BLOCKING IS THE EASY PART

 

It is common knowledge among youth baseball and softball coaches that the one play most responsible for scoring runs is not the blast over the fence or the shot in the gap; it’s the passed ball. As coaches we often find ourselves asking why is it so difficult for our young catchers to keep the ball in front of them. Why do so many balls get by and allow runners to advance and ultimately score?

To understand the problem lets divide passed balls into 2 groups. The first group is those wild pitches that are so far over a catcher’s head, or thrown so far to their sides that even skilled catchers are unable stop them. These types of pitches will diminish as the pitchers get older and become more skilled. If the pitcher does not get more accurate as he/she ages he/she will no longer be selected to pitch, and the wild-pitch problem goes away by itself.

The second group is the group that causes the most problems for youth coaches. These are pitches in the dirt within the catcher’s reach just to their left or right, or even worse, right between their legs. Why can’t the catchers stop them? Why can’t the catchers block them? From our point of view sitting in the dugout it sure seems obvious that the ball is going in the dirt. Why is it these young catchers can’t see where the ball is going and make the proper play? Is blocking the ball really that difficult? Well my answer may surprise you. After more than 15 years of working with catchers I have come to the conclusion that blocking is really the easy part. If you have my DVD and have applied the blocking techniques suggested you could attest to the fact that nine-year-old catchers can be taught to block as well as high school starting catchers. That’s right, blocking the ball is the easy part!!

Well then, why all the pass balls? Why all the scored runs, if blocking the ball is the easy part? For years I have seen catchers as young as seven years old perfectly execute a block in a drill environment with me tossing balls at game speed. The problem is not whether they know how to block or not block, the problem is they do not know when to block. Read that again. The problem is not whether they know how to block or not block, the problem is they do not know when to block.

Their skill deficiency is not blocking but something much more difficult to learn. It’s a skill that can take years behind the plate for a catcher to develop. The skill? Pitch recognition.

So we ask, what can be so hard about recognizing that a pitch needs to be blocked? We as coaches can clearly see from the dugout that a pitch is going in the dirt, but we see the pitch from the dugout, from the side, not from the most difficult angle, the catcher’s view. Recognizing the trajectory of a ball going into the dirt through the catcher’s eyes is much more difficult. Most often by the time the catcher recognizes a ball is going in the dirt it is too late for them to block the ball and the only reaction that remains is to stand up and run to the backstop to retrieve it.

The Math 

If pitch recognition is the problem, just how much time does a catcher have to recognize the ball is on a flight path that will require him/her her to block it? Here is some simple math to ponder.

For youth baseball I will use 45 feet as a common home to mound distance. If we assume the pitcher actually releases the ball four feet in front of the mound then the actual distance the ball is thrown is 41 feet. Conversely, since the catcher sets up approximately four feet behind the plate the actual travel distance to the catcher is back to 45 feet.

Using 50-MPH as a reasonable speed for twelve-years-old and under we find that speed over that distance equates to 73 feet per second. So a ball traveling from the pitcher’s release point to the catcher’s glove 45 feet away will take approximately .6 seconds. Yes six whole tenths of a second to find the ball after release, get a fix on its flight path, make the decision to block, and then to muster the technical expertise to actually block the ball properly!

For the girl’s game the numbers are similar; a 45-MPH pitch thrown from 40 feet away travels at 58 feet per second. So from release point to the catcher’s glove 40 feet away the time to react is also .6 seconds.

The point of the math lesson is to help coaches realize just how little time these 12 and under catchers have to figure out they need to block the ball, let alone actually execute proper blocking techniques. Remember this math the next time you yell at a catcher for not getting down to a ball in the dirt fast enough.

Receiving Stance 

Before I explain how to train catchers in pitch recognition let me share something else that significantly handicaps most youth catchers when they try to block. I find that a key reason why players struggle to get to the ground quickly and block balls properly is improper receiving stance.

Catchers must be in a stance that allows their first move to be down, rather than up when they begin to execute the block. The easiest way to accomplish this is to insure that their feet are far enough apart so their heel are in contact with the ground, toes are pointed up the baselines and their thighs are parallel to the ground. If they are in a deep crouch, like they should be with no runners on, then their hips will have to go up before they can begin to move towards the ground. A deep crouch will only add to the amount of time it takes to block a ball by making the athlete travel upward before they are able to drive to the ground.

