Catchers: Tips, Drills, Information, Catching Equipment, Catchers Gear
Blocking - A Fundamental Catchers Skill
Leadership In-depth Skills
Relays, Cutoffs, and Plays at Home
Calling A Game
Misc. Situations and Plays Glossary
Besides receiving and communication, the most important skill for a catcher to develop is the ability to block pitches in the dirt. Teams will take advantage of a catcher who is a poor blocker. Catchers who can block well keep base runners from advancing and instill confidence in their pitchers. A confident pitcher is a better pitcher. Blocking is simply defined as using whatever means available to knock down and control a pitch that bounces. The key term is control. I may be able to get in front of the ball with my body, but if that ball bounces too far away from me (i.e. I don't control it) a good base runner will still advance. The following basic technique should be used when blocking and controlling pitches in the dirt.
TechniqueThe catcher should already be in the ready stance when attempting to block. Your hips and shoulders should be square to the pitcher. Recognize the pitch and quickly thrust your knees to the ground while remaining square to the pitcher. Clear your feet by moving them back and to the side, with your toes pointed away from your body. Your knees should almost land where your feet were located and be spread apart just past shoulder width. Do not just fall forward to your knees, as this takes too long. You need to get down quickly. Clear your feet and thrust your knees down. Your glove should move from your target position to directly between your legs with your palm up, facing the pitcher and your throwing hand positioned behind the glove. The web of the glove should be against the ground and both arms should be snug with your body. This hand and arm position keeps a ball from going through your five hole. Tuck both elbows against your body to provide a greater surface area for blocking. The upper body position is critical to controlling the deflection of the ball. Keeping your shoulders square to the pitcher, round your shoulders and bend at the waist so your upper body is leaning forward over your thighs. This creates a down angle that will deflect a ball down in front of you and at a controlled distance. Tuck your chin to your chest so you do not get hit in the throat. DO NOT try and scoop a pitch in the dirt with your glove. This is a bad habit to get into and most of the time you will fail. ADVANCED TIP: For the advanced catcher, you can slightly give with the pitch as it hits your body. This helps your ability to control the ball even more.
Pitches to the SideFor pitches that do not come directly at you, there is a slight adjustment that needs to be made with your positioning. Obviously, you cannot just drop straight down or you'll miss the ball. You need to slide your body to the location where the ball will be. There are two ways to slide your body into position. One way is to push off with both feet and drop down into position, as you are moving. The other way is to take a jab step with the lead foot and drop down as you move. Either way can be used. Experiment and find the one that is the quickest way for you to get into position. Another slight adjustment you need to make for a pitch to the side is a change in the angle of your hips and shoulders. The purpose is to help you control the ball and keep it directly in front of you. Remember to keep your shoulders square to the pitcher. The key word is pitcher. If you were to walk around the pitcher in a 360-degree arc, keeping your shoulders square to the pitcher, the angle of your shoulders changes as you move. This is important to know for balls that are thrown to the sides of a catcher. The best way to illustrate this point is to imagine throwing a ball against a wall. If the wall is square to you and you throw it directly at it, the ball will come back to you. If you throw the ball from an angle at the wall the ball will bounce to the side. If you throw the ball from an angle and the wall suddenly squares up to you, the ball will return back to you. From a birds-eye view and looking directly down at the catcher.if you slide to your right, your right shoulder should be slightly in front of the left. In other words you are angling your body so the ball will bounce back toward the pitcher. The same is true if you slide in the other direction. This is a SLIGHT angling of the shoulders. Do not angle too much or the ball will deflect too far away. *On a pitch that is extremely wide, you will not have an opportunity to get into the proper position to block the pitch. Get to it any way you can and knock it down using whatever means available (i.e. glove, bare hand).
Breaking BallsBlocking breaking balls requires you to be aware of the spin of the pitch and how the ball is going to react once it hits the ground. A pitcher throwing a curve ball or slider will cause the ball to bounce in the opposite direction. For example, a right-handed pitcher throws a slider. From the catcher's perspective, the ball in flight is moving down and to the right. However, if the ball hits the dirt it will bounce back to the left or in most cases, straighten out. You need to account for this change of direction. Usually, the movement in the opposite direction is minimal. So, do not over compensate when attempting to block these pitches. With enough practice and game experience, you will develop a feel for how certain pitches will react to hitting the ground. It also helps to know your pitcher and how much spin or break he generates on the ball, which will affect how far the ball changes direction.
ADVANCED TIP: A pitcher throws a curve ball or slider that bounces 10 feet in front of home plate. If you drop to your blocking position, the ball will either bounce over your head or hit your mask or shoulders. Stay low and read the bounce. If it bounces up shift into a crouched standing position, attempting to block the ball with your body.
KEYS: Knock Down, Control, Thrust Knees, Glove Position, Tuck Elbows, Bend Waist, Round Shoulders, Tuck Chin, Slide to Location, Square to Pitcher, Breaking Ball Spin