A catcher's ability to defend a dropped bunt isn't just about physical speed; it's also about being in the right place at the right time.
Here are some strategies to help young backstops sharpen their bunt defense and boost their overall game awareness.
A catcher must able to anticipate multiple situations. One of these situations is fielding a bunt.
There are several factors that must be taken into account before a hitter even steps into the box. The catcher must recognize:
- The speed of the runner
- The athlete on the mound
- The condition of the playing surface
- The game situation (tied, up, down, early in the game or late in the game)
- And eventually factor in the speed of the bunted baseball before deciding which base to throw to
Bottom line: The catcher must take charge of the defense.
The Catcher's Role
A catcher should attempt to field all bunted balls. The entire field is in front of them and they can make a quick, early decision.
If the ball is fielded down the first base line or towards the middle of the field, the catcher should:
- Take a direct line to the baseball
- Rake the ball in with both the hand and glove
- Set their feet, stay low and athletic
- Make a strong and accurate throw to the intended base
Importance of Footwork
If a ball is bunted down the third base line the catcher has two forms of footwork.
One method is to:
- Stay on the inside of the ball (opposite of the foul line)
- Step over the ball, rake
- Spin the head and body
- Locate the base to throw to
- Plant your feet
- And make a strong and accurate throw.
The other method is to:
- Round the baseball
- Staying on the outside (on or near the foul line)
- Rake, plant and throw
The coach must allow their catcher to be an athlete. The step-over technique is the most natural and recommended form of fielding bunts down the third base line.
However, there are some individuals who have the ability to quickly round the ball, field it, and make a strong throw. A coach needs to be flexible.
If the catcher can perform this skill they should be allowed to show off the athleticism, not handcuffed into a method that is most recommend.
Find a Baseball camp to take your game to the next level.
Jason Vittone is the head baseball coach of Brescia University. Jason has put together numerous clinics to give catchers of all ages a place to hone their skills.