So You Want To Be a Catcher?
Catching is the most physically demanding position on the diamond. A catcher must perform many critical roles during a game and throughout the course of a season that requires focus, dedication, and a commitment to putting the team’s needs above his own. So let’s begin by asking yourself “why do you want to be a catcher?”
What is Expected of a Catcher?
Do you have the mindset to play a position where nicks and bruises are just part of the job? Can you devote hours to catching bullpen sessions? Will your legs handle the physical wear and tear or turn in to jelly? To perfect the art of catching, and I do mean art, you must be dedicated to developing all facets of the position.
To improve your blocking there is no substitution for blocking pitch after pitch. This obviously comes with its share of bumps and bruises, however in time you will learn to accept it as part of the position.
Catchers must have a strong lower body. The weight room and an intense on-field conditioning program that builds and maintains lower body strength us crucially important. Many coaches believe that physical fatigue creates bad habits; however at Diamond Dreams we believe that under the guidance of a qualified catching instructor, workouts that exhaust a catcher while still performing movements to the best of your ability create better muscle memory. In our experience this speeds up the learning process. I must reiterate that this training must be done with a qualified coach so that technique can be corrected and maintained.
There are plenty of above average catchers who don’t possess superior arm strength, but there aren’t any great catchers out there who do not have great arms. Arm strength is only one facet of throwing runners out. Three important components of throwing out would be base-stealers are:
- Quick feet
- Quick transfer and release
- Strong and accurate arm
Having a great arm is a big advantage, but a quick transfer and release with an accurate arm will allow you to throw out more base-runners. The benefit of a stronger arm simply allows a catcher to make stronger and accurate throws on poor pitches to throw on.
A catcher needs to be able to:
- Calm a pitcher down when they are in a jam
- Increase a pitcher’s intensity when he is feeling flat
- Take control of the infield
- Maintain a good game tempo for when your team in playing defense
- Call the game
- Instill confidence in your pitcher
- Make decisions and stick by them
- Take heat from the manager/coach if needed
- Be objective and honest
Do you want to catch today and can you catch today? These are two completely different mindsets a catcher can have. If this is a question that you ask yourself then more than likely the answer is “no you don’t.” Can I catch today? If the body is able, then yes you do. A catcher knows he isn’t going to feel good all the time, rarely does he feel good, but part of the appeal of the position is the mental and physical toughness the position demands. Remember, a leader leads always, not just when they feel food.
“My catching is interfering with my hitting.” This is a common excuse. Even the best catchers see a decline in their offensive production as the season progresses. This is a natural occurrence for any catcher. Being able to maintain physical fitness and mental toughness will help reduce any decline in offensive production, and working extra hard in the cage and on the tee will ensure that you’re hitting remains at a high level throughout the course of the season. Catching is a ‘team first’ position, never forget that!
How Coaches Calling the Game Affects Development?
Young catchers today take far longer to develop game calling skills than in years past. This is largely due to the fact many high school and college coaches call the entire game for them. I couldn’t be more strongly opposed to this practice, however if you are a catcher in this particular situation, never disrespect your coach.
Speak to your coach about it. Tell him that you would like to start taking control of the game calling. This may take some persuading, but show him that you can call the pitches effectively, or at the very least show him you are willing to work on it. Take charge!
Let your coach call the pitches but think along with him. Before you check in with the coach for the signal, think about what you would call in the situation. If it is the same as the coach then you are on the right track. If you differ then after the game or between the innings tell your coach what you were thinking in a particular situation and ask him what his thinking was on a particular pitch. It won’t take long for your coach to recognize that you are switched on and are trying to develop a plan back there.
Benefits of Catching
Catching is one of the quickest ways to the major leagues or professional baseball in general. Turnover of catchers at the minor league level is greater than any other position excluding pitchers.