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Catching Drills

Blocking the Baseball

 

Catching is the most demanding position on the field and the most overlooked during practice. Catchers are often taken for granted as coaches spend time doing drills for hitting, improving defense, and pitching. Success in baseball depends on the team's strength up the middle, with the catcher as the starting point. And, the most important and toughest skill that a catcher has to learn is BLOCKING. The key to mastering blocking skills is practice. It takes much hard work to improve, but the more time you put in, the better you will be.

Shadow Blocking (No ball)
Coach stands behind the catcher. Catcher assumes his stance. The coach tells the catcher what pitch is thrown and where. The coach will give the catcher a few seconds to get ready. When the coach claps their hands, the catcher will assume the blocking position and hold. The coach or other players will check their form to make sure the catcher is in a good position. The drill can be varied by giving the catcher less time between pitch and location and the clap, or the catcher will go on verbal commands only.

Sit and Get Hit
Coach gets on one knee from a short distance. The catcher assumes the blocking position with his upper body in a "C" (see Mike Scioscia's photo at right).

The coach will throw the ball in the dirt and off the chest or mask of the catcher. The catcher learns the feeling of balls coming off his body (harmless) and learns to position himself correctly so that the ball drops to the ground in front of him..

Toss to the Dirt
Coach stands on the mound. The catcher assumes their stance. Coach will throw balls in the dirt and the catcher will block, retrieve, and get their body in a position to throw.

Lift and Drive
Side-to-side blocking using small steps and progressing into larger "lift and drive." When the ball is to the left, lift and drive with the right leg, always keeping shoulders square towards the field and keeping the ball in front.

When the ball is to the right, lift and drive with the left leg. (Coach throws the ball 10 times to each side while standing half-way between the mound and home plate.).

Up-Downs
Lay out five balls five feet apart. The catcher will shuffle to each ball, assume the blocked position, get up and shuffle to the next ball. The object is to work on quickness down to the ball and up from the ball. Make sure the catcher's hands are moving in the correct position on the way up. The drill can be varied by having the catcher not only go down all five, but moving to the other side and returning to where they started.

Hands Drill
The catcher should start in the down position with a ball placed in front of them. When the coach says go, the catcher fires their hands out to the side and away from the ball, gets to their feet quickly, rakes in the ball and gets their body in a position to throw the baseball.

Zone Blocking
Acceptable activity for when practice is getting monotonous and the catchers need a change of pace. Assign three zones and points for each (5, 3, -5). The first zone should be 3 feet by 3 feet starting at the catcher's feet, the second zone should be 5 feet by 5 feet starting at the catcher's feet, the third zone is anything outside zone two. Catcher assumes stance while the coach stands on the mound. The coach will throw balls in the dirt. The catcher should block, retrieve the balls in a zone and then get their body in a position to throw. Each catcher gets an established number of trials. Add up points and assign a winner.

Batting Practice
There is no substitute for blocking live during an established period of time during batting practice. This prevents the catcher from sitting back and creating bad habits during batting practice.

Bullpens
The bull pen should be utilized not only by pitchers preparing to enter the game, but also by catchers as well. The catcher should report to the bullpen in full gear and have their game face on. No balls should ever get by a catcher in the bullpen. Take pride in your abilities.



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