Jim Crane's Catching Tips

To be a good receiver (anyone can get behind the plate and try and catch a ball) one must have endurance, a strong arm, and a good head. The first two qualities have to be inborn but by study and hard work you can develop smart thinking.

1. Position:
The proper position for a catcher, without a man on base is in a low squat with the weight balanced on the balls of your feet. You should be up under the bat as far as possible but do not get so far up that you will be hit by the arc of the bat swing. Once you have assumed your squat position, you must be ready to go to the left, right or up high for a pitch. Don't forget in a nine inning game a pitcher will average about 120 pitches; you cannot assume that all his throws will be around the plate. When you shift to your right or left remember to shift your feet; do not cross one leg over the other. Shifting your feet simply means that you glide to your left or right; if you go to the right for example start with the right foot moving in the direction of the ball and drag or glide your left leg along with the rest of your body. To most of you this may seem easy but try it; you will learn that this demands constant practice. The most important fielding play by a catcher is keeping a ball thrown into the dirt in fron of him. This is a must; always keeps your body in fron of the ball and the ball always in front of your body. A man on base will not try to advance on a wild pitch if you block the ball and keep it in front of you. The reason your wear the mask, chest protector and shin guards is to protect yourself primarily, but a good catcher will also use these tools to keep the ball from going past him.
2. Giving a Target:
When giving the pitcher his target put your glove out, the pocket of which is open and facing the pitcher. Your right hand should be balled into a fist so that a foul tip will not catch a finger sticking out and break it. Here is the first instance where a catcher must use his head: before giving the pitcher a target, take a look at the batter. Is he standing way back in the batter's box or up to close? Is he holding the bat too tight (are his knuckles white from squeezing the bat handle)? Is he up too far or back too deep? These positions should indicate where yo pitch to him. If a hitter is in too close, a good pitch on the inside corner will get him to tape weakly to the infielders. If back to far from the plate he will not be able to reach a strike on the outside corner. Here again practice will pay off; watch the hitters and remember how to react to different pitches.
3. Perspective as an Asset:
The most important asset a catcher has is that the game is played out in front of him. He can see out into the field; all the rest the players are looking in. Use this asset. Help your fielders if you see one of them out of position; the catcher knows if the pitcher is throwing fast or slow; it can be deceiving to the fielders. Don't forget a slow pitch will be pulled by the hitter, whereas a fast ball many times will be hit to the "wrong: field
4. Remember to be a Fielder:
Like the pitcher, do not be a spectator once the ball is hit; back up first base or be ready to field a bunt or tap in front of the plate.
5. With Men on Base:
With men on base the catcher assumes a slightly different stance: he comes up out of the squat and half crouches behind the hitter. Your left foot should be slightly in front of your right foot, however. This enables you to receive the pitch and throw by taking one step with your left foot moving forward. Bases are stolen on a catcher by winding up taking extra steps and then throwing.