Let me explain one thing first. When Major League Scouts analyze a catcher one of the issues which carries a substantial amount of weight is his ability to make the throw to second base. This is measured from the time the catcher receives the baseball until the middle infielder receives the ball for the tag.
The difference between a Good Catcher, at 2.2 seconds and a Great Catcher, at 2.0 seconds, is .2 of a second! That’s barely a blink of an eye difference, but it’s the difference between a minor league contract or a full ride college scholarship and flipping hamburgers.
With a margin of error being, for all realistic purposes, non-existent, the need to master proper throwing mechanics is an absolute essential for any player wanting to play the catchers’ position.
We’re going you show and explain the throwing mechanics which Major League catchers use and you must learn if you want to take your game to the next skill level. Ready?
Not unlike a pitcher, the catcher utilizes his entire body when throwing. Literally from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, your entire body in some form contributes or detracts from your throwing performance.
We’re going to break down the Mechanics into two general categories, the arm work and the feet work.
The very first thing you must learn is to protect the throwing hand, for mangled fingers make learning mechanics quite fruitless. There are two different methods for doing this.
The first method is to hold your bare hand directly behind your catcher’s mitt slightly left of the mitt’s webbing. The thumb of the hand should be pressed against the palm, with the four fingers wrapping around it as you make a fist.
The second method is to hold your bare hand, while in a fist, behind your back or right hip along your buttock. Both methods are effective and have become a personal choice matter for most catchers. Remember to always maintain a fist no matter which method you choose.
The next issue is to unlearn a matter. What? A catcher does not catch the baseball. The catcher receives the baseball. Sounds silly, but you’ll learn the difference shortly.
The next issue was mine. I know this article is about improving throwing mechanics, but how do you pluck something out of context and have it make sense? I believe the entire catching procedure combines to make good throwing mechanics, so I’m going to walk you through the entire catching procedure and illustrate the individual parts of the throwing mechanics.
The Arm Work start to finish
Let’s examine the complete catching and throwing elements of a single pitch in which a runner is attempting to steal second base.
As a catcher you assume your squatting position no later than when the pitcher toes the rubber. Being a catcher you’re just about as comfortable in a squat as standing so you’re probably already squatting.
From the squat position, you spread your legs wide enough for your middle infielders to see what signs are being flashed, but not wide enough to expose them to the third base coach. To help guarantee this, you rest your catchers’ mitt on your left knee, using it as a screen, blocking the third base coach out even more.
While you are flashing the signs your hand should be against your cup, which again protects against anyone stealing the pitch sign as your hand is deep inside the protection of your thighs.
As a last check, glance upward at the batter to insure he wasn’t trying to sneak a peek while you were watching everyone else.
Beginning of Mechanics
As the pitcher comes set in his stretch position, you move from your squatting position into a semi-standing position in preparation for making a throw to second.
Your body trunk and thighs should form a right angle, and your knee should form a right angle to the feet. This places you in a stable tripod type stance. Your weight should be on the balls of your feet, butt down, head up, your body slightly curved forward in a C posture, which allows a ball in the dirt to hit your chest and bounce out in front of you. You should be providing a steady target for your pitcher to immediately pick up when he decides to make his delivery.
You catch a glimpse of the runner attempting to steal. Your mind goes into overdrive and your first instinct will be to reach for the ball as it crosses the plate in order to catch it as soon as possible. Here’s where catching and receiving come into play.
You do not reach forward to catch the ball, but rather let the ball come to you. Basically, here’s why. You can not move your mitt two foot farther forward as quickly as the thrown baseball travels that same two feet to your mitt. In other words you get the ball quicker waiting.
That’s the difference between catching the ball and receiving the ball mechanics.
Once the ball is secured you must grab it as quickly as possible and remove it from the mitt. When grabbing the ball attempt to grip it in a 4 seam hold, that is your fingers crossing four of the baseball’s seams.
When thrown with this grip the ball travels straighter and has a tendency to sink instead of sailing high or tailing away, making for a much more accurate throw.
Here is where the choice of where to hold your bare hand could have some impact. Some catchers prefer to hold their fist behind the mitt because they feel they can grip the ball quicker and have more time to rotate the ball to a four seam grip if need be as they’re cocking their arm to throw.
Other catchers maintain the behind the hip method is just as quick, as your are raising your arm as you raise your body getting into a throwing stance. Again, personal choice.
As you are raising out of the semi-squat position you turn your body sideways, your shoulders open wide, your left shoulder pointing toward second base, your right arm and hand cocking back behind the right side of your head.
Step towards second base, your head and eyes in direct line with the base. Your throwing motion is as follows; similar to a football quarterback your arm is cocked at a right angle to your head, your hand passes close to your ear as you follow through with the throw.
I know that’s a lot to digest. Let’s review and summarize.
Receive the ball, grasp the ball in a 4 seam grip as you jump up out of your stance. Turn body sideways, shoulders opening wide, left arm towards second base, right arm cocked at right angle to the head. Step forward bringing the throwing hand close to the right ear as you throw through.
The procedure sounds more complex than it really is and most of the mechanics you are already performing. The keys here to improved mechanics is (1) receive the ball (2) 4 seam grip (3) ball passes close to the ear when completing the throwing motion.
Improvement to these three arm related mechanics will increase the speed and accuracy of your throws to second base.
Foot Work Mechanics
Again, similar to a pitcher’s mechanics which utilizes a T formation to check a pitcher’s mechanics, the catcher will use a backwards T formation to check to insure his footwork is correct.
Draw a line from the rear point of home plate straight back. Then draw an intersecting line forming a T. This will become your gauge to insure proper foot movements which are essential for proper throwing mechanics.
Take your normal catching position behind home plate, then pretend to receive a throw from the pitcher. Quickly pop up out of your crouch, stepping backwards with your push off foot. Stop immediately and look back to see where your rear foot is positioned.
If your foot is not on the line, which makes the T, you are either off balance or throwing across your body. Either way your velocity and accuracy will be negatively impacted. Next check the position of your front foot. If it’s not pointing directly at second base you are either throwing across your body, or about to sail the ball into the outfield.
Adjust your mechanics until you can consistently land your rear foot on the back line. The back line will be your guide no matter where you are located behind the plate. You will always shift your entire body to one side or the other depending on where the pitch is located, but as you plant your rear foot to throw, it should always be on the line, as it extends the entire length of your catching zone.
Here is a summary of the footwork portion of the throwing mechanics.
(1) Use short quick steps (2) your rear plant foot consistently lands in the proper position, along the line, preventing throwing across the body. (3) push off the rear foot giving you forward motion and a stronger throw.
Once again I realize there is a lot of information to digest, but relax. Like I said before you are already performing the mechanics, this just tells you how to perfect them.
One last time, let’s tie it all together for review.
(1) Receive the baseball
(2) Use a 4 seam grip when throwing
(3) Similar to a football quarterback’s throwing motion, arm cocked at a right angle to the head, hand passes close to right ear when throwing.
(4) Use quick short steps when adjusting foot positions
(5) Plant rear foot consistently on rear guide line and throw.
The decision to work hard for perfection is yours to make, but if you decide it’s worth it…refining these mechanicals will shave that.2 of a second off your throwing time.