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Catching's three-point checklist: (blocking, receiving, and throwing).

Catching is probably the most difficult and important position on the diamond. Which is why, of course, it requires so much learning and practice.

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Its three most essential components are blocking, receiving, and throwing. They must be practiced religiously and timelessly in order to achieve a high degree of efficiency. Even if all that practice doesn't produce a Johnny Bench for you, it will produce a strong, intelligent kid who can get the most out of his pitchers and win games.

BLOCKING CHECKLIST

1. Block the ball; do not try to catch it.

2. Don't let the ball get underneath your glove or buttock.

3. Always anticipate the ball being thrown in the dirt.

4. Approach the ball aggressively, but block it passively

5. Always block the ball softly towards the plate within reaching distance.

6. Lead with your mitt to block the ball.

7. Sinking the hips will allow you to get low to the ground and prevent the ball from getting under your mitt and rear end.

8. Tuck your chin while tracking the ball into the chest protector.

9. Place the bare hand behind the mitt when presenting a target to the pitcher. It will protect your throwing hand from getting hit by the ball.

10. Keep the shoulders in line with the knees when you're in the block position.

11. Tuck your elbows into the rib cage. It will slightly widen your torso and prevent the ball from passing through any open space between your arms and upper body.

12. When placing the mitt on the ground on pitches in the dirt, make sure it is angled at 90 degrees. A 45-degree angle would provide a ramp for the ball to roll up the arm, allowing it to get away from you.

13. With a right-handed pitcher on the mound, you will be expected to block pitches from the middle to the throwing arm side.

14. With a left-handed pitcher on the mound, you will be expected to block balls from the middle of the plate to the glove side of the body.

15. On a ball in the dirt to your throwing arm side, push off your left foot and drive the right knee and shoulder around the ball, with the shoulders slightly off-centered to the pitching rubber.

16. On a ball in the dirt to your glove side, push off the right foot and drive the left knee and shoulder around the ball, with the shoulders slightly off-centered to the pitching rubber.

17. Use the same blocking mechanics on pitches to the left and right as you would on pitches down the middle.

18. Don't be afraid to call a pitch in the dirt on a 1-2 or 0-2 count.

19. My high school coach once said, "If you view a catcher from the side and his body position looks like a 'C', that means he is in the correct position to block."

THROWING CHECKLIST

1. Throws to second base on a tag play should take less than 2 seconds, not 2 from pop to pop.

2. A quick and accurate throw is more important than a strong throw.

3. Get your body moving in the direction of your throw. This will help you get rid of the ball with momentum in the direction of the throw.

4. You must have a clear throwing lane to the base if you expect to throw anyone out.

5. Try to grip the ball across four seams while preparing to throw. This will give the ball carry and accuracy.

6. You must have quick feet to release the ball. Remember: Quick feet equals quick release, slow feet equals slow release.

7. On a pitch down the middle to your throwing arm side, the rock-and-fire throw should be expected by anyone with a strong arm.

8. When throwing to second base, come out of your stance like an airplane taking off: this will allow you to gain ground and momentum to your target. If you stand straight up to throw, you will lose valuable time. This most likely will prevent you from having a shot at the advancing runner.

9. Attempt to catch the ball in the same spot in your mitt each time. This will enhance your ability to catch the ball at the same location each time and get off the throw with no loss of time.

10. Play long toss every day to enhance your arm strength.

11. In a double steal situation, consider the back runner as well as the lead runner. The back runner will often not be running hard. You can take the momentum away from an offensive team by exploiting a runner who isn't running hard for his team.

12. Always expect the runner to steal.

13. Don't be afraid to attempt pick-off throws. Let the runner know you're not afraid of throwing the ball.

14. On a throw to 3rd base vs a right-handed hitter, it is best to step behind the hitter on a pitch inside or down the middle.

RECEIVING THE BASEBALL

1. With the bases empty, you have to assume a position that will provide a low target.

2. If the bases are occupied, assume a stance that will allow you to block or throw.

3. Position yourself in a receiving stance that will not block the umpire's view of the baseball.

4. Assume your stance behind and below the hitter's back elbow. This will allow you to catch more pitches close to the plate as well as deflect more foul tips into the mitt.

5. Once you relay the signal to the pitcher, shift into the desired location as soon as the pitcher starts to deliver the pitch. This will prevent the coach or base-runner from relaying the signal to the hitter.

6. When the pitcher releases the ball, you should tilt your mitt forward. This will relax your wrist and allow you to react to the ball with soft hands.

7. Keep your receiving elbow partially extended in front of your body. It will prevent you from hindering your ability to move toward the ball.

8. Keep the receiving elbow positioned outside the left knee. This will prevent the elbow from locking out on a pitch down and in.

9. Raise your hips with runners on base. This will unlock the hips and allow you to react to any defensive situation with authority and agility.

10. Since receiving is executed more often in a game than any other skill, your #1 job is to catch 100% of all pitches.

11. Receive the ball in a gentle, nonviolent manner. Remember: receive the ball, do not reach or stab at it.

12. Do not stick your hand and wrist all the way into the mitt. It will cause tension that will reduce your ability to receive the ball with a soft-hand action.

13. Do not lock your receiving elbow when receiving the ball.

14. The objective of framing a pitch is to get every possible strike called a strike.

15. Frame borderline pitches only. Do not insult the umpire by trying to frame or pull balls out of the strike zone.

16. Eliminate any unnecessary movements. This could be a distraction to the umpire. You do not want him to set up and then set up again to see the pitch.

17. On the inside pitch, quarter-turn your mitt and catch the outside portion of the ball.

18. Catch the low pitch with your fingertips up and slightly funneling the ball up toward your body.

19. Catch the top half of the high pitch and deeper in the mitt than the low pitch.

20. The pitch away is the most difficult to catch because the ball is away from the glove side. You should attempt to work around the ball and force the pocket of the glove in toward the plate.

21. Do not fight or stab at the ball, let it come to you naturally.

22. Drill, drills, and more drills will enhance your ability to catch the baseball 100% of the time.

By William Hardin, Baseball Coach, Page H.S., Greensboro, NC
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Title Annotation:BASEBALL
Author:Hardin, William
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:1359
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