Over the years I have personally taught and watched 1000’s of baseball catchers execute catching drills and it never ceases to amaze me the grit and toughness these players demonstrate on a daily basis, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally in addition.
I’ve seen catchers who have a rifle for an arm and a rocket launcher for a bat, all the tools for making the team, who were told to pack their bags. Why? Simply stated… they couldn’t manager a pitching staff. Here’s a few tips on becoming a substantial and valuable catcher behind the plate.
Building Trust, whether in a two pitcher or seventeen pitcher staff, is the single most important issue a catcher must master. typically, just being on the same team, All-Star teams for example, is enough to build camaraderie between players, but a catcher, by character of the position, has to be more than a team mate, he has to be a Trusted partner.
There’s only one way to gain that Respect and Trust from your pitchers, it must be earned by performance, such as:
(1.) The catcher must sacrifice himself not letting any pitch get by him, although the pitcher may seem intent on bouncing every other ball off your shins or trying to hit the back stop with high throws;
(2.) The catcher must establish his reputation of always doing his homework which allows him to call the right pitch against any hitter’s weakness;
(3.) The catcher demonstrates the ability to throw the runner, the pitcher just walked on 4 pitches, out at second trying to steal or behind him at first base if he wanders a bit too far off base.
This trust and confidence building comes by shared experiences and history together, and can not be rushed, but by being ahead of the game you can quicken the time of action, which is imperative. You can’t wait till mid season to develop a relationship with your pitching staff, it’ll be too late, for you and the team.
Simply put… Building your skills is a never ending course of action.
You can not expect your pitching staff to respect and trust you if you don’t respect and trust your own skills, and there’s a huge difference between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance has to proclaim itself… Confidence Silently excels by performing.
Unfortunately there’s no magical pill or spell, the only method to build confidence is hard practice. Practice to the point you can’t go on, then practice some more. Two Tips to help:
(1.) Always be obtainable and eager for bullpen work. There is no better place to learn your trade and the individual abilities of your pitching staff than by catching them while in the bullpen. You learn the pitcher, he learns you and familiarity is built. Familiarity breeds trust, which breeds confidence.
The more reps you take as a catcher the better you become with the catcher’s mitt, the better you learn to shift your weight to the ball without having to think, the more the protective equipment becomes a second skin.
(2.) If there are no pitchers to catch, or if it’s an off day, go to the batting cage and catch the pitching machines. So they’re called batting cages, does that average you can only hit the balls, you can’t catch them in addition.
Always use your complete compliment of protective gear, not only for safety but to acquire the feeling of the equipment being natural and unrestrictive. I may keep repeating that, but a catcher uncomfortable in his equipment can not perform. Period.