Catcher Signals to Pitcher

The information in this post deals exclusively with communication between the pitcher and the catcher. Other types of signals, such as signals between the catcher and infielders, will be discussed in the Catchers Situations and Plays post.


Clear communication between the pitcher and catcher is vitally important to successful baseball. Obviously the catcher and pitcher cannot verbally communicate, so, they must communicate through a series of hand signals. The most common way for the catcher to relay a sign to the pitcher, or call a pitch, is using the fingers of his throwing hand. The signal is given from the squatting position and the hand should be positioned between the legs and be back up against or close to your cup. Watch that your hand is not too low or your signs will be visible under your body. The signal should be given with deliberate finger movements to allow the pitcher to see the signs. Do not give your sign too quickly or you will confuse your pitcher. The catcher’s legs should be opened wide enough so only the pitcher and middle infielders can see what pitch is being called. Do not open your legs too far or the coaches from the opposing team can see your signs and relay the pitch to the hitter. Your glove hand should be positioned to the outside and just below the knee of your left leg (for right-handed catchers) to aid in blocking your signs.

Take Note:

  • Make sure the hitter is not peaking at your signs!
  • The signal for a pitch should only be given while the pitcher is on the pitching rubber.
  • Allow the hitter a brief moment to get set in the box before you give your sign.

For Vision Problems
If a pitcher has trouble seeing signs use a thin strip of white athletic tape between your middle knuckles on your throwing hand or paint your finger nails with White Out. You can also switch to giving body signals or glove signals. See below for more info.

Common Pitch Signs

The following is a list of common signs for basic pitches.
The catcher puts down:

  • One Finger = Fast Ball
  • Two Fingers = Curve Ball
  • Three Fingers = Slider
  • Four Fingers and/or Wiggle Fingers = Change Up

The number of fingers for a certain pitch is arbitrary and can change. For example you could use: One Finger = Fast Ball, Two Fingers = Curve Ball, and Three Fingers = Change Up. In fact, the signs may be different for each pitcher. The types of pitches a pitcher throws could determine the signs. Just make sure that both the pitcher and catcher are on the same page. Make the signs easy to remember! Talk to your pitcher in the pen before the game. Find out what pitches is he throwing and what signs are you going to use for each pitch. In the event of a relief pitcher, make a quick visit to the mound after his warm-up pitches and get on the same page.

Type and Location

The most common information being passed between a catcher and pitcher is the type of pitch and pitch location. In the most basic form of this system, the catcher will put down a sign for the pitch type and then tap the inside of one of his thighs to signal location. A slightly more advanced method is using two signs from the catcher. Give one signal for pitch type and one for location in that order. For example: Using the list from Common Pitch Signs and odd number outside and even for an inside pitch, the catcher puts down two signs (1 then 3). The first number tells the pitcher to throw a fastball and the second number (an odd number) tells him the pitch should be away to a hitter. Now you figure out the pitch and location for these pitches.
1. (2,1)2. (1,4)3. (4,3)

Answer: 1. Curveball Away2. Fastball Inside3. Change Up Away

Call for a pitch high in the zone or a ball in the dirt using a couple of basic signals. One way to signal this change in height is with glove and through body language. Briefly show the pitcher where you expect the pitch to go using your glove hand. Another way is to signal the pitcher using your signal hand before or after you give him the type of pitch. Maybe flatten out your hand for down and flick a thumb up for a pitch up in the zone. It’s up to you. With a runner on second base the catcher and pitcher will have to disguise the pitch and location to keep the runner from relaying that information to the hitter. See the section below With Runners on 2nd for more info.

Methods of Giving Signs

There are three main methods that I have seen and used for calling signs in a game. The first way was discussed earlier in the Signals section and involves using fingers to call pitches and locations. Another way to give signs is to combine hand signals and body signals. For example: I may touch a part of my equipment with my signal hand (mask, chest, thigh) and then put down a series of finger signals in the normal position. Depending what part of my equipment I touched will affect what those hand signals mean. This system is for older players and is usually only used with a runner on second base. The third method is using only body signals. This method is actually very simple to use and is extremely effective for pitchers with vision problems or with poor lighting during night games. An example would be: Touching your mask = fastball, touching your chest = curve ball, and touching your knee = change up. Don’t be Captain Obvious with these signals. You will have to disguise these and misdirect the other team using fake finger signals from the normal position. Act like you are merely adjusting your mask or chest protector when in actuality you are giving signals.

With Runners on 2nd

With a runner on second base you have to be extremely careful and disguise your signals so the runner cannot relay the pitch and/or location to the hitter. The most basic way is to put down a series of numbers. Only the pitcher and catcher know what the “key” is to figuring out the meaning of the signs. The easiest way to explain this is to provide an example. We will use the same signals from Common Pitch Signs and Type and Location sections. The catcher will put down a series of signs (4 signs). Using his fingers he puts down (2,1,3,1). In our example, only the first two signs will mean anything to the pitcher. The first sign is the pitch and the second sign is the location. Seeing the signs (2,1,3,1), the pitcher should know to throw a curve ball (2) and outside (1). The (3) and second (1) mean absolutely nothing. Now try and figure out this sign combination: (1,1,4,2). The answer is a fastball outside. Again, this is just a basic example. Sometimes the keys can be quite complicated. This is especially true at the college and professional level. The key is the keep the signals easy to understand for both the pitcher and catcher, but difficult enough that a runner on second will not be able to steal your signs. If you do catch a runner stealing signs, call time out, talk to your pitcher and change the signs.

Other Signals

Other signals that are relayed to the pitcher through signals from the catcher include: pitch outs; pick offs, holding runners close, and the shake off. Most of these decisions and signals will be made by your coach or infielders and given to you for you to relay to the pitcher. See these posts for more info:  Catchers Situations and Plays and Throwing.


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