CATCHER MINDSET: The Key to Everything
Everything starts between the ears and in the chest. No catcher will ever reach their potential without the drive and desire to be a great catcher. The Catcher Mindset is the hub of The Complete Catching Wheel because everything else hinges on it. It is no exaggeration to say that it is The Key to Everything.
What does the Catcher Mindset look like specifically?
The Catcher Mindset is defined by three key characteristics and can be easily remembered using the acronym H.A.T.:
- H: Hustle
- A: Attitude
- T: Toughness
Every time a catcher has the opportunity to put on their gear and take the field, they must always be “wearing their H.A.T.”. Catching is the most uniquely challenging position on the field. It is the more rigorous physically, requires the greatest amount technical expertise, and requires the most mentally of any position on the field.
Not every player is cut out to be a catcher, and that is OK!
But for those who do want to be catchers, it’s essential to remember that no catcher can be a great catcher without the Catcher Mindset characterized by Hustle, Attitude, and Toughness.
Now that we have established the importance of the H.A.T. Catcher Mindset, what does it all mean practically?
Hustle. Catchers must always, always, always hustle. Period.
Before going any further, though, we need to address something very important: do not use MLB catchers as your example when it comes to hustling all over the field! MLB catchers have spent their entire lives hustling like we are about to talk about, but when they get to the MLB, they have to be strategic and take care of their bodies. MLB starting catchers will catch somewhere between 120-140 games. MLB teams often have stretches where they will have as little as TWO DAYS OFF over the course of TWO MONTHS. Think about that! The grind on their bodies is unlike anything else. In the MLB catchers can (and sometimes should) jog to 1st base on a routine ground ball or walk off the field. Until then, it is our belief that every catcher must hustle at all times.
To think about what hustle looks like on a practical, day-to-day basis, we use these two principles:
- Sweat More
- Play Every Pitch Like It’s Your Last
No one should ever “sweat more” than the catcher. By sweat more, don’t literally mean the amount of perspiration but rather the effort. Catchers should always set the tone with their work ethic. There is never an excuse to let someone else outwork us. Why? Because our effort is always 100% within our control.
Now, please notice that we are not talking about performance or stats. Are you going to feel 100% every day? No. Are you going to perform perfectly every day? No. Every human being is going to have good days and bad days, but the key we are talking about here is the effort. Regardless of performance, the catcher with the proper mindset always Sweats More.
“As a team member, one of the things you control every day is your effort. When you work harder and sweat more, you bring out the best in yourself and your team” (The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to Be a Great Teammate, Gordon, Jon p. 49, Kindle Edition).
PLAY EVERY PITCH LIKE IT’S YOUR LAST
Steve Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner who competed in the 1972 Olympics, won numerous NCAA National Championships, and set many American records. He has a quote that is the epitome of the Hustle Mindset that a catcher should always have:
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” (Steve Prefontaine)
At the end of the day you should be able to look in the mirror and know that you gave your very best effort. The opportunity to play baseball at any level is a gift that should not be taken for granted. Every player’s days are numbered. Every playing career comes to an end at some point, and sometimes it comes unexpectedly quick.
If you play every pitch like it’s your last then you’ll look in the mirror every day and know that you did not sacrifice your gift, but rather did everything you can to make the most of it.
100% hustle, 100% of the time.
Play Every Pitch Like It’s Your Last.
That is the definition of a true catcher with the right Catcher Mindset.
The Catcher Mindset, as defined by H.A.T., is absolutely required for any catcher to perform at a high level… no exceptions. The catcher is the cornerstone of a team’s defense. No other position is involved in every single pitch of the game with the same level of responsibility to the team’s success every game. Catching skills matter, and The Complete Catcher will absolutely teach every skill and drill necessary to develop the necessary catching skills, but none of those skills will matter if the catcher does not have the right mindset.
