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Fastpitch TV


Cathi Aradi

The Smarter the Catcher, the Better the Team!

Don't let the name fool you. Catching involves much more than just catching a ball. It is one of the most physically and mentally challenging positions on the diamond. With the exception of the pitcher, there is no other player on the field who will get the ball as often as the catcher, so having one that knows what to do with the ball in any situation is advantageous, both to the team and the coach.

I firmly believe that the smarter the catcher, the better the team. Who else on the field has a better view of the runners, fielders and the ball? With this in mind, it is important that the catcher understand more about the game than just knowing how to catch a ball. Most of the players on the field, and the people in the stands for that matter, know how to catch a ball. Having a good understanding of all aspects of the game is what separates great catchers from glorified ball-blockers.

So what exactly do catchers need to know, and how do you teach it to them? Having been a catcher for the last 12 years, I can tell you that a lot of it is on-the-job training. However, this does not mean that as a coach, you can't prepare them. One of the most important mental aspects of softball is communication. Someone has to know who gets the ball, where the ball should be thrown, or who cuts it off, and who better to direct traffic in the field than the girl who can see everything happening.

To do a good job at this, though, the catcher has to know some other things besides what was mentioned above, and have a strong voice. She also has to know where the base runners are, what happens if the ball is a base hit, an extra base hit, or a bunt, and she has to know all of this information before the pitcher even gets the pitching signal. Simple, huh? As a coach, you can prepare your catcher for these things by running simulations in practice, making her think through each situation.

It is also a good idea to stop from time to time to explain why certain things have to happen. For instance, if it is early in the game, it might be better to tell the catcher to cut the ball off on the throw home, and throw it to second or third, getting the out, or at least keeping the runner from gaining an extra base. Yes, you are giving up a run, but you are also preventing another runner the chance to get in scoring position. Since it is early in the game, your team has a chance to get back the run. What is considered to be early in the game? Early in the game means within the first three innings. A catcher should know little things like this. Just talking to her after a practice, on road trips, or in between games about situations that could come up will help her learn more about the mental aspects of the game.

I mentioned pitching signals above. This is another area where the more knowledge the catcher has, the better off the team is. I realize that at most levels, and even in college, coaches are the ones who control the pitchers and what pitches are thrown. This does not necessarily mean that the catcher is only used to relay signals to the pitcher. She should actually by involved in the pitching process.

I was lucky enough to be the daughter of a pitching coach, and the sister of a pretty good junk pitcher, so I know a lot about pitching, including how to throw all the pitches. I could never actually throw a ball game, but having this kind of knowledge gave me an entirely new perspective on pitchers. They have to be totally focused on how and where each pitch is released. Catchers have to be focused as well, but their minds are geared toward what happens after the pitcher lets go of the ball. Knowing how a pitcher throws a particular pitch helps the catcher, because now she will have a better idea of what the ball is doing and where it is likely to go, in relation to the batter and the plate. In catching all types of pitchers, especially during the off-season, the catcher can gain a better understanding of how much effort goes into learning and developing each type of pitch. She is also able to see her own pitcher's tendencies, and can help the pitching coach spot errors in technique. By knowing her pitcher, the catcher can tell during warm-up which pitches are working and which ones aren't. Alter all, she has the best view.

It is actually amazing how much control the catcher has over the game. She can decide how soon to throw the ball back to the pitcher, how long to hold the ball when watching a runner lead off the base, how many signals to give the pitcher, and where to throw the ball. For someone who has so much control over the game, and the other players to some extent, don't you think it is important that she know as much as she can about the game? I certainly think so. Not only will it help her develop into a fantastic catcher, but it will also give you, as the coach, some relief. You can teach your players everything you know, but you can't go out there and do it for them. Having someone on that field whom you trust to get the job done right takes some of the stress off of you, not to mention your voice. Just remember that she can't learn everything at once. Give her the time to learn, allow her to make mistakes, and you will have yourself a very smart and an extremely adept catcher.