It is with good reason that the catcher is often referred to as the “field captain”. An effective baseball / softball catcher has the ability to impact virtually all aspects of the game – calling the game, ensuring proper defensive plays & alignment, controlling the opposition’s run game, taking charge of directing plays as they are happening, and even providing psychological support for pitchers, etc… The catcher has a unique viewpoint of the game and is the only player who can see what is happening on the field with every pitch. Because of this, a catcher must remain focused for every pitch of every at-bat throughout the game. These demands require a catcher to have great leadership skills as well as superior mental and physical toughness. Despite all of this, the primary responsibility is to receive the ball. Ironically, it seems this task is one that youth catchers struggle with the most.
Receiving the ball properly begins before the pitch is thrown and is linked to a catcher having proper set-up. All too often, we see catchers who keep their feet narrowly set up under the center of their body with their knees pointing out towards the hole between SS and 3B and hole between 2B and 1B. This is not a balanced position, nor is it particularly athletic. For a catcher to maximize their chance of properly receiving, framing, or blocking a pitch, the set-up must be balanced and athletic. To help guide catchers with proper set-up, we typically look to achieve the following:
No Runners on Base:
1) The catcher should be a comfortable distance behind the batter – approximately 1 arm’s length from the batters back leg.
2) The catcher’s left knee should be in-line with the shortstop, while his right knee should be in-line with the pitcher.
3) The catcher’s thighs should be parallel with the field and even with the knees to protect the signs being given.
4) While giving signs, the catcher should rest his left wrist on the outside of his left knee to provide extra protection against the 3rd base coach seeing the signs.
As the catcher is readying to receive a pitch:
5) Right foot should be 3-4 inches behind left foot.
6) Left elbow should be resting softly on his left knee, with the mitt in line-with the center of his body.
7) Throwing hand should be tucked behind in a relaxed fashion.
With Runners on base (All of the pre-pitch signal calling remains the same):
As the catcher is preparing to receive the pitch:
1) Feet should be closer to shoulder width apart, with the left foot just a bit in front of the right;
2) Weight should be shifted slightly forward towards the balls of the feet.
3) Chest should be angled forward but kept low while hips and glutes remain back (again, keeping the thighs parallel with the ground).
4) Elbows should both be out in front of his knees – mitt, again, providing a target on the middle of his body, while the right hand is tucked behind the glove in loose fist with thumb tucked in.
We hope you find these tips helpful. We believe mastering these fundamentals will provide a solid foundation for future development in the very complex and demanding position.