Catching is all guts, no glory. Digging pitches out of the dirt or blocking the plate to tag base runners barreling down on you? Now that's audacious.
Besides having no fear, what else does it take to make such gutsy plays? Rapid reaction time and agility.
Think about a base runner attempting to steal second. You may possess the strongest arm on the field, but if you can't react to his jump and explode out of your stance, your throw will be late. The same goes for fielding a bunt or blocking a ball in the dirt. A catcher must react quickly and move into position to make the play.
Even if you're not fleet of foot, fast reaction time can counteract what you lack in agility, says Doug Jarrow, strength and conditioning coordinator for the Chicago Cubs.
Whether you're fielding a bunt, attempting to pick off a runner at first or throwing to second, you must stay low and keep your knees bent. "When you stand up, you lose your legs," Jarrow says. "Once you straighten your legs, you lose that power to be able to explode and make a quick throw down to whatever base you're going to."
To reinforce exploding out of your squat stance to make a play, Jarrow recommends the Half-Moon Drill. He says, "We do this to work on their technique, foot speed and reaction time. It's important to set up properly for each one. Each rep, you want to put 100 percent into exploding out of your stance, fielding the ball and making a nice, crisp throw to the base."
The emphasis is on technique and replicating a game situation, so don't rush back to the dish following each throw.
- Place 10 balls in half-moon pattern approximately 10 feet in front of home plate
- Assume catcher's stance with glove raised
- Explode out of stance, field first ball and throw to first base
- Return to start position; field and throw remaining balls
- Set up Half-Moon pattern and perform second set by fielding and throwing to second base
- Perform third set by fielding and throwing to third base
Rest: Walk back behind the plate and set up in stance
Coaching Points: Do not take drop step coming out of stance // Explode from stance as quickly and powerfully as possible // Keep knees bent and stay low // Focus on making accurate throw to base
Variation 1: Face partner in catcher's stance. Partner holds glove up to give cue and rolls ball in. Jarrow says, "When a bunt is laid down in a game situation, they don't know exactly where it's going to be, so this adds some randomness, a more realistic component to the drill."
Variation 2: Number balls 1 to 10 from left to right. Partner calls out number. Explode from stance, field and throw that ball to specified base.
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