Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of articles on baseball catcher technique. It focuses on how to back up bases and execute a rundown.
Backing up bases takes hustle, and the catcher needs to anticipate where the ball may end up. The angle at which the fielder throws the ball to the first baseman is what tells the catcher where to go to make the play. The objective for backing up a base is to prevent a runner from advancing on an errant throw.
The catcher should back up first base when:
- A ground ball is hit, and no base runners are on base.
- There is a runner on first, and the forceout is made at second before the double-play throw to first is attempted.
- There is a runner on third base and two outs.
RELATED: Baseball Catcher Technique, Part 1
If the ball is hit to the second baseman, the catcher runs about halfway down the first-base line, typically in front of the first-base dugout. If a ground ball is hit to the left side of the infield, the catcher sprints toward the right side of the bag.
When a runner is on first base with fewer than two outs and a fly ball is hit to the outfield, the catcher jogs down the first-base line to back up a potential pick-off throw to get the runner. In case of an overthrow, the first-base coach may send his runner to second. The catcher is there to catch the ball and throw the runner out.
Drill 1 – Back Up First Base
- Place cones along the first base line where the catcher should sprint to make the play.
- Place a ball next to each cone.
- Coach calls out a number assigned to the cone.
- Catcher sprints to the cone, picks up the ball and throws to second base.
When a base runner gets caught between third base and home plate, the catcher first makes sure the runner does not reach home safely. The worst case scenario for this play is to force the base runner back to third. If the third baseman has the ball and the runner is headed home, the catcher should stand approximately 5 feet in front of home plate along the third-base line, and say “ball” when he wants the third baseman to throw the ball. When the third baseman throws the ball, the catcher moves toward the ball to catch it on the run to give him a better chance of catching the baserunner before he retreats back to third base.
RELATED: Baseball Catcher Technique, Part 2
The catcher might also find himself executing a rundown when the runner on first gets picked off. The catcher runs to first to get in line to join his teammates trying to trap the runner between first and second. The goal is to tag the runner out with no more than two throws.
Drills 2 and 3 – Execute a Rundown Between Third and Home
- Practice running forward to catch a throw and picking up speed on the catch.
- Another baseball catching drill for rundowns is to throw on the run to a teammate as if throwing a dart to a board. The ball should be thrown firmly and released with a flip of the wrist.
Read the rest of the series on baseball catcher technique: