A proper stance is fundamentally important to being a good catcher. There are three basic stances to learn, a signal giving stance, a relaxed stance, and a ready stance.
The very first stance a catcher should learn is how to set up to properly give signals to the pitcher. Start in a crouched position and distribute your weight on the balls of your feet. Place your throwing hand between your legs and just in front of your body. The hand that is giving signals should be plainly visible to the pitcher. Do not place your signal hand too low or the signals will be visible to the opposing team underneath your body. Also, make sure that your legs are not spread apart too far so that your signals can be seen by either base coach on the opposing team.
While your throwing hand is relaying signals to the pitcher, your glove hand should be placed to the outside and just below the left knee. The reason for the positioning of the glove in this manner is to block your signals from being seen by the opposing team’s third base coach. After having relayed the signals to the pitcher you will assume either a relaxed stance or a ready stance. Also read the post on Catchers Signals for more info.
A general stance most catchers use with the bases empty and less than two strikes is called a relaxed stance. The relaxed stance begins by squatting with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the pitcher and your feet straight across or slightly staggered. Stay low and in a comfortable position. Relax your receiving arm (mitt hand) and point your palm at the pitcher. Place your throwing hand behind your back or behind your shoe. Present the pitcher with a good low target.
Use the ready stance with runners on base and/or two strikes on the batter. In both cases you need to be ready to block a wild pitch or quickly throw out a base runner. The ready stance is simply a raised squat where the weight is evenly distributed throughout your foot and your butt is slightly raised. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the pitcher, relax your receiving arm, and point your palm at the pitcher. Place your throwing hand in a fist behind your mitt. Present the pitcher with a good low target.
Where and When to Set Up
Now that you have a solid stance, you need to learn where to position yourself in the catchers box in relation to the hitter. The catchers box is 8′ long by 43″ wide and is located directly behind home plate. The rules of baseball state that the catcher must have both feet inside or on the line of this box at the time of a pitch.
Relation to Hitter
Where does the catcher set up in relation to the hitter? On many occasions, I have seen catchers set up too far behind the hitter. This is a BAD HABIT. Ideally, you want to be as far forward toward home plate as possible without your mitt interfering with a batter’s swing. The closer you can get toward your pitcher the easier you make it for the pitcher to hit his locations (shorter distance to throw the ball) and also you provide the umpire with a better opportunity to make accurate ball and strike calls.
*KNOW YOUR HITTER: Certain hitters have a looping swing (especially at the younger ages). You need to set up a little further back than normal for these hitters or they will tip your mitt with their bat during a swing. This is catcher’s interference. If you are unsure how close to set up to the batter, play it safe and stay back a little.
When To Set Up
Do not set up too early after giving your sign. This gives away pitch location. Opposing coaches will relay this information to the hitter or the hitter may peek back to see where you are sitting. Knowing pitch location helps a hitter. If the pitcher is in the windup, set up just as the pitcher is starting his windup. If the pitcher is in a stretch position use your judgment. You should move just before the pitcher is delivering the ball to the plate.