The Importance of a Catcher's Receiving Ability
As a catcher, receiving is one of the most important skills you need to master. As we have hopefully displayed in our content and products, it's not just about catching the ball - it's about doing it in a way that maintains strikes and makes it easy for the pitcher to throw to you. In this article, we'll briefly go over the importance of receiving ability and how you can improve it.
First and foremost, your receiving ability is a crucial piece of your game because it can make the difference between a strike and a ball. Period. Like we talk about in our Receiving Handbook, the stances and mechanics used to receive are a key component of success. This success is simply making sure that pitches thrown in the strike zone don’t get called balls as often as possible while making borderline (50/50) pitches seem like strikes. If you're stabbing at the ball or moving your glove improperly, it can lead to more balls than strikes and put your pitcher in a tough spot. It is worth mentioning that we do not believe you should be moving pitches that are way out of the zone back into the zone. Pitches already in the zone and borderline strikes are where we make our money.
In addition to helping your pitcher, good receiving ability can also help your team in other ways. If you're able to receive pitches effectively, it can make it easier for your team to get outs and limit runs scored against them. When the name of the game is to outscore the other team, a few pitches to create more outs and limit runs can be the difference when receiving.
So, how can you improve your receiving ability? The first step is to focus on your glove positioning and setups. You want to be in a comfortable position that:
- Provides a good target for your pitcher
- Puts your glove in a position to adjust to each pitch
- Gives the umpire a great view of the glove when you present the pitch
We could break down each of those elements in more detail, but if you are comfortable, giving a good target, able to adjust to the pitch, and presenting the ball well you will likely have success. Like we have told many others, though, make sure that your setups allow for good receiving actions to happen. This is going to vary for every catcher to some degree.
Another important aspect of receiving is your mindset. You want to be confident and relaxed, trusting in your abilities and focusing on each pitch as it comes in. Don't get too caught up in the result - whether it's a strike or a ball - and instead focus on making a clean catch and setting your pitcher up for success. Slow the game down and think about being smooth at all times. The sweet spot (pocket) of the mitt is where we want to catch every ball. The loud pop will make an umpire much more prone to call a strike than if we do not catch the ball cleanly in the pocket.
Finally, it's important to practice, practice, practice. Spend time working on your receiving skills with a coach or teammate, and incorporate drills into your regular practice routine. Of course, we’d love for you to check out our CRT Belt - but, the amount of work that goes into a good receiving catcher’s abilities is substantial. Find what setups work for you, get on the machine, and catch as many bullpens as you can. As you improve, pay attention to the small details that will consistently help in game.
Your receiving ability is an important skill to master. It can make the difference between a strike and a ball, help your team get outs/limit runs scored, and boost your confidence as a catcher. By focusing on your glove positioning, stances, mindset, and practicing regularly, you can improve your receiving ability and become a more well-rounded catcher. Dominate the zone! If you’d like to find out how you can improve your receiving skills with KGS Baseball, check out our products and training, or reach out anytime. The Catcher’s Receiving Handbook is a much more detailed exploration of what elite catchers are doing to add value to their teams. Below are a few basic drills that we feel will help you work on your receiving skills.
Simple Drills to Improve Receiving Ability:
- Tennis Ball Receiving Drill: This is a staple catching drill and is great for receiving as well as general hand-eye coordination. This drill involves using tennis balls instead of baseballs to improve receiving technique. A coach or partner will stand a few feet away and toss tennis balls at the catcher in different locations, forcing them to adjust and receive the ball with proper technique. You may use a glove, barehand, or both to make this drill more difficult. You will likely find that if your hands are not “soft” the tennis ball will shoot away.
- Barehand Baseball Receptions: Similar to bare hand tennis ball work, this drill is designed to improve a catcher's ability to receive a pitch with their bare hand. A coach or partner will toss pitches to the catcher without a glove, forcing them to use proper hand placement and technique to receive the ball cleanly. Typically, your coach or partner will be 6-8 feet in front of you. Change up the speed of the flip, distance, angle, and timing of catch to get more out of this drill.
- Machine Receiving Reps: The use of a pitching machine is a great way to improve receiving skills (we think it is the most important piece of drill work) because it closely mimics game-like reps. By adjusting the machine to throw pitches in different locations, at different speeds, and with various movement patterns, catchers can get ample reps and work on receiving the ball with proper technique. Catchers can also practice receiving lower probability strikes/tougher pitches by working on bringing borderline pitches back into the strike zone. Challenge yourself in terms of pitch shape, velocity, and location. If you don’t have a machine, get out there and catch every bullpen that you can and work on receiving, as well as other, skills.
These drills can be done on a daily basis and incorporated into any catcher's pregame or practice routine. By focusing on proper technique and receiving the ball with soft hands, catchers can improve their receiving ability and make a significant impact on the game. KGS has lots of drill work for catchers - check out our partnership with The Futures App for more info on remote instruction and strength training.
Photo credit: Kelly Gavin, Texas Rangers