Want to be a catcher? Think you have what it takes? From baseball catching drills to the details surrounding the baseball catcher position - Learn everything you need to know about playing the toughest position on the diamond in this ultimate guide.
- What is a Baseball Catcher?
- What Makes a Good Catcher?
- Responsibilities as Catcher
- Fundamental Catching Drills
- Catcher’s Stance
- Choosing the Right Catcher’s Bag
A baseball catcher is the backbone of the baseball team. The catcher is responsible for orchestrating and pulling in pitches while making game time decisions.
At any level, from professional to little league, being a catcher is not as easy as some may say. It takes a level player with a unique skill set to manage the responsibilities and glory of being a catcher.
If you’re up for the challenge, taking on the role of a team’s catcher is one of the most rewarding journeys that life in baseball has to offer.
What is a Baseball Catcher?
You probably already know what a catcher is, but maybe not! So let’s get into it.
The role of a catcher is not as simple as it may seem. Stationed behind home plate, catchers are responsible for catching the pitches from their pitcher and, in most cases, calling which pitches they believe their pitchers should throw.
Some catchers run the defensive scheming while the team is out on the field. But all catchers are taught to direct players while they keep an eye on all the runners on base, at all times. It is a catcher’s job to throw out base runners who are stealing or just rounding bases off a bunt.
Catchers play an important mental role for a baseball team as well. They must be able to calm and talk their pitchers through any moments of uncertainty and struggle during a game. The greatest catchers are the ones who are known for bringing sound advice to mound visits and having an approach that transcends the moment, no matter the inning or score. One that understands that every pitcher is different, how to adjust their advice to suit each pitcher’s personality.
When you play catcher, you see every position player out on the diamond and in the outfield. You see every play from where it begins: home plate.
What Makes a Good Catcher?
Being a catcher takes a great amount of gusto via a blend of mind, soul, and baseball savvy - just ask MLB player Bruce Maxwell.
A catcher’s mentality should be even stronger than his physicality. This is saying something because physically speaking, catcher’s are usually the strongest amongst their teammates.
There is no doubt that every position on the diamond is different and demanding in its own way. But I think we can all agree that a baseball or softball catcher takes the cake on the toughest position on the diamond. From spring training to game winning home runs - catchers could be considered the backbone of any baseball team.
Why is the catcher the toughest position to play? Because it requires a ton of heart, mental, and physical strength, and a certain level of skill. Here is a breakdown of the key qualities of a good catcher.
The most challenging position to play in baseball is hands down the role of the catcher.
Many people compare the position of catcher to that of being a goalie in ice hockey. While they are fundamentally different in terms of the purpose, sport and range, when it comes to athleticism and man on man collisions, the two are closely related.
Catcher’s must be ready to block wild pitches just as a goalie catches a puck. In hockey, when there is a close goal or a scuffle between teams at the crease, the goalie usually ends up being on bottom of the dog pile. Well, when a base runner is sliding into home plate, a catcher, waiting to catch the incoming toss in from the shortstop, must take the hit just the same. You have to be tough to take those kinds of hits!
A pitcher will spend his entire life honing his throw via throw drills and working his arm. On the receiving end of those throws are catchers, of course. Catcher’s must learn to catch fastballs that are well above 90 miles per hour on a regular, everyday, every hour basis. Catching these superman pitches takes its toll and requires a relaxed stance with feet spaced shoulder width apart. Enduring this pain is a testament to the toughness a catcher must claim.
Not only is a catcher’s job physically demanding, it is mentally demanding as well.
As a baseball catcher, you must know each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as calling a game. A big part of the mental side of the game is calling pitches. What goes through the mind of a catcher before putting down a sign? Tons of things!
- What has this hitter done in previous at bats?
- What pitch has this hitter struggled to connect with?
- Where is he standing in the box?
- What is your pitcher’s best pitch today?
- Who’s on base?
- Who’s on deck?