Pitch Recognition Training Process 

First and foremost realize that this is a process, a process that will take time. It may take hundreds if not thousands of pitches to reach a consistent level of performance. Coaches must realize that a ten-year-old who can learn the mechanics of blocking in few short lessons may take three or more seasons before he/she is proficient in consistently reading pitches.

  • When beginning this drill have the catcher get in their runners on base stance.
  • Remind them they need to block all balls in the dirt and receive properly all pitches that do not require blocking.
  • Inform them the situation is bottom of the last inning, you are up by one run and the tying run is on third.
  • Position yourself half the normal distance between home and the mound. This allows the coach to throw the ball more accurately each time.
  • Throw the first two pitches at least one foot over the catcher’s head. They will obviously not try to block these two pitches.
  • Throw the next two pitches in the dirt three feet before the plate. The catcher should immediately recognize these balls are in the dirt and immediately move to block.
  • Mix the next few pitches so they are thrown very high, and very low. Observe if the catcher successfully identifies and reacts properly to each pitch. During this particular part of the drill sequence what is most important is the catcher’s reaction. We are looking to see if the catcher CLEARLY demonstrates the ability to read the pitch location and responded accordingly. It is less important if the block is technically correct.
  • Once the catcher masters the above move the pitches such that high pitches are lower and more in the catcher’s range, and the low pitches bounce closer to the catcher. See if he/she begins to balk and gets caught in that nasty place between blocking and receiving.
  • You may find that the catcher will start to read the low pitches incorrectly as soon as the ball hits the ground just past the back point of the plate.
  • As you begin to throw more pitches that are in the strike zone you will begin to see the hesitation appear as the catcher is struggling to read the pitches destination. When you throw a pitch at the knees you may find the catcher actually drops to block and gets hit in the mask. Likewise a pitch low and away that clearly should be blocked you may see them jab their glove out at it at the last second and try to catch it. The goal is to find that upper and lower limit when he/she seems to start having trouble reading whether to block or receive and drill in thatrange.
  • When you see their proficiency growing increasethe velocity in small increments to keep them challenged.

For catchers twelve and under, a good benchmark in a game situation is having your catcher read the pitch correctly to block 50% of the time when the ball is going into the dirt, and then execute proper blocking techniques 10% of the time. In the beginning be satisfied that they were able to correctly determine where the pitch was headed and began to execute the correct skill. The ball will still get by them since they are still using too much of the .6 of a second to read the pitch, not allowing enough time to actually execute the block.

BLOCKING THE OUT PITCH

 

2008 - After an afternoon of watching playoff baseball -- Go Phillies! -- I figured this would be a great time to add the first catching-related post to our blog. Obviously, if we are talking about the ability to block the "out-pitch", we must assume the pitcher actually has an "out-pitch" and that likely reserves this blog entry to coaches of catchers who are at least over the age of 14. This doesn't mean this blog cannot be entertaining and a valuable source of information for everyone else, so please keep reading. I will stay away from breaking down the block itself. This instruction is available all over our website. This will reflect more on the importance of the skill.

One of the most important things we try to stress to our students is that the ability to recognize a ball in the dirt and execute the proper block is as valuable a skill as there is in the game of baseball or softball. Sure the ability to hit a home run every 8.9 at-bats is great, but a sound defensive skill-set can carry a team through the eventual rough patches that all young, or old for that matter, pitchers will run into.

As I was watching Brad Lidge close out the victory for my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, something stood out to me. Lidge's ability to throw his slider for strikes was a huge weapon. Let's face it, at 86 mph, any pitch diving 8 inches back into the bottom of the strike zone right before the plate is bound to have a positive result. But an even bigger attribute was his ability to bury it a foot in front of home plate and not worry about whether the runner on third base is coming home.

Many who know me, know of my affinity for the Phillies, but a lot of you may not know about my apprehension about putting Carlos Ruiz behind the plate on a regular basis last season. I think his receiving ability has improved, but in my opinion is still questionable, and his throw to second could be so much quicker if he would just keep himself on the ground through the throw....but I digress. One thing he does very well is block anything in the dirt, especially the 86 mph slider that comes up a foot short.

Coaches do me a favor and picture this...bottom of the 6th, 7th, 9th -- whatever the final inning would be for the age level you are coaching -- 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, a hitter who knows how to handle a bat is the go-ahead run at the plate -- now I want all of you to picture the look on your pitcher's face when you tell them to throw the ball a foot in front of home plate. Better yet, look at the face of your catcher when you tell your pitcher he's not to even touch the bottom of the strikezone with this pitch. Don't worry, I promise you, their eyes aren't actually going to pop out of their head.

