Being a Baseball Catcher Requires a Certain Breed of Player

Historically, when someone asked if “You wear the Tools of Ignorance?” he was actually asking “Are you a catcher?” The original breed of catchers were tough, hardy individuals who were perhaps not the sharpest tack in box, so they were placed behind the plate to endure the abuse catchers eagerly subject themselves.

The stigma of “Wearing the Tools of Ignorance” still remains today, but the modern day catcher wears that label as a badge of Courage. There’s little doubt the modern catcher is usually the smartest player on the field, as well as the toughest. He puts on his equipment as carefully and skillfully as ancient gladiators donned their shield and sword. These players are in fact, Warriors of the Diamond.

Their skills are many, but let’s exam one basic, physically punishing task they endure on a weekly, if not daily basis. The “Play at the Plate”. This play makes the saying “Baseball is not a contact sport” invalid.

The Play at the Plate involves a base runner attempting to score safely from third base as a throw approaches the plate attempting to throw him out. The catcher, number one has to anticipate a play at the plate. If the sole runner is on third base and a fly ball is hit to the center field warning track, there will be no play at the plate.

However, if there’s a runner on second base and there’s a hit down the right field line which the right fielder quickly tracks down and throws home, chances are there will be a play.

The catcher facing the direction of the oncoming throw, right field in this case, will dart his eyes from the runner to the ball. Once the base runner rounds third base and goes outside the catcher’s view, unless he turns his head and risks losing sight of the ball, the pitcher backing up the play should yell directions to the catcher.

The catcher, being told the runner is coming, while still facing right field, positions his foot and leg along and slightly out front of the left side of home plate. This is the initial step to prevent the runner from being able to reach the plate with any part of his body.

Receiving the ball, it’s important the catcher secure the ball with both hands, to prevent it from being dislodged by the impact of the runner. Holding the ball with both hands the catcher leans to the left, dipping his shoulder.

At this point the catcher has his left leg blocking the plate, he’s leaned into the approaching runner further blocking access to the plate, and by dipping his shoulder he’s in position to absorb the impact of the collision with the runner, by rolling backwards or spinning away from the crash if need be.

When there’s a close play at the plate which results in a violent collision, I’ve yet to see an umpire call a runner safe as long as the catcher was positioned correctly and held on to the baseball.

Some coaches advise their players to discard their mask for better vision. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I always coached my players, unless it interfered with their vision, keep it on. It was protection and I wanted my players afforded all the protection they could get.

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About James Bain

Jim ( Coach ) Bain is a former Minor League Player and Coach of Youth Baseball for over 10 years. He has drawn from fellow successful coaches’ experiences and combined them with his own extensive experience to create a Baseball Teaching Website. The site is packed with 100s of tips, drills, history and instruction on how to play and coach the game of baseball.

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