
A great way for catchers to learn how to block the ball and keep it in front of them is to throw tennis balls at them to block. The tennis ball allows for a great number of repetition without risk of injury. Also, the tennis ball is actually more challenging then a hard ball due to it being smaller and it’s bouncy nature. For those coaches who find that a tennis ball is too bouncy then a safety ball is also a good alternative. However, the safety ball may not allow for as much repetition because although softer than a baseball; it is a bit harder than the very soft tennis ball.
#10 Pop Up Drills
From my experience, the one skill I have really seen young catchers struggle with is catching pop ups. This is a skill that should be worked on in practice and not underestimated. A simple drill is to have the catcher in gear take his position behind the plate and the coach can toss pop ups from different angles. This is a simple skill in the grand scheme but a skill that could be a difference maker in a big game situation.
A coach must never forget that the catcher is a lot more than just the player who is receiving the pitch. The catcher has a physically demanding and mentally difficult job to do on the baseball field. The catcher will need a lot of work in practice to develop into an effective, fundamentally sound player. I believe it takes special players to want to catch and to excel at the position. With that said, the coach will be extremely important in the proper development of the catcher. The catching position is one of the more difficult positions to play but for that reason it can also be one of the more rewarding positions for both the player and for the coach who is teaching it.