Coaches, I realize how attached you've become to calling pitches.
At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, please allow me to explain why allowing your pitchers and catchers to control this facet of the game might be a more effective option.
1.) The pace of a game is disrupted when coaches call pitches. It takes WAY too long to relay the signal to the catcher, have him look at his wristband, and echo the information to the pitcher. Especially if you understand that pitchers are more effective when they work quickly and offensive teams hate to be rushed. Working quickly is a defensive weapon, get out of the way and use it.
2.) In my opinion, the very best pitch a pitcher can throw in any given instance is the pitch he can throw with his heart, with conviction. Regardless if it's the "right" call or not. There's only one person who knows what that pitch is: the guy on the mound, not the coach.
3.) How can the coach possibly see and adjust to the minute adjustments a hitter is making in the box? Only the catcher is close enough to use this information.
4.) Isn't it the role of the coach to educate players? Coaches, your days of playing are over. Let the kids play. Just like every other aspect of the game, teach them the proper way (or at least what you want) and let elm go. When they screw up--and they will--you make corrections.
5.) Teaching a kid how to call a decent game isn't that hard. Use the fastball. Get ahead. Teach them when to give in and when not to give in. Economy of pitches. Work fast. Don't fall into patterns. How hard is that? Write down a simple game-plan -- a general outline of how you'd like to see the game called (i.e., get ahead with fastball, don't go soft after you've blown heat by someone, etc.). Copy it and give it to your catcher as homework. Test him and make sure he gets it.
6.) I've been hammering on the catchers about their responsibility in controlling the tempo of the game. This is impossible if coaches interfere.
7.) You know that groove a pitcher and catcher fall into when it appears like they're reading each others minds? When the catcher puts down a sign and the pitcher is already in his windup because he was thinking the same thing? Although intangible, when pitcher and catcher work in concert, it's a very powerful weapon. Cultivate this, and again, get out of the way and use it.
8.) Newsflash! No coach or manager in professional baseball calls games. A pro catcher glancing into the dugout is looking for instructions to control the running game. Period. What service are you doing to your kids if you "graduate" them to the next level without the basic understanding of how to call a game? It's like a teacher letting a kid go to the next grade without learning to read. I would venture to say that the stakes in pro ball are higher than whatever level you're coaching, right? And if they're not calling, why should you?
9.) I can hear you now telling me you're catcher's a rock head and can't get it. Another newsflash! We're all rock heads. That's part of the reason we're back there. I'm not real smart, but I made a lot of house payments because I could call a good game and work well with pitchers. Trust me, you don't need to be a genius to call a decent game.
10.) Here's a compromise. When you absolutely, positively need a certain pitch, have a simple signal with the catcher to relay that information. Let your catcher know that you're always available with your pitch suggestion if he gets confused and looks over. Keep an open line of communication, let him call most of the game, and see what happens.
11.) Let me ease your mind a bit. I've sat behind the plate and seen about a billion rockets come off the bat. I'll can honestly say 95 percent of them had more to do with location than what pitch it was. Allow me to repeat that...it's almost all about LOCATION. That means you can relax and allow the catcher to call the game knowing that even the "wrong" call in the right location will work. You can't throw the ball. The guy on the mound is going to have to execute regardless of the call.
I know all of this sounds harsh. Forgive me, it's a real sore spot. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the coach calling a game has become such a popular trend. Before 1990, it was an anomaly if you saw a coach calling pitches. Now it's shocking if a Little Leaguer is allowed to call his own game, much less a high school or college player! What happened? Did all the pitchers and catchers in the world get dumb? Or did coaches all the sudden get real smart?
I'm sure I'll receive a ton of hate mail for saying all this. That's alright, bring it on. I've yet to hear a coach give me a reason that would sway my opinion. Listen coaches, do yourself, the kids, and baseball a favor and give your catcher a chance.
A huge part of the catching is being creative and learning how to think clearly under pressure. The good part is, this can be learned and improved upon. They just need a chance to do it and a coach that will support and teach correctly. Just try it. Who knows, the results might not be half-bad, maybe even better than you could've done?
Good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball.
Brent Mayne is a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. He ranks 75th in the history of baseball with 1,143 pro games caught, and his .993 career fielding percentage is 4th all-time. Brent is the author of the book "The Art of Catching"--a comprehensive guide to teaching and building defensive catching skills.