We're going to start a series about catching, and provide some of our tips about how to get better. Being a better catcher in baseball is a challenging job, and it takes a lot of hard work.
Our first tip, is to relax.
This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, as they think about catching as something that requires intensity, yelling, being an active general on the field and so on.
I don't disagree that those are some things that a catcher is. However, a catcher also needs to balance all of these things with the skill of calmness under fire.
A lot of youth catchers are taught to aggressively jump to balls in the dirt, fly around behind the plate to get to balls that are off of it, and bring those pitches that are 5 inches off the black, back over the plate for the umpire. All of this amounts to a very active catcher, and one that needs to hear this advice.
I won't get into the specific aspects of receiving or blocking, I'll do that in future articles. This one is purely about the physical calmness that we desire in our catcher. Here's a few reasons why quiet and relaxed is the way to go:
- Catching is physically tough and being too active will wear a catcher out. We need you at the end of the game and season as much as in the beginning.
- Diving and jumping down onto the ground is tough on the knees
- Umpires don't appreciate 6 inch frames of balls. Receiving the ball is not a magic trick, it's absorbing the pitch toward the strike zone. (We'll explain that one later)
- Your pitcher needs to relax and feel like he's somewhere near the zone. Stay calm, stay centered, and you'll be a better influence on your pitcher.
- Close pitches are much easier to "make look good" if your body doesn't move too much to get it.
- You'll be a softer surface for blocking balls. Actively jumping at them can kick them away. Breath out, ease into the block.
This isn't to say that we don't practice very intensely with our catchers, we do. In fact we almost always practice "faster than the game" with everybody. Catching practice is fast, challenging, loud, and an incredible amount of fun.
However, we also blend into every drill, the skills and mental approach of being a solid and calm backstop.
Those are a few things that we think will make you better behind the plate. Mentally, we want catchers that are aware of everything that's happening. Ready to pounce on a stealing runner, ready to assign duties to infielders and orchestrate bunt defenses.
Physically, we want them to be quiet warriors. Smooth, and exuding a confident calmness. That will make you a better catcher.
Stay tuned for the rest of these, thanks for being a part of Baseball Brains! Even if you're not a member, we'll allow you to call yourself a Brainiac if you share this on Twitter!