Truth be told, if you are dealing with kids under the age of 16, this can be a chore, and may not exactly be a situation you look forward to as a coach. If you are one of the "lucky ones" and have a catcher who can be relied on to keep every out-pitch headed for the dirt in the general vicinity of home plate, congratulations. For this very reason you have probably stayed competitive for most of the season. However, if you are of the majority, then welcome to the club.

In order to understand our goal regarding the "out-pitch" we must first understand what we are referring to. We are talking about that off-speed pitch that should be killing worms. The pitch that looks like it has a shot to end up in the strikezone, but the laws of this universe will just not allow it to. The hitter has less time to figure out whether or not to swing than the catcher has to figure out whether to block. This is why these pitches can be effective if you have a catcher who can block. Keep in mind that this pitch does not have to be used to strike out a batter, just get a strike when it is desperately needed.

One of the most powerful tools a pitcher has is the ability to throw any one of his pitches in a spot where the hitter has no chance to put it in play and still have the ability to get them to swing (Think Jonathan Papelbon 96 mph fastball at the letters, a 94 mph Mariano Rivera cutter two inches off the inside part of home plateor a Jennie Finch drop-pitch that just drops off the table). But the ability to throw a pitch in the dirt (a place where only Ichiro has historically been able to make consistent contact) and not worry about that pitch costing your team a run, is by far the ultimate "out-pitch." However, the only way that pitch is effective is if your pitcher has the confidence to throw it there, knowing their catcher will keep it in front...somehow, someway.

Back to the NLDS game between the Phillies and Brewers....bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd and Corey Hart (20 HRs in 2008) up to the plate. Lidge was able to get ahead of a Hart without risking the ball being put in play because he had confidence in Carlos Ruiz to block whatever pitch he bounced to the plate. Now back to that slider that dives 8 inches back down to the bottom of the strikezone. Strike Three! Game Over!

Why Rapid Fire Blocking/Throwing Drills Don't Work!

Over the years I have run across many different training techniques pertaining to the catching position. Some of them very useful. However, one drill that has absolutely no place in training a catcher to block pitches in the dirt or make throws to any of the bases is the "Rapid Fire" drill. Go on YouTube, search for blocking or throwing drills and you will find an entire library of this useless garbage. The general idea is that if a catcher can get to the ground quickly, get back up and drop back down to the ground over and over again, that it will somehow teach the brain to execute a block quicker in a live-game situation. There is also a huge misconception that the more times a catcher can get into a throwing position within a small period of time, the quicker they will be able to get rid of the ball or repeat the skill with success. The reality, however, is that the only thing coaches accomplish during these drills is that they get their catcher to work up a nice sweat during practice and their blocking/throwing mechanics suffer exponentially.

The biggest mistake a coach can make with both of these skills is to make practicing them a conditioning exercise.  In my travels with the camp around the country, I work with catchers at the youth level as well as those in the high school, college and professional ranks, and I see it nearly everywhere I go. Coaches throwing ball after ball after ball at a catcher in rapid succession. The first block/throw is usually pretty decent, but each rep thereafter continually gets worse and worse, until the catcher is struggling to simply get back to their receiving position to restart the next block or throw. Each and every rapid rep following the original one contributes to building bad muscle memory. The second the mechanics deteriorate the drill becomes destructive to the overall goal of helping these catchers improve their skill-set behind the plate. And yet I see the coaches continue to throw the ball.

The brain has this funny way of only remembering the last position we were in or the last movement pattern we put our body through. Eventually the brain will begin to adopt those inefficient, unbalanced and incorrect positions or patterns when applied to the full-scale skill in actual games.

In order to understand what drills we should be doing instead, we first need to understand what some of these coaches are actually trying to accomplish. Each of these skills are extremely time-sensitive. We are dealing with anywhere around .40 to .60 seconds of reaction time during a block and our goal should be able to get rid of the ball as quickly as we can during a throw, while maintaining efficiency throughout each skill. There is a thinking that if we increase the number of reps-per-minute that we will increase the body's ability to perform these skills faster during a game. That is simply not true. All we are doing is accelerating the breakdown of the mechanics during a time when we should be building the proper progression of each of these skills.