RECEIVING LESSON: Quiet Glove (Low Target)
A quiet glove is one that has as little movement as possible. There is no extra “noise” with the glove. Smooth, efficient, and firm movements are the qualities that create a quiet glove. The analogy we often use with our catchers is that we want their receiving to be like offensive linemen in football – the better you are, the less you are noticed.
Have you ever wondered how MLB catchers catch 100 mph fastballs like it’s nothing? Of course we have to note that MLB catchers are the best catchers in the world so their skills are clearly world-class, but seriously, why does a MLB catcher look so effortless catching 100 mph fastballs?
If you focus on their glove, you’ll see that it is extremely quiet. There is no wasted movement whatsoever. They present their target, stay relaxed, and then make ONE smooth, efficient, firm movement directly to the spot where the ball will be when they receive the pitch.
Receiving pitches with a quiet glove is important at any level, but it grows in importance as the pitching gets faster and the pitches start to have more and more movement.
Lastly, the target should be set low every pitch. Specifically, the target should be presented to the pitcher at the height of between the knees which is usually right at the bottom of the strike zone. Pitches by default should be executed low in the zone. There are certainly times where a pitch should be called up in the zone, but the default target should always be low. Beginning in this position not only helps the pitcher visualize the pitch executed low in the zone, but it will also help the catcher win pitches more effectively. While low pitches are the most effective pitches, they are also the most physically challenging pitch to present well to the umpire. Starting with a low target helps catchers present and win the low pitch because the glove is already in position at the bottom of the zone.
What are the defining characteristics of great catchers?
Anyone that has watched, played, or coached baseball knows a great catcher at any level when they see one. They have “it”. They are game-changers that have a strong impact on the outcome of the game and their team’s performance.
But what is “it”?
The Catcher’s Creed is a blog post series aimed at exploring exactly what “it” is that defines great catchers.
The first defining characteristic of great catchers is that they have good character. All nine characteristics are essential components of The Catcher’s Creed, but we are starting with character for a reason… character is the glue that holds everything else together.
Before we go any further, though, let’s define what we mean by character. Character is one of those words that everybody knows but few stop to define it specifically. What’s more, character is also one of those words that means different things to different people. So let’s start with what we mean by character:
Character is who you are as a person (1).
More specifically, great catchers have good character and display who they are as people in three big ways:
- Great catchers prove their good character with integrity
- Great catchers prove their good character with morality
- Great catchers prove their good character with unselfishness
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH INTEGRITY
Integrity is another word that can mean different things to different people, but for our purposes, integrity means that you are who you say you are. What you say and what you do are the same. Your words and your actions match.
Now, it goes without saying that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and do things that we aren’t proud of. But, we also know the difference between someone who makes a poor, out-of-character decision and someone who displays a pattern of behavior that is different from their words.
What does this look like practically on the baseball field?
One of the essential duties of a catcher is to take care of his pitching staff. Whatever his pitcher needs in order to perform at his best is what a great catcher is willing to do. So, let’s say that your pitcher is having a rough outing and struggling to control his emotions. You go out to the mound and offer encouragement. You tell him that you have his back and remind him that he just needs to give his best effort every pitch. Your pitcher takes your words to heart and is grateful that he has you in his corner.
But then when you get to the dugout you mention to another teammate how bad your pitcher is doing and say something like “Man, I hate catching this guy. He’s a head case and I can’t wait till coach pulls him out of the game.”
That’s poor integrity. That is saying one thing and then doing another. Put yourself in the pitcher’s shoes in that scenario and imagine that you overheard what your catcher was saying about you… would you trust him the next time he came to the mound to try to encourage you?
Words are easy. Anyone can talk and say the right thing. Actions actually reveal your level of integrity. Great catchers prove their good character with integrity day in and day out.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH MORALITY
Morality is the distinction between right and wrong. Great catchers prove their good character by always doing what is right. They don’t compromise their morality for any reason.