After the pitch, the possibilities in just one play are numerous and a baseball catcher must prepare to handle each of them in their ready stance.
You Gotta Have Heart
In every sport, heart is the most important part of a team’s spirit. Catcher’s are no exception to this formula. Having heart means giving it your all
each time you step out onto the diamond. Heart gives way to dedication and focus and most importantly: joy.
Catchers are truly under the radar players. They seem to always be background pieces. The pitcher will get most of the credit for a stellar game, no matter how well the catcher may have directed or performed that night.
It is your job as a catcher to make the pitcher look like a superstar baseball player, no matter the quality of pitches they are throwing. This is where having heart comes in!
Being a catcher is about catering to the needs and wants of your pitcher. It will never be about you when you are the catcher, because the catcher’s purpose is to make the pitcher shine.
Leave your ego at home, when you are catching for a base
ball team. You are their backbone for a reason because it is your duty to hold them up.
Skills To Pay The Bills
In every sport, there is a team position that requires a heightened level of skill. In baseball that position is the catcher.
Ask yourself: can you block balls in the dirt? How about balls flying over your head? Can you throw to every base quickly and accurately? What about framing? Can you lead your pitcher?
You need to have quick feet, great hands, and a strong arm. These skills require many days of practices, many drills, and many days at the ballfield. Drills develop skills. And skills, well skills pay the bills.
Responsibilities of a Catcher
There are some critical duties you must take on when you are the catcher. These responsibilities shape a catcher’s aptitude.
Be A Leader
First things first, look to lead your team. Lead, lead, lead. Every team needs somebody to step up and fill that leadership role. Every team in every sport. Take the opportunity in this position to maintain that positive force. You have the heart, now use it to set examples for your team.
A catcher must be a positive beam of energy for the team to feed off of. When your pitcher is in a hole, use your magic to lift him up and bring in the right pitch.
In order to be a leader as catcher, you have to use your voice! Being vocal is pivotal as a catcher. You are behind home plate and have the vision to direct. Communicate with your team and don’t be afraid to yell to second base!
Lead by example of play and by showing your team what needs to be done from your advantageous point of view.
Nothing Gets By You
Let nothing get by you. This is the age old hymn of the catcher. As a catcher, your primary responsibility is to let absolutely nothing get past.
You must be both a wall and a swift frog on a lily pad, ready to snatch an approaching wild pitch from two feet out.
Remember, the catcher is the only position in the park that requires gear. Be sure you use that gear! You will often have to use your body as a shield, while pulling out the stops to keep a ball or incoming runner from getting by.
As a catcher do everything you can to stop an out-of-control ball. It’s the key to success.
Befriend the Umpire
Believe it or not, umpires are actually human. You would be shocked to learn that your actions and those of your teammates can occasionally impact borderline calls.
As a catcher you must befriend the umpire. The umpire is your friend! Act appropriately and be sure to get on the ump’s good side during a game.
We would recommend you introduce yourself and ask him about his family. It’s a long game, and you’ll be spending a good amount of time right next to the man. It’s always good in any situation to find some common ground and empathize with the umpire. The little things count.
Make Smart Decisions
As a catcher your focus is on two things: your pitcher and the baserunners. Catchers are responsible for making critical decisions within milliseconds.
To throw or not to throw? Where to throw to? How many runners are on base? How much time do you have before the baserunner makes it to first? Is there time for a double play? That’s just a little look into the split-second decisions being made during a game.
It takes balance and brains to be a true catcher. We can all agree that the job is a downright dirty, painful, and rather difficult one. But every elite baseball team relies on the smarts of their elite catcher.
Have a High Pain Threshold
Just because you have gear on, doesn’t mean you're completely protected from injury. As a catcher, you will take foul balls off every part of your body, batters will hit you on the back swing, wild pitches will find you where your gear isn’t. You’ll dive, leap, and collide with runners.
