Catching is a challenging and rewarding position in baseball, but it can also be frustrating if you keep making the same mistakes. Here, we will briefly discuss five common catching mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them. These are all things that we work through with our online and in-person clients.
1. Improper Setups:
One of the most important aspects of catching is the set-up. If you do not set up correctly, it will be difficult to receive, block, and throw the ball accurately. Many times, failure to execute an action (i.e. a block) on the field is tied to the position that you are getting into before the pitch comes in. For example, if your right knee is crashing toward the middle of your body in your setup, it might become hard to move to your armside while blocking. That is always one of the first things you should look at! A comfortable and athletic stance is key.
2. Lack of Communication:
As a catcher, you are the eyes and ears of the defense. You must communicate effectively with your pitcher, infielders, and outfielders to make sure everyone is on the same page. One common mistake catchers make is not communicating enough. Make sure to use verbal cues and hand signals to communicate with your team. Be loud. Be direct. Imagine that you’re in the World Series and you need to direct your infielders/outfielders for a play at the plate. Being vocal and assertive is a must behind the dish, even with something as simple as telling your pitchers to “get over” on a bunt/ground ball.
3. Blocking Mentality:
Blocking is an essential skill for catchers. If you do not block the ball correctly, you run the risk of allowing runners to advance and giving up extra bases. Extra bases equal more extra runs. To block correctly, you must have good mechanics - but, the mentality of blocking is often overlooked. Yes, the ball is coming at you. Yes, the ball is going to hurt from time to time. The best catchers embrace this. The best catchers take pride in keeping the ball off the backstop. If you feel like you’re struggling with this piece of the game, assess your anticipation. Are you in a good position to block? Are you expecting and anticipating the ball to be in the dirt? If not, switch your mindset and mentality to be ready to block and want to block the ball.
4. Speeding the Game Up:
As you progress through your career, the game is going to get faster and faster. Pitchers throw harder, balls come off of the bat faster, and runners have more speed. When the game gets "sped up," it can have a significant impact on you as catcher. In this context, "speeding up" means that the game is moving too fast, and the player feels like events on the field are happening rapidly. This can make it hard for the catcher to stay relaxed and under control, which is critical to their ability to make good decisions without stress. You may feel some anxiety and be more afraid of failing than playing with confidence and conviction. When you feel rushed, bad decisions and costly errors start to show up. When this happens (it will for everyone) take a breath and do everything you can to slow the game back down. Focus on every pitch and collect your outs. Breathe.
5. Not Taking Care of Your Body:
ICYDK, catching is a physically demanding position, and it's essential to take care of your body. One easy mistake catchers make is not taking care of their body. Make sure to stretch before and after games and practices, stay hydrated, and get enough rest. Your mobility routine is huge when it comes to how demanding catching is on your body. We make the most throws out of anyone on the field. Our knees and hips are always working. Our mind is constantly turned on. Don’t neglect your body - work to maintain your health and longevity as you move through your career.
Of course, there are many other mistakes we can make as catchers. However, the above are some of the things that we feel are not focused on enough. Make sure that your setups allow you to do the things that you need to do, you are communicating well with your teammates, your mindset is solid, and you are taking care of your body! Oh, and outwork everybody else (👊🏻)
Photo credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press