Competition has a fascinating effect on people. We will explore this more when we get to the Competitor aspect of The Catcher’s Creed, but here is a great example of how this plays out in baseball: performance enhancing drugs. Their have been (and still are) many baseball players who were willing to sacrifice their morality in order to improve their performance. They cheated… plain and simple. Sure, they could have been great teammates in other ways. And, maybe their enhanced abilities helped a team win important games or even a championship and in that way made a positive impact on their teams. But, they still cheated nonetheless.
Another example of how this plays out is with bat regulations in youth and college baseball. It is not uncommon for players at the youth levels to try using a bat that is an illegal weight (e.g. they are using a bat that is too light). Or, at the college level there are players who have figured out ways to doctor their bats so that the ball travels further when they hit it. Using an illegal bat could make a difference in winning and losing and therefore could “help” the team. But the morality of using an illegal bat remains the same… it is wrong.
Great catchers prove their good character with morality. They don’t turn to cheating in order to improve their performance. They play the game the right way in all ways, and they go a step further and hold their teammates accountable to right and wrong as well.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH UNSELFISHNESS
There is no such thing as a great catcher that is selfish. That is an oxymoron. Catchers might perform at high levels and help their teams win while being selfish, but results do not equal greatness.
Catchers that are truly great at any level have a “team first, always and in all ways” attitude. They look around at their teammates and ask themselves, “what can I do to help my teammate succeed?” They are more concerned with helping others succeed than they are with their own results.
Does that mean that great catchers who are unselfish don’t care about their personal performance? Absolutely not. Every player should care about their performance and strive for excellence. The issue here is a matter of priority. What does a person care about more – what is best for his team/teammates or himself?
And, here’s a important paradox – playing with an unselfish attitude is actually the type of mindset that sets up a player to have the best chance at individual success.
Great catchers are unselfish. They prioritize what is best for the team and helping their teammates succeed more than their own selfish interests.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER
Clearly this is not an exhaustive study into what good character looks like. But, for our purposes of exploring the defining characteristics of great catchers these are three really good examples of what good character looks like in catchers.
And perhaps the most important aspect of this whole conversation is that great catchers prove their good character. The “it” factor that we are seeking to define is proven by actions and words day after day.
(1) This is my favorite definition for character because it is so simple and yet says so much. I came across this definition in a book called What Drives Winning by Brett Ledbetter.
DRILL VIDEOS + EXPLANATIONS
Molina Barehand is named after one of the best defensive catchers of all time - Yadier Molina. He does this drill regularly and that where the drill comes from.
The purpose of the Molina Barehand is the train the catcher to catch the ball in the proper part of the hand. The ball should be caught between the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger because that equates to the proper place to catch a ball in the glove. If a catcher catches the ball with the palm of their hand 1) that hurts and 2) the ball is likely to pop out of the glove.
Additional benefits of this drill include building hand-eye coordination and training soft hands while receiving.
The catcher is in his/her primary stance and is holding a ball with his/her pinky & ring finger. You can see a close up of this in the picture below (Note: if a baseball is too large to hold comfortable in the catchers hand then use a bouncy ball, golf ball, or any small object that is able to occupy the pinky and ring finger and prevent the catcher from using them to catch the ball.)
The coach/drill partner is approximately 5-8 feet away.
The coach/drill partner tosses the ball nice and easy so the catcher has plenty of time to see where the ball is going and react accordingly. The standard version of this drill calls for soft, easy tosses so the catcher can focus 100% of catching the ball with their thumb under and a soft, quiet hand.
This drill should be practiced from both the primary and secondary stance.
To increase difficulty, the coach/drill partner can mix up locations throughout the strike zone. If the goal is to add velocity and challenge the catchers reaction time then it is recommended that tennis balls be used so the catcher doesn’t injure any fingers.
Rapid Fire is designed to improve the catcher’s reaction time and quickness/efficiency with their glove hand.
This drill is always one of the favorites with catchers so if you are looking for a drill that is fast paced and fun then this is a great option.
The catcher in the primary or secondary stance with no glove. This is primarily a barehand drill, but you can incorporate the glove to mix it up if you’d like. The coach/drill partner stands 5 feet away from the catcher with six baseballs/tennis balls (three in each hand).
