One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the play at the plate. Here are some tips to help young backstops succeed at this crucial, yet challenging, baseball play.
Tip No.1: Anticipate the Worst
A catcher must always assume a bad throw to the plate. In their mind they must be ready to move in any direction to catch a thrown ball, or be ready to drop to their knees and block a poorly-thrown ball to keep runners from advancing and still giving yourself a chance to pick up the ball and tag out the runner.
Tip No.2: Stay Behind Ball
The catcher must keep the ball in front of them at all cost. When setting up for a throw to the plate, a catcher should put the foot on the third base line. Their knee should be pointing directly at the runner.
If their knee is pointed away from the runner and a collision occurs, there is a greater chance the catcher will be injured. If their knee is pointed at the runner, there is more of a base and less give in the knee.
Tip No.3: Use Both Hands
After catching the ball, the catcher should attempt to tag the runner with both hands; hand on ball, ball in glove. If it appears a collision is going to occur the catcher should lower their center of gravity and stay low. Just like in football, low man usually wins.
Tip No.4: Stay Alert
After you have tagged out the runner, get out of the way and find any other runners that may be on base. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in the play so much that you lose track of other runners on base.
Tag out the runner trying to score and be ready to make the next play. Always stay focused on the game.
Tip No.5: Safety First
One important point that must be mentioned is the catcher should leave their mask on. An excuse for taking off the mask is that the catcher feels they can see the ball better without the mask on. With that philosophy the catcher should never wear a mask.
If you can catch balls from a pitcher 60 feet away and not have problems seeing the baseball, you should be able to see a throw from the outfield. It is also a safety precaution.
If the ball is short and takes a bad hop, an injury to the face and head could occur. Safety comes first. Protect yourself from injury at all times in as many ways possible.
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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.