As a catcher, you’re working on blocking and throwing and framing and all the fundamentals, but do you know the 8 ways you can make your pitcher better without ever throwing more runners out!
Pitchers get all the attention, but every good pitcher has a good catcher.
Catching involves a lot of skills, from balance, to agility, to glove work, to strategic thinking to hand and foot-speed, to toughness. But none is more important than the catcher’s ability to mentally help their pitcher.
I know, I was a pitcher and my sister was my catcher. She had a very cut-and dry way about her and wasn’t one to tell me I was doing great, when in fact I wasn’t. But, she could also recognize when I was struggling and would say that one thing that would help me mentally when I needed it the most.
She didn’t have the best arm, wasn’t the strongest hitter, nobody would say she was fast, but she made All-American as a catcher because she had tremendous skills when it came to getting the most out of her pitchers. Yet pitching to her made ME better! And, me excluded, she caught some of the very best pitchers in the game!
So catchers, what are those skills you have that can help improve your pitchers, help calm them down, and ultimately help them pitch like they are capable of?
a Zombie-Free Bullpen –
Instead of just sticking the glove in the middle of the strike zone and
going through the motions in practice, actually work during practice like
it’s a game. That goes for you and your pitcher.
- You’ve got to work on both corners of the zone as well as up and down.
- You’ve got to practice framing the close pitches, work on your balance and positioning for the ones low in the zone and practice your glove work on high pitches.
- Also, stay on your pitcher about her focus and practice effort as well! Practice is where your game-self is built so make sure you’re helping your pitcher build her best self.
- Plus, give the pitcher feedback. If it’s good, tell her. If it’s better than the last one, tell her that. But if it didn’t break, let her know that as well (and work to know why so you can help her find the solution).
- Listen during lessons or teaching moments for the pitcher so you’ll understand how to help her when she starts to struggle.
- Catch Them All – Every catcher has a favorite pitcher and vice versa,
but that doesn’t mean you should only catch for her.
- Make sure you’re catching every one of your pitchers often enough that when that pitcher has to throw to you in a game, she’s comfortable with you, and you with her.
- Tell Her How She
Needs to Hear It –– Not
all pitchers are emotionally equal.
- Since everyone is different you need to know the emotional makeup of each one of your pitchers and talk to them the way that makes them better.
- If one of your pitcher’s is super sensitive you need to be kind and calm and positive with her. You might have another pitcher that’s tough and competitive and needs you to come out and challenge her.
- Being tough and challenging with your sensitive pitcher will backfire and being calm and kind and super positive with your tough one won’t get you anywhere. Talk to your pitchers how they need to hear, and not how you need to. It’s all about them!
- Tell Her What She
Needs to Hear – While
pitchers have different emotional makeups and some need softness while
others can handle toughness, all pitchers need to know the truth.
- Don’t come tell me I’m doing good when it’s obvious I’m not. But when you tell a pitcher the truth, you can still do it in a kind way that includes a solution.
- Instead of simply telling her “you’ve got to bring your riseball down”, she can no doubt see that for herself. She needs you to tell her HOW to fix the problem and that she CAN fix it!
- Don’t be afraid to tell her what she needs to hear, just do it in a kind way so she actually hears and believes in your message.
- Help Your Defense Play Their
Best – Pitchers can easily fall apart
if their defense starts to struggle.
- Whenever you see that starting to happen, get out to the mound and help calm everyone down.
- Be an encouraging factor back there behind homeplate and when an infielder struggles, step out in-between pitches and give them a special look or clap or any sign of encouragement and give them time to calm down.
- If you can help your defense calm down and play well you’ll be amazed how much better your pitcher does!
- Call Her Best Chance for Good
– I realize that most coaches
call pitches, but that doesn’t mean they have the best view, or even all
the information once the game starts.
- The fact that you sit behind homeplate, facing your pitcher and in front of the umpire is INVALUABLE to help you know which pitches will help your pitcher throw good on a particular day, and which ones will get her in trouble.
- You can see which pitches are moving really well and she has good control of. You can also see if the umpire is calling a consistent game, or is favoring one part of the strike zone over another.
- All of this information is tough for your coach to see from the dugout, so make sure you talk to whoever is calling pitches after every inning. Let them know anything you notice about the pitcher, her pitches, the umpires and the batters.
- Your viewpoint matters so start noticing more, and sharing it so your coach can give your pitcher the best chance to throw good!
- Be the Umps Almost-BFF – The thing about BFF’s is they know tons about each
other. They care about each other and take care of each other. Basically,
this is how you want to treat the home plate umpire.
- You want to introduce yourself (first and last name) the first time you go out on defense. Take your glove off and actually shake the umps hand. You aren’t doing this to kiss up to the ump; you’re doing this to show respect.
- You’re about to spend 2 hours sitting inches away from this person so the better you treat them the better chance your 2 hours will go smoothly.
- Show them respect not only by introducing yourself and shaking their hand but also by never embarrassing them.
- If you question a call, do so facing your pitcher so nobody can tell. Instead of saying it was a bad call, ask the umpire “did that miss by much?” Remember that no ump goes back there to call a horrible game. They’re trying their best just like you. And, just like you they’ll make some good plays (calls) and some not-so-good-plays (calls). So treat them with respect, and be nice between innings, pitches or batters.
- If they get hit by a foul ball be sure to give them some time to recover by walking out to talk to your pitcher. They’re human so treat them with the same respect you show your BFF.
- Go See Her – And finally,go out and see your pitcher.
- Take trips to the mound to talk to her, calm her down, make her smile, relax her, build up her confidence, break the other team’s rhythm, or even let another pitcher warm up if this one is really struggling.
- There are a million reasons to walk out to see your pitcher. Don’t be afraid to do it because trust me; the pitching circle can be a very lonely place and sometimes we just need a little help from our friends!
I still remember something my sister said to me in her very matter-of-fact-way, during a tight ballgame, against a very good hitter. She could see I was maybe getting a little tense or freaked out, so she calmly walked out to see me, told me “she can’t hit your riseball, so make it good” and went back behind the plate. She was calm and confident, firm and certain. All things I needed at that point. She called the riseball, I threw it and we got her out…just like Sue said we would! I’m telling you – a great catcher makes a HUGE difference to a pitcher!
For more help with your catching, check out the following: