A pitcher and a catcher: two independent players, playing completely different positions with completely different job descriptions. Yet for overall team success, they must work together. Their relationship is a delicate one, and many times the two are not on the same page. Most of their problems arise when calling a game.
In most high school programs, the duty of calling pitches is left up to the catcher. (See Two Drills That Will Make You a Better Catcher.) However, it’s not just the catcher calling the game, since a pitcher can shake off a sign. Obviously, the tandem works best when both players are in agreement. (See also Reading and Throwing Pitches.)
Trust is the only way for this to work. For a catcher to call the right pitch in the best location in any situation, he must trust the pitcher’s ability to execute. In return, the pitcher must trust the catcher’s knowledge of the hitter and the opponent’s lineup. (Check out “Trust Your Stuff” With a Pre-Performance Routine.)
Unfortunately, before trust can be developed, there needs to be a level of failure experienced by both parties. During the growth process, the pitcher’s stats might take a hit. Of course, wins and losses trump personal statistics, but generally speaking, if a pitcher’s ERA is low, the team has a better chance of winning games. The pitcher’s won-loss record and ERA are displayed on the JumboTron, but the catcher has just as much to do with them as the pitcher.
One trick to add responsibility to catchers is to keep track of their ERA. To do this, take the pitcher’s stat line from the game and apply it to whatever catcher was behind the plate that day. This may help a catcher call pitches with more conviction and can strengthen the trust factor with the pitcher. They will both have something at stake in the result, outside of the win-loss record.
Ways to Work on Developing Trust
There are few specific drills to develop trust between pitchers and catchers. Outside of game play, little has been done to address the issue. But there are some things you can do in practice to help, while teaching catchers how to call a game. The following drill is a great exercise for the fall season. It can also be performed during spring practice if your team conducts a lot of scrimmages.
- During any scrimmage, have one catcher in the game and a second catcher calling pitches from the dugout.
- The pitcher must totally trust the catcher in the dugout and throw each pitch with conviction.
- The catcher in the game is not allowed to change the sign, nor is the pitcher allowed to shake it off.
- A coach can be in the dugout with the catcher, asking questions about the situation and explaining why he would throw a certain pitch.