Baseball Catchers

A basic part of the catcher's defensive work is the simple act of giving the baseball signals for the type of pitch he wants thrown to the batter. He doesn't do this casually, though. Like the pitcher, he should always study the hitters to pick out weak and strong points. After playing a team once, the catcher should jot down in a notebook whatever he has learned about the opposing hitters. Before the second game with a team, he and the pitcher ought to go over these notes. That might sound a little too "professional" for youngsters, but it really isn't.

The younger the player, the more glaring his weakness. There are some 12-year-olds, for example, who simply cannot hit an outside pitch. And, furthermore, they can't resist swinging at it-even though they can't reach it. We can certainly expect a 12-year-old catcher to remember that kind of a weakness in a hitter. The catcher can learn a great deal about hitters by watching their foot movements.

Does the batter step away from the plate when he strides forward for the swing? If he does, pitch him outside. Does the batter stand too close, or too far away? Is he deep, or up in front of the batter's box? The catcher should look for other clues too. Can the hitter get "around" on the fast ball? Does he wear glasses? Does he have a bad wrist? Is he a nervous hitter? Where does he hit in the batting order? Has he ever gotten a hit off the pitcher? If so, was it a curve ball, or a fast ball?

Oh, yes, there's more to calling for the pitch than just flicking the fingers. But, some of these weaknesses are very obvious and even the eight to 10-year-old catcher should be taught to observe them and make his pitching signs accordingly.

Curve Him Joe
The baseball signals for the pitcher-and the rest of the defensive team, by the way-are given
with the throwing hand held deep against the crotch. Many young catchers drop the signaling hand so low that the fingers pop out from underneath their tails. When that happens, of course, everyone in the ball park knows whether it's going to be a fast ball or curve. Keep the signaling hand just below the top of the thigh and be sure the glove hides it from the 3rd base coach.

The signals should be simple. It is suggested that the catcher show one finger for the fast ball, two for the curve and waggle the first for a pitch-out. He can sign for high, low, inside or outside pitches by using his thumb. For example, if the catcher shows the index finger, then points his thumb at the batter then at the ground, he's calling for a fast ball, low and inside. Again this may seem too advanced for a 12-year old, but the manager who follows this course, is teaching his catcher and pitcher to think.

He may not expect the pitcher to put the ball low and inside, but he's making him try. With a runner on 2nd base, the catcher must change his tactics. The runner can see the sign as easily as the pitcher and he can relay it to the batter. From high school on up to professional ball, catchers give signs in a "series" with a runner on 2nd.

Prior to the game catcher and pitcher may decide:
In a series of three, the sign that shows up once, is the sign that counts. (If the catcher signs 1, then 2 fingers and again 2 fingers, he's calling for a fast ball. If he signs 1-1-2, he's calling for a curve ball.)

In a series of three, the sign that shows up twice, is the sign that counts. (If the catcher flashes 2-2-1, he's calling for a curve ball, etc.).

In a series of three, the middle sign counts (or the first or the third).

Master the baseball signals, and your team will enjoy greater success.

About the Author

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