The Rawlings Gold Glove Award is the greatest measure of defensive excellence in Major League Baseball. And no MLB catcher was more superb in 2011 than Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles, winner of the Rawlings American League Gold Glove, announced Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Wieters, a switch-hitter with power from both sides, emerged as a defensive standout this past season. He committed only five errors—second among catchers—and threw out base runners attempting to steal 37 percent of the time, also good for second in the Bigs.
The most impressive stat is one that highlights Wieters' unique athleticism. Standing 6’5” and weighing 225 pounds, Wieters is one big bird behind the dish for the O’s. Yet he was charged with only one passed ball in 132 games. One passed ball in 1,150 innings played!
Wieters doesn't rely solely on his large frame to block baseballs thrown in the dirt. To eliminate passed balls, the All-Star catcher limbers up by performing Lateral Lunge exercises, which improve his explosiveness and lower-body flexibility, making him a more agile big man maneuvering around the plate. (Learn about the Half-Moon Catcher's Drill for better reaction time and agility.)
“If your hips are tight, you can’t get down as low, you can’t give a good target and you can’t move as well side to side,” Wieters says. “It may cost you two to three runs a game if you can’t be flexible and move around.”
Wieters performs several variations of the Lateral Lunge, including the Side Lunge to Box. "You’re stepping up just to where you’re stretching the hip out, but at the same time, you’re strengthening it,” he says. “When a game comes around, you don’t have that box there, but you’re quicker, because you’ve been working on moving side to side.”
View the videos below to learn about the different Lateral Lunge variations, starting with the standard Dumbbell Lateral Lunge and moving into Wieters’ Side Lunge to Box (brought to you by the Cal State Fullerton baseball team and Indiana University's men’s swimming team, respectively).