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What I Know And Remember About Baseball - The Catch

Jan 31, 2008
We have all seen it, grounders, pop flies, line drives and throws seemingly placed in the defenders glove, the en gratis easy out. More often though with younger players something goes awry. Passed balls, dropped, juggling, in and outs are symptoms of a breakdown of player skills.

As Baseball Players on defense, the utmost responsibility is to control the baseball. Players can gain control by catching, knocking down or otherwise keeping the baseball put into play within their grasp between them and the base in play. Baseball control stops the offense from advancing the bases. If the offense cannot advance, they cannot score which is the object of the game.

Baseball playing skills are really a simple matter. The game itself can be broken down into a few elements as well. Pitchers initiate the play by throwing. Batters continue the play by hitting what the Pitcher hurls. Defenders execute their duties by a catch, a throw and a catch. When offensive player advancement is halted the play is over. Just five simple steps to accomplish.

What happens is steps three and five which should be automatic anatomic response can be anything but automatic. Bouncing hops off the infield, sun in the eyes, poor throws are just a few of the wrinkles in our five step game that adds variety and drama to the all time American pastime.

Skills of catching a baseball start with a good athletic stance. Knees slightly bent, weight forward on the balls of the feet allowing for quick movement in any direction. Hands are out front waiting to respond in any direction the ball may travel. When fielding, the players bottom is lowered in response to the approaching ball. The defender has already aligned themselves with the path of the ball.

To receive the baseball with the glove, the glove hand is pointed down to be perpendicular with the ground. When the glove is at this angle, a missed catch will result in the ball bounding in front of the defender. Off angle misses are simple geometry, the baseball can bounce anywhere. A great hazard of playing baseball is taking it in the teeth from a bad hop or passed ball.

When Players place their gloves off angle it is impossible to predetermine where the ball will go. Just a few near misses during practice can cause the Player to develop bad habits. Taking their eyes off the ball, twitch turn of the head to flat out intimidation of the baseball are all driven from a lack of confidence that the Player can protect themselves from the ball with their glove.

Fielders complete the catch by covering the ball in their glove with their throw hand. A common description for this catching position is the alligator. Like the jaws of this water living predator, the hands are placed heal to heal and spread apart prior to receiving the ball, as the baseball enters the glove the Players hands clamp down and cover it. This method aids in preventing the ball from bouncing out of the glove.

Concurrently with covering the ball with the alligator motion, soft hands are implemented to combat the energy within the traveling baseball. Automotive shock absorbers are an excellent example of deceleration. At impact the hands retract quickly, transferring the energy from the baseball to the glove. As the hands decelerate so does the ball. Within fractions of a second the balls energy is dissipated and the fielder is now in control.

Repetitive drills bring the basic mechanics of the fielders duties. Breaking down each motion into individual movements instill the muscle memory necessary to execute a successful play. Player technique is the compilation of the individual skills necessary used to complete the active portion of play they are engaged in at the moment.

Situational drills need to be incorporated with technical drills. The more experience a Player has with, if this happens then I do that, will transfer to the field as confidence. When Players have full knowledge of what their role is in any given situation, they tend to complete their tasks with high success. Success breads confidence, confidence reinforces success.

So, we have covered all the basics of the catch but there are still those moments when your best Player just folds in the moment. As a coach you have done the drills. Situational scenarios are a regular part of each practice. All your players can do every movement in their sleep, yet breakdowns still happen.

Whether it be Player anxiety or simply the heat of the moment, players get into a hurry to move from step one to step four. Pleasing the coach or team mates, individual Players will rush through their motions with the belief that the faster they move is the only hope of making the out.

Often overlooked during practice are the situational drills that spur player intensity. These are also the hardest to create during practice where Players are in their comfort zones. Dividing your team into team into groups of three where they compete against each other in drills will add the last element needed to develop.

Throwing relay races, round robin and pickle are good drills that add high excitement to the practice. Relay is three Players where the man in the middle catches and throws. With 3 or more teams the action gets quite brisk. Round robin uses a four man team, separate the players into fifteen yard squares, clockwise, Player one throws a grounder to Player two the runs to where Player two is standing, Player two does the same with Player three and the players progress around the square.
About the Author
Mr. Dowdy is an Official Distributor for NW Kelley USA Baseball Click now for a free catalog or sign up your e-mail for special offers.You can also visit the Hirsch Group site more news/tips/articles or log onto the Hirsch Group Blog.
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