Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Stop a Pitch in the Dirt

By Jim Bain

The role of being a good catcher can, at best, be physically and emotionally challenging. A catcher is expected to be a good hitter with power, base stealer, at younger ages, an Einstein when calling a game and all done with a smile on behind that hot mask.

There are many catchers who can adequately accomplish the tasks mentioned, but few catchers really ever reach the pinnacle of earning a pitcher's complete and unfaltering trust, when fielding a ball thrown in the dirt. Earn that and you'll become a permanent fixture behind the plate.

As players grow older the cat and mouse game between pitcher and hitter intensifies as both begin to master new skills. From a pitcher's perspective, he's taught, or should be, to attempt to make hitters swing at pitches outside the strike zone, a pitcher's pitch as it is known.

A perfect example of this type of pitching is throwing breaking balls low, mostly in the dirt, when the hitter has a 2 strike count on him. This perfect pitching strategy is totally dependent on One issue, Can the catcher block the ball and keep it from getting past him. That's what were going to learn.

A catcher, by nature of the position, usually has an infallible "Scrapper" mentality. He must draw on this mentality to make himself a virtual back stop, a brick wall which nothing penetrates or gets around. He uses his mitt to catch the baseball, he uses his mitt and entire body to block the baseball. We've established the mental and emotional qualifications of a good catcher, let's exam how we physically accomplish the task.

Drill One: Ball in the dirt in front of the plate.
The catcher Does Not wait to see if the ball takes a nice bounce in which he can catch it with the mitt. He immediately drops from the squat position to his knees. He places his mitt on the ground in front of his crotch blocking any ball from skirting between his knees and under the glove. He should lean slightly forward, creating a C-curve with his body, which in the event the ball bounces hitting him in the chest protector it will bounce straight back out in front of him where he can easily retrieve it and throw the runner out.

Drill 2: Ball in the dirt to the catcher's right.
Never swipe a back hand with the mitt at a ball to your right. This is not about luck, it's about the proper method to stop the ball. Number one you probably won't stop the ball with a swipe and if you did make contact you'd probably slap it out of your reach allowing runners to advance.

From the squat position, you must leap frog your entire body to the right side of the plate to where you're facing the ball. As you leap frog you land on your knees, glove on the ground in front of your crotch, slightly leaning forward.

This exact method is used in reverse for a ball to the left side of the plate.

Learn to automatically perform these actions for a ball in the dirt and you'll quickly become a super-hero to your pitching staff.

Jim Bain - Former Minor league baseball player, who since retiring has dedicated his life to teaching baseball to youth. Visit his exciting info packed website:

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