Aug 23, 2014
One of our best clinics to date took place on this day, largely in part to the coaching staff that was brought in for this packed double session clinic. It really is a true blessing to be able to bring in and be surrounded by such great instructors, guys who love teaching and catching and players who want to be challenged to learn.
We broke out the radar gun this clinic to show that there is a correlation between good pre-pitch rhythm, good extension and increased velocity (and a better pop-time). We saw many of our catchers make some huge strides because of their focus on working to and through the ball with their delivery. Ultimately we want to teach our catchers an efficient delivery that allows their power output to be greater, while their effort output looks easier.
On this day we really honed in on teaching our catchers to utilize their lower body (legs) to drive and push through their release point, while creating some length and upper body extension, in-line with their target. The days of recoiling back or falling off hard to the third base line must end for our catchers to maximize their God-given abilities. Too often catchers end up on the shelf because their arms are sore or hurt and their throws suffer (carry and accuracy) because of an inefficient delivery (lower half), which doesn’t help anybody.
Now…although some of our catchers really made some incredible strides due to a strong emphasis on generating early pre-pitch, we want to remind our guys that at times we must over-exaggerate the feel that we are working towards, but there is a fine line between being too early and loosing good overall rhythm. A few of our catchers were encouraged to get moving earlier because we needed them to feel that pre-pitch take place. (Yes, at times the hands may lag a bit during the early phases of feel, but we know that we can speed the hands up very easily when we work our transfers.) Some catchers have the habit of being much too late with their delivery and the only way to really get them in a place for good extension is to make them be early. We love doing this with our beginners just so they can understand the difference that is made in ball flight and quickness, as well as to help them realize that much more force is available to them when they create some momentum.
To view the Pop-Time Progression Chart, click>>>Aug. 23 Extension Be sure and view a few of the pictures to use as a comparison to your video analysis.
Here are a few factors that were stressed for good extension:
- A strong stance, with good hip/back angle.
- Pre-pitch must happen on-time and on-plane with the incoming pitch (not above it).
- A strong launch (power) position (40-60 Lft/Rt. weight distribution) keeping the legs underneath and a good low center of gravity.
- Good backside (post-leg) drive as the lower body begins to rotate.
- Maintaining a release that keeps the head and body inside (the figurative) narrow hallway.
- Good reach and bend, out in front, even after the release point.
We did a few receiving drills on the day and reminded our catchers that receiving is the still the skill that makes the biggest difference in a ball game. We are called “catchers” because we catch the ball more than any position on the field and we want to become the best at catching the ball properly, in a manner that gives the umpire the best look and opportunity to get a strike call.
Here are a few key areas we worked on this day:
- It all starts with a good (low and wider) stance and a good low target.
- Catch the ball with soft hands (no jerk, no yank, no glove carry).
- Catch the ball with good pocket awareness (not in the web or in the palm) and good vision (track).
- Catch the ball with good lower arm/wrist posture for a good presentation.
- Slide with lateral pitches with good base-sway (subtle and clean, with no lag) and limited reach.
The final leg of our clinic brought our catchers a lot of good reps with back-picks to 1st from their knees. This is a skill that our catchers love to work on and practice in clinics and in games. We spent a few extra minutes discussing the mental approach of using this skill with efficiency in games.
Back-picks and the main points:
- Identify the best opportunities to pick (bunt situations, base runners, etc.)
- Have good pitch selection (similar to hitting…some pitches are better than others).
- Pre-pitch, strong rake, line up the left hip/shoulders, slide on lower left shin guard and drive off the post leg for velocity.
The technique must come first, then the quickness and finally the power (velocity). Catchers are encouraged to work on this as a last phase of warming up in their throwing program. Practicing this just once a week is all it takes to make this skill a danger to opposing teams.