The coach/drill partner flips the baseballs by alternating hands in rapid succession. The catcher’s goal is to catch every ball.
As the catcher gets more comfortable, the coach/drill partner should speed up the rapid fire and begin mixing up locations of the tosses. Once the catcher is consistently catching all six baseballs with a barehand, then the catcher can begin executing this drill Molina Style.
This is also a very good drill to use as a competition amongst the catchers to add some extra flavor to the drill session.
Wall Ball Receiving
Wall Ball is designed to improve the catcher’s reaction time and quickness/efficiency with their glove hand.
The catcher in the primary or secondary stance with no glove approximately 8-10 feet from a ball. The coach/drill partner stands right behidn the catcher.
Note: the drill video shows the Wall Ball No Cheat drill. Wall Ball Receiving is the same drill except that you only throw balls to be received and do not throw any balls to be blocked.
The coach/drill partner flips or throws the tennis ball from behind the catcher. The positioning should ensure that the ball comes off the wall and reaches the catcher in the air. The catcher’s goal is to catch every ball with proper thumb under technique.
As the catcher gets more comfortable, the coach/drill partner should alternate between flips/throws to change the angle of the ball off the wall. The coach/drill partner should also start to vary locations inside and outside.
Tennis Ball Receiving
Tennis ball receiving is designed to train a catcher to have a soft hand while receiving the ball. Tennis balls are lighter and bouncier than baseballs, therefore a catcher must have a soft hand to secure a tennis ball when receiving it like a pitch.
The catcher in the primary or secondary stance with either a glove or no glove approximately 8-10 feet from the coach/drill partner.
The coach/drill partner flips or throws the tennis ball to the catcher. The coach/drill partner can vary the speed and location of the feed to work on different locations and challenge the catcher appropriately with velocity.
As the catcher gets more comfortable, the coach/drill partner should start to increase velocity and the variance in locations of the flips/throws.
Weighted Ball Receiving
Weighted ball receiving is designed to train a catcher to have a strong hand while receiving the ball. The weighted ball is obviously heavier than a baseball so the catcher will have to be stronger with the hand, forearm, and shoulder when receiving a weighted ball. This will help them control the ball and prevent any movement after the pitch enters the glove.
The catcher in the primary or secondary stance with either a glove or no glove approximately 8-10 feet from the coach/drill partner.
The coach/drill partner flips the weighted ball to the catcher. The coach/drill partner can vary the speed and location of the feed to work on different locations and challenge the catcher appropriately with velocity.
As the catcher gets more comfortable, the coach/drill partner should start to increase velocity and the variance in locations of the flips. The coach/drill partner should also use heavier balls as the catcher progresses and gets comfortable with each weighted ball.
3-Way Dry Blocks
3-Way Dry Blocks is designed designed to help catchers practice the proper blocking position in all three positions - middle, arm side, glove side - while also incorporating a little reaction work. Removing the moving ball from the equation allows the catcher can focus 100% of getting to their Proper Blocking Position. This drill is great for warmups and for reviewing technique.
The setup includes setting three baseballs 1-2 feet in front of the catcher. One ball is setup down the middle of the plate, one is arm side, and the third is glove side. The distance of the two baseballs on the sides can vary depending on how far you want the catcher to have to move to block either ball to the side.
To execute the drill, the catcher is in the secondary stance with their chest lined up with the middle baseball. The coach/drill partner then points to one of the three baseballs, and the catcher reacts by dropping into the blocking position. When working to either side, the catcher must shift their weight so that their chest is lined up with the ball.
Again, this drill intentionally avoids having the catcher block a thrown baseball. When a ball is thrown, the focus turns to the ball first and foremost. The goal is this drill is to make the blocking position the first and foremost focus, so that is why we avoid throwing baseballs for this first drill.
Torso Adjust Progression
The Torso Adjust Progression serves the same overall purpose as the standard Torso Adjust, except that it is designed as a four part progression that builds from the standard Torso Adjust to Standard Blocks.
