Catchers are among the most important players on baseball teams, for they help the pitchers decide what pitches to throw, call out defensive strategies and are the general leaders of the players on the field. Another important responsibility of catchers is to make solid throws to second base -- and any other base -- when a baserunner is attempting to steal. There are multiple drills and exercises that can help improve a catcher's throw down skills.
Use Proper Techniqe
Proper technique is essential for any catcher who wants to consistently make quick, strong and accurate throws to second base. The most common technique for a catcher throwing out runners trying to steal second is the "jump-pivot" method, in which the catcher, upon receiving the ball in his glove, stands up and swings his right leg (for right-handers) behind his rear while turning so his feet and shoulders are aligned with second base. Then, in one quick motion, the catcher should lift the ball over his shoulder, bring his arm forward next to his ear and release the ball once it has passed his face. Although younger little league catchers may need to take a step forward with their front foot to complete the throw, because this takes additional time, most college and professional catchers do not take an extra step.
For catchers to effectively throw out baserunners and intimidate the other team from trying to steal, the catchers must quickly shift their feet into the appropriate position. The cross drill improves a catcher's ability to arrange his feet and body correctly, and the drill can be completed indoors or out on the field. Using tape, the participant must draw a long and straight vertical line along with another shorter, horizontal line going perpendicular with the top of the first line, thus creating a "T" shape. The catcher should squat on the horizontal side, with both feet directly on the line, the right foot slightly behind the left and the body facing the opposite side where a pitcher would usually stand.
The catcher should then pretend he is throwing a runner out at second base using the jump-pivot method, but he should pause once he reaches the cocked throwing position. At this point, both of the catcher's feet should be directly on the long vertical line while maintaining a stable balance. Practicing this drill will make it easier for catchers at all levels to achieve proper footwork.
Catchers must develop strong hips, backs and shoulders to make strong and quick throws to second base or to any other base. The one-knee throwing drill enhances upper-body strength and enables catchers to make successful throw downs. Two people are needed for the drill, and preferably both participants should be catchers. The catchers kneel on one knee across from each other, and are separated by about 30 feet as they toss the ball back and forth. Every 10 minutes the catchers should move farther apart by approximately 10-foot increments until they are separated by a distance equivalent to the distance between home plate and second base (about 127 feet). This drill encourages catchers to turn their upper bodies and to use proper hip and shoulder technique while completing the throws, thus improving their strength and efficiency.
Practicing the proper technique in practical and realistic situations helps catchers develop their skills to become more comfortable making throw downs to second base. Thus, it is helpful to simulate a base-stealing scenario by having someone pitch the ball to the catcher while a base-runner seals second. The catcher then throws to an infielder who tries to tag the runner out, and the catcher should try as hard as possible to get the runner out.
Another participant -- perhaps a coach -- should stand at second base to assess the catcher's throws and to determine if he gets the runner out. Also, if there are no baserunners, the coach can use a stop-watch to assess the throws by starting the clock once the pitch hits the catcher's glove and then stopping the clock once the throw down hits the fielder's glove. Throw downs that take more than 2.1 seconds are generally slow, those that take around 2 seconds are average and times well below 2 seconds are excellent. The coach can also evaluate the catcher's performance by judging the catcher's accuracy in throwing to second base and to the other bases.
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