Catching - Receiving
Catching The Ball
The proper position of the body and glove is as important to a catcher as any other player on the field. The catcher must not only field the ball cleanly, but if the pitch is a borderline strike or ball, he must try to give the illusion that the pitch is a strike (a technique called framing). The goal is catch each pitch between your shoulders and to not move your glove quickly to the ball. One way to get set up to frame a pitch or to simply catch the ball is to shift your body smoothly toward the pitch as it comes toward you.
Let's say you set up to catch a ball over the center of the plate and the pitch is actually thrown on the outside corner. The umpire could call the pitch a strike or a ball, but your own actions can influence that call. If you stay in your position and flash your glove out quickly at the last second, the umpire will be inclined call the pitch a ball. On the other hand, if you slowly start to shift toward the location of the pitch as the pitch is delivered, the umpire will be more inclined to call it a strike.
The position of the glove is also important to promote the illusion that a pitch is a strike. For instance, you learned to catch a ball with your palm facing the center of the plate. But, on a low pitch (a borderline strike), if you catch the ball with the palm down, you give the umpire the impression that the pitch is too low. Always try to catch pitches that come across the plate at the knee or lower backhanded. Catching a low ball on your catching hand side is difficult backhanded, so make sure you shift toward the pitch; if it clearly isn't going to be a strike, shift and catch the ball with the glove fully opened and your palm up as shown in the diagram below.
Slightly bend your elbow when you catch the ball. Catching the ball with your elbow locked often causes the ball to bounce out of your glove because there is no give. When you bend your elbow, you absorb the blow of the pitch and can hold on to the ball.
Giving A Target
A catcher who places his glove thigh high in the middle of the plate for every pitch is doing nothing to help the pitcher.
Help the pitcher be successful by positioning your glove as needed for each pitch. Because pitches, batters, and innings are unique, so too will be the position of your glove.
How do you give a target to help out the pitcher?
Move yourself, not just your glove. If you want the pitcher to hit the inside part of the plate, shift yourself over in that direction. Don't move the target after the pitcher has started his motion. It can be very distracting for a pitcher to be in the middle of his motion and he looks to the plate to pick up the target, only to find the catcher moving his body and target into position. Many catchers want to wait to set up so the hitter cannot pickup the pitch location. This is fine, but there is no reason to wait until the last second. Get in position before the pitcher picks up the target.
Pitchers, catchers, and coaches want the ball down in the strike zone. You can help the pitcher focus on this by giving him a low target with your fingers, facing forward toward the pitcher. This gives the pitcher a target at the bottom of the strike zone.
As the pitcher releases the ball, move your glove so it's in a vertical position. This allows you to:
- relax your arm
- open and turn your glove down for a pitch thrown down and in
- close your glove and turn it down for a pitch thrown down and out
Receiving the Pitch
The following is a good catching drill but also shows the technique of receiving the pitch.