This progression is excellent for introducing the basics to young or new catchers. It is also excellent for older/advanced catchers to incorporate into their blocking practice because it thoroughly reviews the fundamentals. Lastly, this is a great option for a blocking warmup for any catcher at any level before games.
The catcher is on his/her knees in the proper blocking position. The only change is that instead of having his/her chin tucked, the catcher is looking at the coach/drill partner.
The coach/drill partner is 10-15 feet away with a bucket of baseballs or tennis balls.
The coach/drill partner bounces the ball in front of the catcher within the width of the catcher’s body. The catcher’s goal at every step of the progression is to block, or “kill”, the ball and keep it as close as possible by making necessary torso adjustments.
Examples of torso adjustments include:
- Roll a shoulder one way or the other
- Raise the chest up because the ball is bouncing high
- Lean forward slightly more than normal to try to “kill” the ball in front
The sets/reps can be varied based on your goals. One set of 5-10 reps at each step can be done in just a couple minutes and is ideal for warmups and review. Sets of 15-20 blocks per progression step can turn this progression into an entire blocking practice session.
No Hands Blocks
No Hands Blocks is very helpful in developing catchers’ blocking skills for a number of reasons, but it is especially helpful in teaching them to Beat the Ball to the Spot because taking the glove/hands out of the equation forces them to actually get their body to the spot, rather than getting away with using their hands if their body is late.
This drill is particularly effective for practicing torso adjustments. Since the catcher's hands are behind their back and out of the equation and they can focus 100% of using their chest to block and control the ball.
This drill is also excellent to help the catcher with their overall athletic development. This drill tests their balance and mobility, both in the secondary stance and in the blocking position (e.g. there is no glove to brace them if they are leaning too far forward). If your catcher seems ready, you can also do this drill in a rapid fire format. Forcing the catcher to block rapid fire with no hands tests their athleticism while also practicing blocking technique.
The catcher is in the secondary stance with no glove and hands clasped behind his/her back. The coach/drill partner is 10-15 away with a bucket of tennis balls. This drill can done with baseballs, but if the ball is going to be thrown with any sort of velocity then it is best to use tennis balls. With the hands behind the back, the catcher’s cup and inner thighs are completely exposed so it is good to use tennis balls to prevent unnecessary bruising or cup-shots.
The execution is virtually the same as the 3-Way Standard Blocks. The coach/drill partner tosses the ball at moderate speed and aims to bounce the ball right in front of the catcher. For starters, work on one position (middle, glove side, arm side) at a time and tell the catcher where the ball is going. This takes the reaction time out of the equation and allows the catcher to focus on Beating the Ball to the Spot with the Proper Blocking Position and using torso adjustments to control the ball.
Once the catcher starts to get comfortable blocking the ball all three ways, the coach/drill partner can begin to mix up the location of the pitch and force the catcher to react to the pitch.
Two Step Blocks
Two Step Blocks is designed to combine proper blocking technique with quickness and agility.
The catcher is in the secondary stance 15-20 feet away from the coach/drill partner. If you are using the Lateral Hurdle Hop version then the hurdle should be right next to one of the catcher’s feet.
Each rep includes two blocks - one right down the middle and one to the side. The reps are rapid fire and should be quick enough to challenge the catcher’s quickness and agility. The goal is for the catcher to block and control both baseballs.
The coach/drill partner has two baseballs in their hands. They bounce the first ball right in front of the catcher and then immediately throw the second ball so that it bounces to either the glove side or the arm side of the catcher. The standard version of this drill calls for the coach/drill partner to tell the catcher which direction the second ball will be thrown.
To increase difficulty, add a small hurdle that the catcher must hop over as they shift laterally. The hurdle adds a good agility component to the drill, but make sure that your catcher understands that we don’t want any vertical movement when blocking laterally in games or normal drills. The hurdle is simply there to challenge athleticism.
Another way to increase difficulty is to not tell the catcher which way the second ball will be thrown. This will add a challenging reaction component to the drill and is really good for advanced catchers.
