Continuing our series on receiving, we are going to dive into the second key skill that catchers need to master in order to win pitches for your pitcher effectively. Key #2 is Beat the Ball to the Spot + Stay Below the Ball.
As a quick reminder, here are the three keys to receiving that we teach at Catcher University:
- Quiet Glove + Thumb Under
- Beat the Ball to the Spot + Stay Below the Ball
- Don’t Frame!
Take a minute to think about how a MLB catcher catches a 100 mph pitch. If you have seen a pitch that is anywhere near 100 mph you’ll know that it’s hard enough to see, let alone catch it. Now, think about how easy MLB catchers make catching 100 mph fastballs. It’s like they’re not even trying! The reason they make it look so easy stems from Key #2: Beat the Ball to the Spot + Stay Below the Ball.
BEAT THE BALL TO THE SPOT
It starts with a quiet glove and ONE smooth, efficient, firm movement directly to the spot where the ball will be when they receive the pitch. The quiet glove is essential, as we covered in our previous post HERE, but the second part is just as important. Catchers must beat the ball to the spot in order to present pitches to the umpire well and win strikes for their pitcher.
When we talk about beating the ball to the spot, we are saying that catchers need to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and anticipate where the ball is going to be when they receive the pitch get to that spot with their glove before the ball does. Keeping the glove quiet and efficient helps catchers do this effectively. The more glove noise, the harder it will be to beat the ball to the spot.
Beating the ball to the spot also helps a catcher “stick” the ball right where it is caught. Once the ball hits the glove, there should be no more movement. We have all seen catchers who “dunk” the ball or “chase the ball out of the zone.” When catchers are unable to stick a ball right where it is caught, it is usually because they are late getting to the spot.
STAY BELOW THE BALL
Catchers also want to approach the spot from below the ball, not above. We work with a lot of young catchers, and many will subconsciously draw their gloves up toward their chest as the pitch is being delivered. Another tendency is for catchers to trace the path of the ball with their glove as the pitch approaches them. When catchers approach the spot from above the ball, they have to stab at the ball and sticking it becomes very difficult. This follows the same principle taught to infielders on short-hops and ground balls – always work from below the ball.
Catchers should always start with a low target – between the knees – and always approach the pitch location from below the ball. Beating the ball to the spot from below the ball will help any catcher at any level catch and stick pitches right where the ball is caught. And, when a catcher is able to beat the ball to the spot and stick pitches, he/she can present the pitch to the umpire well and win more strikes for his/her pitcher.
When a pitch is moving fast, e.g. 100 mph, you HAVE to anticipate where the ball is going to be before the ball actually gets there. That is your only hope. And, in addition to anticipating where the ball will end up and beating the ball to the spot with your glove, you also need to stay below the ball. This receiving key #2: Beat the Ball to the Spot + Stay Below the Ball is how to catch a 100mph fastball like a pro.
That said, though, these skills can be taught to any catcher at any level. The earlier a catcher begins to master this key, the easier time he/she will have as the pitch velocity increases and the easier time he/she will have advancing into higher levels of the game.
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