The best way to increase the body's ability to perform these skills at a high level is to build good muscle memory using proper mechanics. If we are trying to help the catcher gain quickness to the ground during a block of a ball in the dirt, our goal should be to perfect the mechanics of the block to a point where our only challenge is making the decision of block or receive. If our brain reads "block", we have done it right so many times that there is only one natural response, a mechanically sound block. But if we take away the catcher's ability to fix the block before resetting him or herself in a proper receiving position before the next rep, not only are we contributing to the mechanical failure of the blocking and throwing skills, but now we are reinforcing bad receiving skills as well. Every rep after the first one will begin to pull the catcher away from a balanced receiving stance. Now we are not only giving the brain an incorrect idea of the position we are truly starting these skills from, but we are hurting the one skill we a required to perform behind the plate most often.

With blocking if your goal as a coach is to help a catcher improve their overall athleticism and quickness, find a local strength and conditioning program for them. If your goal is to improve a catcher's ability to react to a pitch in the dirt, find ways to decrease their available reaction time during a focused and purposeful drill. This can be done a number of ways. One, increase velocity during the blocking drill. If you are already throwing at max velocity and you still feel that your catcher isn't being challenged, the solution is simple. Move up. But don't ever let go of a ball during the drill without the catcher in a proper receiving position. We need to continually create realistic, game-speed training environments, but only after a positive result of the skill has been achieved at a slower rate. Once the catcher has the proper blocking sequence down, start mixing up the pitches they need to block with ones they need to receive (Pitch Recognition). After that, start finding acceptable ways of decreasing the reaction time available to the catcher during that particular drill.

In regards to throwing drills. Our goal should always be to build the proper sequence of the throw. When we focus all our energy on getting to one stagnant position as fast as we can, over and over again, all we are doing is building muscle memory of a completely unrealistic movement pattern. The throw should be a sequence of small explosive movements, which when combined allow the body and ball to stay in constant motion, building momentum in the direction of our target during the throw. If all we are concerned with is finishing each rep so that we can begin the next, we will have a very hard time constructing a flawless mechanical sequence. Therefore, each rep is contributing to flawed muscle memory and an overall inconsistent throw both in accuracy and velocity out of our crouch.

Keep in mind that while there are some skills in which rapid fire repetitions may actually help, receiving being one of them (the purpose being to build up our hand-eye coordination), any drill that contributes to the deterioration of the core skill and good muscle memory is not something we should ever consider to be an appropriate training aid.

Copyright © 2011, New England Catching Camp LLC

 

 

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NECC Video Blog - Molina (and you) could be a better blocking catcher

Hey everyone,  

Just posted a video blog about blocking and how we as catchers can pay a little more attention to the sequence of the skill to help us improve behind home plate! I will follow up with a written article to compliment this video in the near future. We certainly hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3VUehfMzUo&feature=youtu.be

Most Wasted 20 Minutes

It seems that many players and coaches recognize how little time is allocated during practices for catchers to work on their catching skills. Blocking, Exchange drills, Pickoff throws, Proper handling of pass balls with throw to pitcher covering plate, just to name a few. Often times it has been said to me that there just isn't enough time to fit it in a practice. I would like to challenge that idea by pointing out the most wasted 20 minutes in a catcher’s life.

The time is called "Infield Practice". I've lost count how many practices I have observed where a coach is hitting infield practice with often times the starting catcher standing beside them taking the throw from the fielders and then handing the ball back to the coach. WHAT A WASTE!!!

Now I know that some of the items covered during infield practice do require the catchers involvement in a true game situation play. However I have seen at least 20 minutes go by when all they do is catch the ball and hand it to the coach.

I suggest that at the beginning of infield practice another player fill that role, and even maybe rotate with other infielders. During that time the catchers, all of the catchers if possible, are off to the side working on blocking, throwing etc.

When it is time to do the plays that involve the catcher, call them back over and run them all at one time.

I saw this next quote on a web site about how much we depend on catchers to get it right, but how little time we provide for them to practice the skills they will need to get it right in a game.

"It will take a dozen outstanding plays by the catcher to make teammates forget a single disastrous E-2 that could have been prevented by practicing catcher skills."

I know that scheduling a meaningful practice is always a challenge. But here is any easy fix that will provide at least 20 minutes every practice for your catchers to work on their skills.

NECC's Catcher's Creed

Understanding that as a catcher I must accept my role as the leader of my team. I hold myself to the 10 points of the Catchers Creed while training or playing.