180 Blocks is an agility and reaction time blocking drill. The goal is to force the catcher to be quick and athletic, while also adding the additional element of making them spin and pick up the ball coming out of the 180 degree spin.
This is typically a drill that catchers really enjoy because it is different and presents a fun challenge.
The catcher starts in the secondary stance with their back facing the coach/drill partner. The coach/drill partner is 10-15 feet away from the catcher.
The coach/drill partner says “GO” and the catcher spins 180 degrees while still in the secondary stance. Make sure the catcher lands on their feet in their secondary stance after their spin. As the catcher is spinning the coach/drill partner throws a ball so that it bounces right in front of the catcher. The catcher has to react to block the ball very quickly since they are still spinning as the ball is already being thrown to them.
The better/quicker the catcher, the less reaction time the coach/drill partner can give to the catcher to increase the difficulty of the drill.
To ramp up the difficulty level of this drill even more, consider the following two options:
- Mix up your throws so that the catcher has to block balls down the middle, to the arm side, and glove side. This will test the catchers’ reaction ability to not only block the ball but also react to baseball to the right or left to block balls laterally.
- Mix up your throws so that some are strikes and some are in the dirt. This ramps up the difficulty because the catcher has to spin and not only pick up the ball but also read whether they need to present a strike to the umpire or block a ball in the dirt.
T-Drill Footwork is designed to help a catcher focus on their Two-Step Footwork. The use of a plate, cone, tape, or lines in the dirt provide immediate visual feedback to the catcher on how well they executed their footwork.
The diagram included with the drill video is provided for your reference. The green represents your target zone for the first step. As mentioned in the skills overview lesson, the first step should be right under the chin. Some catchers will naturally step slightly left of center, which is fine as long as the right foot does not pass where the left foot began.
The catcher is in the secondary stance with a marker of some sort of marker on the ground directly beneath the chin. The video shown here uses a plate turned backwards, but a cone, athletic tape, or lines drawn in the dirt will all work well
This drill can and should be executed in three different ways, depending on the goal of the drill and the ability level of the catcher:
- No hands involved - no glove, ball, or anything other than focusing on the Two-Step Footwork.
- Dry Transfers - the catcher starts with the ball in the glove (e.g. no toss) and executes the Two-Step Footwork with their hands executing the exchange as well.
- Feed Transfers - the catchers executes the Two-Step Footwork and the exchange with the hands off of a feed from a coach/drill partner via throwing or a machine.
Don’t let the simplicity of this drill fool you or your catchers into thinking that it is not effective. It is ideal for learning and training for catchers at any level to focus and sharpen the core fundamentals of their footwork while throwing.
The Iso-Hands Transfer Progression is designed to help a catcher focus on their transfer and exchange with their hands.
This drill progression is good for any catcher at any level because you can tailor the rep scheme and difficulty based on the catcher’s skill level.
The catcher is on one or both knees and the coach/drill partner is 5-10 feet away. For the third part of the progression (as described below), the coach/drill partner will move back to 10-15 feet away from the catcher.
The catcher starts with no-glove. Learning to transfer with bare hands teaches hand-eye coordination, and it increases the concentration required because catching the ball with a barehand is harder than catching with a glove. It also helps the catcher learn a good “connection” between their hands as they transfer the ball from their glove (or glove hand) to their throwing hand.
The second part of the progression is to repeat the same reps as part one, except adding in the glove. After concentrating and transferring with bare hands, the catcher now gets to practice with their glove. The same principles apply, and now that the catcher has a glove on, its important to emphasize the thumb up position of the glove while catching the ball, followed by the rotation of the glove to the throwing hand center mass.
Since the catcher has his/her glove on, the coach/drill partner can choose to remain 5-10 feet away and toss the ball softly, or they can back up to 10-15 feet away and begin throwing the ball overhand at a faster pace.
