While receiving is the most important part of being a catcher, most catchers want to throw better. It is understandable as throwing out runners is probably the most exciting part of catching and best way of getting noticed. While improving arm strength will help with throws, improving footwork is the easiest, fastest, and best way to improve throws. Here are a few strategies to improve footwork which will improve the accuracy, power, and quickness of throws.
1. Mirror drill-Using a mirror, get into stance for runners on and go through footwork for throwing to each base. If at home, use tape on the floor for feedback or at field draw lines in the dirt. Make sure to also practice a high transfer. The mirror is great because of the immediate feedback, but this drill can be done anywhere and anytime you have a minute. There are no excuses for not doing this drill as it takes no time, needs no partner, and puts zero strain on your arm.
2. Get Stronger- Best way to get quicker feet is to strengthen your legs. Throwing from a squat is an explosive move and weak legs don’t do explosive well.
3. Take Between Inning Throws Seriously- This is the most frustrating one for me as a coach. Catchers often mess around with this throw. Whether the are showing off throwing from the knees or taking their time and not going through the proper footwork, this drives me crazy for a few reasons.
A) Scouts are watching- When I scout games, my stopwatch is out every inning to get your time. You might not get a chance in the game. This is your chance, use it. You can say you throw 1.9, but you have to prove it. The only stopwatch I trust is my own.
B) The Opponent is watching- The best way to shut down a running game is for the opposition not to run. As an opposing coach, my stopwatch is also out every inning. If you show me a good time, it is less likely that we will run. I know some could say you want to fool them. I disagree. I want the opposition to know I will throw them out. I take it personally when teams try to steal on me. The best catchers don’t throw out many because no one tries. This can really help a pitching staff as it is one less thing they have to worry about.
C) Get Better- This is the most important reason. This is a chance to improve that many catchers are ignoring. Catchers cry about not getting enough practice time. USE THE TIME YOU HAVE. I understand that seasons get long and arms get tender, but going through proper footwork at full speed does not put strain on your arm. If your arm is sore, go through the footwork at full speed, but make an easy throw or full speed footwork with no throw and a jog to the mound.
Throwing is the fun part of catching, but it is only fun when successfully throwing people out. The best way to improve it is with better footwork. Footwork is easy to work on and can dramatically improve throwing with a little focus and consistent work. Please comment if you like or dislike what I have to say. You might have a point I failed to make. Let me know what you think. Share with others if you think this post can help them.
Catchers are always worried about improving their arm and throwing runners out. While these things are important, the one thing catchers need to work on more than anything is the simple act of catching. Catching should not be taken for granted. It should be worked on everyday. It is probably the easiest thing to work on with just a little focus. Here are three things that can be done at every practice.
1. Compete– Every practice or game should be a competition with the goal of having zero balls hit the ground. All catchers should have the goal of catching everything their way. Anytime a catchable ball hits the ground is a point. The goal is to have no points. This can be competitive and should be an ongoing game anytime the catcher is on the field. This means in the dugout, before practice, or after practice counts as well. A catcher should never drop a ball.
2. Pre-practice throwing-Throw with other catchers and work on catching and sticking. Pre-practice throwing is not just to warm up your arm. Anytime a ball is thrown your way, stick it. Far too often pre-practice throwing turns into talk of tehh day and knuckleball contests. This is the focused catchers’ chance to improve. Use it.
3. Bullpens– This is probably the most important chance a catcher has to improve his receiving. A bullpen is not just for the pitcher, but this is how catchers’ treat it. A bullpen is just a game with no hitter. What better way for a catcher to improve his receiving skills. He can work on setting up, his stance, quiet body, sticking pitches, framing, and blocking pitches in the dirt. The best part of the bullpen is everything happens at random just like the game. Every pitch isn’t in the dirt like drills on blocking. Every pitch doesn’t’ hit it’s spot. This is also a time a catcher that isn’t playing much can build rapport with the pitching staff and pitching coach so they have confidence in him when his chance arises.
Catchers are often forgotten at baseball practices just used to shag balls from infielders and catching bullpens. But using these strategies can help the catcher improve his receiving even when he is not getting the drill time he needs.