All in all, you will leave the game with the most bumps and bruises. But this is in your job description and you must wear every
foul ball, collision, bump and bruise with honor.
Frame The Pitches
Framing, of course, is the most fundamental responsibility of a catcher. Framing refers to how and where you hold your glove hand when receiving a pitch.
The key to framing is giving your pitcher a clear target and place to throw. Framing combined with pitch calling creates the language of the catcher. A language you and your pitcher will learn to speak fluently together.
Fundamental Catching Drills
Now that you have an idea of what it takes to be a catcher we can get into the good stuff: the actual work. Catchers from peewee to the major league have the same tasks: frame and receive pitches, let nothing get by you, throw out baserunners, and communicate with your team each play.
As a catcher, you will develop your stances and receiving skills. Below are several baseball catching drills and fundamentals that are specifically designed to help you improve your agility, and play as a catcher.
We recommend that you wear your catcher’s gear while executing drills.
Receiving / Framing Drills
Receiving and framing is the most essential part of making your pitcher look good. The better you frame, the better he or she will look!
Bare Hand Catch and Toss Drill
In this drill, the baseball catcher is in the squatting position with no glove and catches easy lobs with their receiving hand while framing it when caught. This drill teaches you to have easy hands while receiving as you are not using a glove, quickness in your focus as the tosses can be thrown quickly so you need to catch, frame, and drop the ball for the next ball.
Clock Framing Drill
The clock framing drill is also done barehanded and has someone else throw a ball to the catcher who is in the squatted position. The thrower will toss the ball to four spots, left (9 o’clock position), high (12 o’clock position), right (3 o’clock position), and low (6 o’clock position) and have the catcher catch the ball and frame it.
Each spot has a different way of framing as framing an inside pitch is not the same as a low pitch. Doing this quickly and in multiple sets will get the catch to remember the movements of his body and will teach them to instinctively frame a pitch without thinking about it.
Blocking is another important skill for any catcher to focus on. This catcher drill will help you decrease the amount of passed balls in games.
Put three balls in front of the catcher. Show how to move in order to successfully block each one. In one swift motion, the catcher should fall on his knees, lower his glove between his knees, place his bare hand behind the glove, and tuck his chin to his chest.
Tennis Ball Chest Bounce
Beginning catchers tend to turn away as a throw comes in. This drill teaches you to be aggressive with incoming throws. Using tennis balls, have your coach or partner bounce the balls off your chest. The key is to keep your eyes on the ball all the way to your chest. Keeping your eyes focused and your head straight allows the face mask to protect your neck as it’s supposed to instead of exposing your neck when you turn your head away.
The position of a baseball catcher or softball catcher is more important than most people think. The catcher drills above should help you hone your skills and improve your game behind the plate. By incorporating these catcher fundamentals you can help tweak and improve your game.
The Catcher’s Stance
As a baseball catcher there are many things to worry about, but what is most important when first starting out is your stance behind the plate. There are two primary stances as a catcher behind the dish, your primary stance with no runners on base and your secondary stance with runners on.
Read below to figure out the difference between the two catcher stances and the fundamentals of both.
As a baseball catcher, you will navigate through two primary stances through the game. The first is your primary stance, this is the stance you will call and receive pitches in. You want to be nice and low in your stance, giving a clear target for the pitcher. You should be in a relaxed position with your legs slightly wider than your shoulders and your toes angled out, allowing your hips to be open.
Make sure to give your pitcher a good target with your glove out from your body, and your throwing hand down at your side behind your leg, to avoid being hit with a foul ball. Have your youth catchers practice this position in practices. It is important for them to feel comfortable receiving pitches, while maintaining a good position behind the plate.
As a baseball catcher your secondary stance is very important, because this is your stance when there are runners on base. Position your feet a little wider than your primary stance. Hold yourself a few inches higher off the ground to give yourself more mobility when it comes to throwing to a base or blocking a wild pitch. Angle your chest slightly to the plate so you can handle lower pitchers, while still maintaining your balance.
