Everyone is concerned with "pop times." That is: the time taken from the instant a pitch hits a catchers glove to the moment it strikes the glove of the middle infielder at second base.
Generally speaking, a decent time at the big league level is about two seconds. A great time would be something like a 1.8. So, as you can see, the difference between average and great is about the time it takes for someone to blink.
It's Not About the Arm
There are many different ways to shave those precious tenths of a second and improve pop times. Unfortunately, we can't focus on velocity too much because, for the most part, either God blessed you with a canon or he didn't. We've got to figure out a way to get it done with what we've got. There are ways to be creative though, and one of the simplest is to let the pitch travel.
Basically, it boils down to the fact that an incoming pitch can travel much faster than you can reach out, catch it, bring it back toward your body and make an exchange to the throwing hand. Make sense?
Let the ball travel and make the glove-to-hand exchange closer to your body, especially if you can make the pitch end up somewhere between your shoulders. You can tinker with the distance, but I think receiving the ball about 12-18 inches from the chest is about right.
Close to the Vest
Obviously, if a pitch is extreme (outside your body), you must extend to catch the ball and bring it all back to the midline to make an exchange. But if the pitch is around your body, fight the urge to reach out and get it. Use the superior speed of the ball and make the glove to hand exchange closer to your body for more efficient times.
It's not a big thing, but not much is what counts when it comes to pop times. It can easily save a tenth of a second though, and transform you from just a guy to THE GUY.
Till next time, 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.