  1. I will be suited up, stretched, and ready to go 15 minutes before the team is expected to arrive for training or a game.
  2. My equipment will always be clean. I will never drag dirt or mud into any indoor training facility.
  3. My shirt will always be tucked in, whether in a game or at practice.
  4. I will NEVER be heard saying anything disrespectful towards a team mate, opponent, coach, or umpire.
  5. I will never use foul language, and will hold my team mates to this same standard.
  6. I will always complete every drill to its fullest.
  7. I will always be encouraging to my team mates regardless of whether they play well or not.
  8. I will never allow my team to leave a dugout after a game until all trash has been picked up, even if it was there when we got there.
  9. I will lead my team out onto the field every time we take the field.
  10. I will thank my parents for the opportunity to play organized sports, acknowledging the many sacrifices they make to allow me to play.

Lefty Catcher....It just ain't right!

By Dave Weaver

A few years ago I was talking to a baseball coach with more then 40 years of coaching experience about the whole issues of left handed catchers in baseball. I was trying to get him to explain the reasons he was against it at any level of baseball. With every reason he gave me I challenged him with why I thought his reasons did not hold much water. The more he struggled to come up with valid reasons, the more I challenged him to prove their validity. In the end his frustration spilled out with the following statement. Lefty catcher, it just ain’t right.

In this article I will give my thoughts on the whole issue of left handed catchers in both baseball and softball.

First let’s look at the issue as it relates to the world of baseball where we all know “it just ain’t right”

Here are the most common reasons that it is felt lefties are a liability behind the plate on a baseball field.

1. They can not make the throw to third as effectively.

2. When they throw to 2nd they will be throwing with a right handed batter right in their face possibly distracting them.

3. Since they are throwing to 2nd from the left side of their body they have to throw slightly across their body to get the ball to the 1st base side of 2nd for the tag. This throwing across their body puts them at a disadvantage.

4. With a short stop covering 2nd the throw from a lefty will be traveling away from their glove as they approach the bag to make the catch and tag.

5. The tag play at the plate is much more difficult for a lefty with his glove on the infield side of his body and the tag taking place on the foul territory side of his body.

Here are our thoughts on these issues.

1. They can not make the throw to third as effectively.

Why? Because they have to turn to throw? Even a righty has to make some movement to get behind a right handed batter in the box. Though the mechanics are not the same, they do not have to take any longer to execute. Lefties, in fact, may actually have a slight advantage on a throw to third because they will be releasing the ball with their back turned towards the batter, unlike a righty who would be throwing into or around the batter with their arm motion. Either way, when a catcher, righty or lefty uses proper mechanics to make the throw, there really is no adverse affect either way.

2. When they throw to 2nd they will be throwing with a right handed batter right in their face possibly distracting them.

While lefties may have an advantage on a throw to third because their arm motion does avoid the batter completely, the throw to second base becomes a little bit more complicated because the majority of hitters are righties. However, if they use proper mechanics they will be no closer to the right-handed batter than a righty would be to a left-handed batter, and we don't complain about righties having to throw with left-handed hitters in their face, do we?

3. Since they are throwing to 2nd from the left side of their body they have to throw slightly across their body to get the ball to the 1st base side of 2nd for the tag. This throwing across their body puts them at a disadvantage.

The only disadvantage to a lefty regarding the throw to second base is that the margin for error is dramatically less than a righty has. If their mechanics are not spot on, the result of flawed mechanics could result in a throw tailing towards the SS side of second base and it could cost them vital tenths of a second when the SS or the 2B is forced to reach to the opposite side of the bag to retrieve the ball and make the tag. If a righty made the same mistake, their throw would be tailing into the runner, which may not require the middle infielder to make as drastic an adjustment.

4. The tag play at the plate is much more difficult for a lefty with his glove on the infield side of his body and the tag taking place on the foul territory side of his body.

I believe this is the only play that really can cause a lefty some valid issues. However, it does not mean it has to be more difficult for lefties. The only reason it is more difficult is because any throw offline from the catcher is going to bring the lefty even further away from the tag. That being said, it's important to note that if the throw is on target, and there are other runners on the base paths, the lefty can go through the entire play and never turn their back to the infield. This will allow them to be more observant to what is going on in front of them on the base paths, and could lead to an out. 