The third and final part of the Iso-Hands Transfer Progression is for the coach/drill partner to step back to 10-15 feet away and begin throwing the ball overhand (if you’re not already in that position), and have the catcher execute a full transfer and throw from the knees. The emphasis is to have the catcher practice their transfer and actually get the ball out of their hand as quickly as possible. Adding in the throw helps solidify the transfer technique because a transfer that does not allow the catcher to throw the ball is useless.
Feel free to focus on the first and/or second parts of the progression for a while before incorporate the third part that includes the throw. You can also vary the difficulty level by increasing the speed of your tosses/throws, and by mixing up the locations of the throw/toss (e.g. low, high, inside, outside, etc.).
Once your catcher is familiar with the core fundamentals of throwing, the typical rep scheme should be five reps for each progression step, for a total of 15 reps per round. Then, depending on if you’re using the drill as a warm-up for a game or an individual defense session at a practice, you can take the catcher through the entire progression anywhere from 1-5 times before moving on to the next drill.
HLT Arm Action Series
Overload Transfers are designed to be an overload training drill for the catcher. Moving a weighted ball, or executing the transfer with wrist weights, helps build strength, stability throughout the movement sequence, and increase the speed of the transfer.
weights on both wrists.
The coach/drill partner is 5-8 feet away from the catcher if doing underhand tosses for weighted ball or wrist weight transfers.
The coach/drill partner is 15-20 feet away from the catcher if doing overhand tosses for wrist weight transfers with regular baseballs.
The catcher executes a full transfer movement with the weighted balls and/or wrist weights as quickly as possible (while maintaining good technique).
Knee Trigger Progression
Knee Trigger Progression is designed for teaching and training catchers to use pre-pitch movement as part of their throwing motion. Elite throwing catchers always “get a running start” with their lower half as part of their transfer. This “running start” helps build energy and momentum into the throw and also increases quickness because the initial move is started slightly before the ball actually gets to the glove. Part of the “running start” is engaging the glutes and beginning to drive the hips forward right before the ball gets to the glove. For more information on that please see the Pre-Pitch Transfers drill.
The other part of the pre-pitch movement is what is called a Knee Trigger with the left knee. When the ball is a few inches away from the glove, the glutes/hips begin to engage and drive forward while the left knee “triggers” by turning towards second base. As the glutes/hips are beginning the drive towards second base and the left knee trigger works to begin the necessary rotation that takes place during the throw.
Proper pre-pitch movement using the glutes, hips, and left knee will help a catcher increase both quickness and velocity on their throws.
One more note - the concept of pre-pitch movement should be introduced as soon as possible, however please be sure that your catcher has proven competency in the core fundamentals first. It doesn’t matter how fast a catcher goes if their fundamentals are broken because they will not have long-term success in that scenario.
The catcher is in the secondary stance with no glove.
The coach/drill partner is 5-8 feet away with a bucket of baseballs.
There are four steps in the Knee Trigger Progression. The primary focus for each step is the Knee Trigger movement. The purpose of the drill is lost if the catcher is not intentionally practicing their pre-pitch movement on every rep. The catcher should not move on to the next step of the progression until they are consistently able to execute the pre-pitch movement on the previous step.
This progression is specifically designed to help catchers learn the movement and the practice the timing with progressively more ball movement.
The four steps are as follows:
- Ball on Ground: The catcher triggers their left knee and then picks up the ball from the ground and executes a full transfer.
- Rolling Ball: The coach/drill partner rolls the ball to the catcher. As the ball gets close the catcher triggers the left knee, picks up the ball with a thumb under hand position, and then executes a full transfer.
- Bouncing Ball: The coach/drill partner bounces the ball to the catcher. As the ball gets close to the glove the catcher triggers the left knee and executes a full barehand transfer off the bounce.
- Toss: The coach/drill partner tosses the ball to the catcher. As the ball gets close to the glove the catcher triggers the left knee and executes a full barehand transfer off the toss. As the catcher advances then feel free to increase the velocity of the toss and have the catcher use a glove to make step 4 more like game speed.
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