Catchers: Tips, Drills, Information, Catching Equipment, Catchers Gear
Relays, Cutoffs, and Plays at Home
Leadership In-depth Skills
Relays, Cutoffs, and Plays at Home
Calling A Game
Misc. Situations and Plays Glossary
Relays and CutoffsYour job as a catcher is to direct the defense when the ball is put in play. A number a situations arise throughout the course of a game where you will have to align a cutoff man to home or call out where a relay throw should go. Infielders should know their positioning ahead of time. These situations include runners who tag on a fly ball, base hits, and extra base hits. The catcher should help direct the defense as you have the entire field in front of you. As a catcher be vocal on plays not only to home, but also to other bases. Remember to yell in an authoritative and loud manner, so your infielders can hear you.
Relays to HomeBefore a throw to home can even take place, position your cutoff man. The cutoff man should know how far out (toward the outfielder) he needs to go. The arm strength of the outfielder and the length of the throw determine the infielder's positioning. Your job is to align the cut off man with home. Simply use "left" and "right" commands to make adjustments. Depending on where the ball is hit and the system you use, the cut off man could be the third baseman, pitcher, or first baseman on base hits. For extra base hits, expect the shortstop or second baseman to be the relay. The catcher should know who is the relay in every situation. This should be covered in your pre-season practices. As a catcher you have the entire field in front of you. You are able to determine where a ball needs to be thrown or held once it reaches the cutoff man. Remember, the cutoff man may have his back to the infield and will have to rely on your communication to quickly relay to the correct base or hold the ball. There are two phrases I use with my catchers to help them communicate with the infielders. The infielders use the same two phrases when there are plays at other bases, so there is a common language and no confusion. The first phrase is "cut" and the base. So, if there was a play at home the catcher should yell, "cut four". This tells the relay man to catch and quickly relay the ball to the plate. The catcher could also yell, "cut two" if there is no chance at getting the runner at home and a play can be made on a runner at second base. The second phrase is just plain "cut". A catcher who yells this is telling the cutoff man to cut and hold the ball. If you say nothing, the cutoff man should let the ball go and you will field the throw. The cutoff man should know to let the ball go through ahead of time. One area that takes some practice is using your judgment as whether to cut throws to the plate. Some coaches have the cutoff man; relay everything, taking away the catcher's decision. I don't like this method. You are not teaching the catcher to make decisions and his leadership ability while the ball is in play and that is his job. As a catcher, you need to be aware of the following things before you decide to cut or relay the throw. For beginners: Is the ball dying in flight or does it have enough velocity to get to you? Is the throw online (too far left or right)? For experienced catchers: Many outfielders throw a ball that tails and you need to know how it's going to bounce. How good is the outfielder's arm? How thick is the grass on the infield, which will slow down a throw? How fast is the runner? What is the situation? Is it do-or-die? Depending on the score, should you cut the throw and get the hitter who's trying to advance to second?
Plays at HomeOne of the most exciting plays in baseball is a close play at the plate. A catcher is expected to block the plate and apply a tag on the runner attempting to score.
PositionThe main idea is to position your body to block the plate. Correct positioning is important to avoid injury and be in the best possible position to make a tag on a runner. Position your left heel a foot off the front left corner of the plate. Angle your left foot toes and knee toward third base and position your other leg pen to accept the throw. Allow the runner the very back portion of the plate. Assume an athletic stance so you are able to react to a throw or bounce. LEAVE YOUR MASK ON! This will protect your head and face in leagues that allow collisions. It will also protect you on throws that may bounce up. *The angle of your left foot is very important. DO NOT angle your foot or knee in any other direction than directly at the third base bag. Ideally, you want your foot and knee to align directly with the on-coming runner. An improper angle and a runner sliding into your leg could cause knee and ankle injuries. Also, your catcher's gear mainly protects the front of your shin. This front protection should be toward the oncoming base runner.
Align Cutoff ManAfter you are positioned correctly, align the cut off man. Use the basic commands discussed earlier. Both the catcher and the infielders should know who the cut off man is. A side note: There might also be plays at the plate on ground balls to the infielders. If there is not a force at the plate, you must position yourself to block the plate. If there is a force at home, make sure you are touching home with one foot (preferably your right foot) and give a good target for your fielder to throw to. After catching the ball, quickly come off of the plate to avoid the runner sliding and be ready to make a play elsewhere. You may even be able to double up the hitter at first.
Field the ThrowYou have correctly positioned yourself and the throw is strong and online. Now you must read the trajectory of the throw. DO NOT let the throw short hop you. A good throw will be in the air (from a relay) or should be a long hop. If you read a short hop, go get the ball before it bounces. This means that you will have to move out of your set position. Field the ball out in front of your body. Once you field the ball, apply the tag to the runner. If you cannot field the throw cleanly, knock the ball down using your body. Do not let other base runners advance.
Apply the TagYou've fielded the ball cleanly. Quickly turn to find the base runner. You should have been able to see the runner approaching home using your peripheral vision. Now you must apply the tag. The best tag to use is a two-handed sweep tag. The ball should be in your bare hand and your hand should be in your glove. This keeps the ball from being jarred lose. Apply the tag to the closest part of the runner's body and get out of the way. If you sense a collision is about to occur, brace yourself by getting low and making the tag. Pay attention to other base runners. Experienced Catchers: One draw back from the two-handed style is that your range is limited. If you see the runner attempting to slide around the tag to the backside, you may have to transfer the ball to your glove and use a one-handed sweep tag. A Trick Tag: Here is a cool trick tag someone showed me. Field the ball using your glove and perform the two-handed sweep tag. As you sweep across to make the tag, remove the ball from the mitt with your cupped throwing hand and hold it against your chest. It helps if you have large hands. The ball should not be visible to the umpire cupped against your chest. This should be done in one motion while you are applying the tag. After the tag is made, bring the empty glove back to your chest. Act like you are removing the ball from the mitt with your bare hand and show the umpire the ball. If done properly, the ball will appear to have been inside the glove the entire time. KEYS: Be Vocal, Align Cut Off Man, Simple Commands and Communication, Correct Position, Field Throw, Sweep Tag