Similar to your primary stance, keep your throwing hand tucked, but ready to throw at any time. In practice, it is important to simulate a real game to practice this stance. Have a pitcher throw with runners on base and have your youth catchers in the correct catcher's stance behind the plate.
It is important to incorporate both of these stances into your practices for youth catchers, so come game time they are familiar with the difference.
How to Perfect Your Catcher’s Stance
Perfecting your stance will help you be in the most athletic position possible to always keep the ball in front and prepared for any situation.
Widen your Feet
Make sure to keep your toes pointing outwards, to get the proper flex in your hips. As a baseball catcher you want just under a 90-degree angle from your upper leg to your lower leg. A wider base allows for more athleticism and a better range to move left or right, it also makes it easier to get off a good throw.
Weight on the inside part of your toes
Keep your weight on the inside of your toes to keep in an athletic position. Don’t get caught flat footed catchers!
Keep your chest up
Keeping your chest up gives your pitcher a better target, helps you to get in a blocking position easier on pitches left and right, and gets you to a strong throwing position quicker than if your chest was down.
Protect your throwing hand
It is important to protect your throwing hand. Make a fist behind your glove, so no fingers are exposed, and keep it hidden from foul balls. This also allows the catcher to quickly grab the ball when moving to throw out a runner.
Choosing the Right Catcher’s Bag
Catchers carry a lot of equipment and protective gear, more than any other player. That’s why if you’re going to be a star catcher, you’ve got to be rocking the best catcher’s bag.
Finding the right gear for your game can be difficult. If you’ve been lugging around a ton of extra baggage, you’re probably wondering if there’s something else out there. Are there catcher baseball bags that can meet your needs?
We’ve covered all of the key qualities it takes to be a badass catcher. Now let’s discuss the qualities to look out for in a catcher's bag.
Adaptability and Equipment Quantity
The right catcher’s bag is capable of handling a wide array of situations.
There are a few things:
- Good, strong, sturdy wheels that can handle any terrain!
If a wheeled catchers bag has wimpy wheels you’re going to get stuck in the mud, literally. Our Fatboy Wheel technology is designed to roll with ease over dirt, grass, concrete, rocks etc.
- Hanging hooks!
If your catchers baseball bag can be attached to the dugout fence it will live a much longer life! It won’t be as dirty and it won’t be as exposed to moisture, not to mention the easy accessibility this promotes.
It should have many different storage compartments for diversification in organization methods and an increased capacity to meet your storage needs.
You want a catchers equipment bag that can really provide an all-encompassing storage experience, holding your bats, balls, helmets, mitts, water bottle, phone, and anything else you may need! Why should you have to carry a whole fleet of bags onto the field when you can use just one?
Let Organization Lift Your Spirits [and your bag]
Research shows that clutter can cause stress. That’s the last thing we want when facing a big game! You want a No errors catchers bag that helps you get organized and stay organized. Look for bags with multiple pockets and compartments to store everything you need.
For example, No Errors’ NO E2 Catcher’s Bag comes with nine pockets, three of which can be ventilated to help wet gear dry. There’s also space for helmets, three 34’’ baseball bats, and cleat pockets designed to keep the fabric strong.
You want your catchers equipment bag to stand the test of time! The last thing you want is to be buying a new bag each season. Get something that lasts! You want something born out of heavy-duty fabrics and a wheeled catchers bag, where wheels won’t break or get stuck easily.
For example, No Errors presents a catcher’s bag with that necessary heavy-duty fabric and reinforced stitching. It is designed to hold together in the face of years of wear and tear from the field and transportation. Not only that, but its massive fatboy wheels will not only plow through any terrain, they also keep the bag nicely elevated, preventing further damage to the exterior.
Playing the toughest position on the diamond is certainly hard work and takes a lot of extra practice. But if you have the skills and discipline, being a catcher can be an extremely rewarding role on the team!
So, do you think you have what it takes?