Nothing makes a catcher look worse than a passed ball.
When pitches go astray, catchers become blockers.
And nothing makes a coach more ticked!
Set up in the proper stance anytime there are runners on - feet wide and flat, hips knee high, two-foot hop to get centered on the expected pitch.
Here are the details...
You always want to be positioned square to the pitch, so any deflection just trickles back to the plate.
First challenge is to know where the pitch is going.
- Change-ups are likely to skip low but maintain direction.
- Breaking pitches (curves, sliders, etc) will either break to the outside or cut back inside depending on the spin, the angle, the pitcher's delivery, the gravel conditions, and so on.
Expectations would have a topspin curveball cutting back and up, and a red-dot slider slicing low and away. But practice with your pitcher(s) to read their skips, and if possible get in a couple of in-the-dirt breaking pitches when you first take the field to gauge the gravel/sand qualities.
Everything happens almost together, but get your hands down first, then your knees, shoulders and chin tuck.
Mitt should be right to the ground
, bare hand behind it, both tucked back so the mitt doesn't act like a scoop (doesn't deflect the ball up).
Knees drop second.
If you were in proper blocking stance with ankles outside hips, the knees should come straight down either side of mitt.
Hunch shoulders forward and collapse chest in
- this will make the chest protector loose so it absorbes the ball, deadens the bounce back. Remember you aren't trying to catch the ball.
Bring your mask to chest
(a chin tuck) to protect your neck and also to deflect higher bounces back downward.
OFF THE PLATE
You want to get 'outside the ball' to be square to the plate.
How you do it can be a matter of personal preference, BUT...
Kick the leg out first in the direction of bounce.
This doesn't work for everyone - some catchers will tend to counterattack the leg kick (in an attempt to maintain balance) and so their body will actually lean away from the ball - away from the position they need to get to.
Note: Reading this page won't help unless, as suggested on the right, a practice sequence is used to work on the skill. Perhaps start at just 10' away and move back after a few tosses with progressively harder throws (i.e. tougher hops). This is also a skill any catcher can work on as part of his SoloBall program - using a wall, a Rebounder, with gravel surface, or a special rubber bump pad or anything else that adds to the challenge.
- Kick Away - pushing off with the opposite leg will get the proper leg out better - but it is not instinctual to see a ball bounce right and drive the left leg first. Takes practice.
- Glove first - this usually results in an attempted backhand stab - remember you shouldn't be a catcher here, but a blocker.
- Upper body first - if the feet are still firmly planted, you will get limited lateral movement.
- Hips first - we like this approach. The hip shift will help fling the leg over and bring the lead knee down. The upper body will be relaxed and can hunch over easily. And the trailing leg will drag enough so the body turns to face the plate and the ball. (A good catcher will have developed flexible hips for the swaying catches required in the lower, non-blocking, receiving stance.)