Catching 101 – Receiving
Umpires from youth baseball all the way the college baseball will be hesitant to call strikes on the corners if there is a lot of movement from the catcher. Umpires are a lot like horses, sudden and late movements will scare them. So it is very important to teach your catcher to stay strong behind the baseball.
I am a strong believer in “sticking the pitch”. Sticking the pitch is the ability to catch the baseball and have no more movement after the pitch. I DO NOT teach catchers to flip or turn their glove up, down or back into the strike zone. With a good umpire, moving the glove will actually hurt you in getting strike calls. As a catcher you are telling the umpire that the pitch was not a strike, and you are trying to fool him.
Sticking a pitch, also called framing a pitch, is not a simple as just catching the baseball and not letting it move. For example, most pitchers throw from a ¾ arm angle over the top. This causes the baseball to arrive to the strike zone at a downward angle. The longer a pitch travels, the lower it will arrive in the strike zone. If you have a pitch that arrives at the hitters jersey letters when crossing the plate, and your catchers receives the ball at full extension with his glove hand, chances are that pitch will be called a ball. As a catcher, if you let that same pitch travel to a foot in front of your face before framing, you have a much better chance for a strike call due to the downward angle of the pitch.
As the pitch goes lower in the zone, catchers need to reach out or “go get the baseball”. It can mean the difference between reaching to frame a pitch at the hitter’s knees, or letting the ball travel too far and framing the ball at the hitter’s shins.
Even when a pitch is low in the strike zone, catchers never want to frame a pitch while at full extension with their glove hand. Doing so will actually decrease the catchers ability to “stick the pitch”. When framing or sticking a low pitch, the catcher should always have a slight amount of flexion in their elbow. Doing this will help absorb some of the pitch velocity and now the catcher is using forearm strength as well to help frame, instead of just their shoulder.
Being set up in the correct portion of the plate also helps catchers with their ability to frame. As catcher’s, we are at our strongest when the pitch is located in the middle of our body and at the belly button. In a perfect world, a pitcher would always hit the target given to them, but that is not a common occurrence. For pitches that are not thrown to middle of the body, I teach my catchers to follow the ball with their nose. When the catcher follows the ball with their nose, or keeps their head behind the ball, it allows their top half of the body to be in a much stronger position than just moving their glove. Commonly, anything outside the frame of the catcher’s body will be called a ball. The most important job for a catcher is his ability to receive and handle the pitching staff.
– Kevin S.
Kevin was a two time first team all-state catcher, including a 1st team all-state elite team honor at Marion High School in Marion, Iowa as well as a 3 time all-conference and all-district performer. Before leaving Marion, Kevin posted a .527 batting average that is tied for the highest in school history for a single season. Kevin went on to play college baseball at Kirkwood Community College and Coe College In Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While at Coe Kevin was a two time all-conference player as well as an all-region player his senior year. Kevin is entering his 7th season as an assistant baseball coach at Marion High School and coached 2 season as an assistant coach at Coe College. Kevin resides with his wife Katelynn in Cedar Rapids.
- Matt Kiley