I do not believe that the left handed baseball catcher has the severe limitations that many say he does. We do not discourage lefties from catching or coming to our camp. We do however take the time to explain to the parents and player that there may be a time when it won’t matter how good they are behind the plate some coach will make the decision that the lefty will not catch on his team and that will be the end of it.

We do believe however that any player that spends any amount of time behind the plate will be a better player for it wherever he ends up playing. We feel that catchers get a perspective of the game that no other position provides and any player would benefit from.

SOFTBALL

Now let’s look at this topic from the perspective of fast pitch catchers.

I have college coaches contacting me asking if I have any left handed fast pitch catchers of recruiting age. They do not see any down side to the lefty.

The usual comment discussed above is the one used in the baseball world regarding the throw to 3rd. In baseball the steal of 3rd gives the base runner a significant advantage over stealing 2nd. The lead, and then the secondary lead are significantly longer. Good baseball runners will usually making it a "walking lead" as well so he is not starting from a stand still.

So when the baseball pitcher is committed to throw to the plate the lead the base stealer may have could be 3X his lead at 1st. Since the catch-to-release time is usually a little bit more for a throw to 3rd for a lefty then a righty the lefty is perceived to be at a significant disadvantage.

The steal of 3rd in fast pitch is a completely different animal. The runner still can't leave till the pitcher releases the ball and since they can't take a lead the distance they run, and the elapsed time is the same as stealing 2nd.

However, the catcher has a distinct advantage since they only have to throw 60 feet rather then 85feet. Even if the lefty's release is a bit longer then a righty, (I do not believe it has to be) the fact that the throw distance is 30% less means the lefty should not be in any significant disadvantage with a throw to 3rd..

What the college coaches also like is the pick throw to first is significantly easier for the lefty and will be used far more often then a throw to catch a steal at third.

Also, the lefty is at a significant advantage fielding balls out in front for a throw to first. They can run straight at the ball and are lined up for the throw as soon as they pick the ball up. The righty of course has to make some kind of turn.

The other complaint about lefties is in regards to the throw to 2nd. There are many comments that the lefty will always be facing right handed batters when they are throwing and that can be a distraction. Frankly I think the catchers are looking down to 2nd at that point and will not even see the batter.

So tell us your thoughts and experiences with lefties behind the plate.

You Call This Baseball?

By Dave Weaver

I begin this post with a disclaimer. I run a program for catchers. I sleep, drink and eat catching. I look at baseball through the eyes of the catcher. I try to come up with ways that leagues can better help the development of their leagues catchers. When I use the term Minors level in this article I am refering to ages 8-9, maybe some 10"s

I discovered a number of years ago one of the reasons that it is often hard to get enough kids to want to catch. At the Minors level, why would a kid want to be responsible for 20 runs scoring? Since the pitchers are still learning to hit the glove, and he is struggling to figure out how to catch the ball in the dirt, it is not uncommon for there to be 20 runs scored solely on passed balls. Why would a kid want to get behind the plate when he knows he’s going to “Let” 20 runs score.

Few kids get the opportunity to learn to tag on a fly ball when on third and score from there because the first pitch that goes in the dirt and gets by the catcher he scores. Actually in many games, every kids that gets on scores. And you call this baseball????

A few years ago the youth program in our town made the change that in the Minors there would be no scoring from 3rd on a pass ball. NO Scoring at all!!!! By the 2nd week of the season we were having games 2-1, 3-2, like real baseball, not 21-17 . It took the pressure off the pitcher and catcher to relax and have fun and not be so overly concerned about runs scoring.

The next season we made another observation. Our infielders never had the chance to make force plays. As soon a player got on first they player would “steal” 2nd, then “steal 3rd” and any chance for a force was usually lost. So we implemented the following rule change. No runner can move, even on a pass ball, until there are 2 strikes on the batter. Now there were many opportunities to make the force at 2nd or 3rd. And we even saw a few double plays that first year. We did have some coaches complain about the reduction in running. But then they have a very unrealistic view of base running at the youth level anyway. Here’s there idea of what happens when a runner gets on first.

Pitch crosses plate, runner goes,…sorta…catcher fakes throw, runner goes back to 1st….sorta….runner dances the jig off of first to bait catcher to throw,…catcher runs out from behind the plate very badly faking a throw…..runner goes back to 1st…sorta….catcher tosses ball to pitcher, runner must go back to first..,…yeah that was baseball.

Try that base running at the Babe Ruth Level on the 90ft diamond and the runner will be picked off every time. Why do coaches encourage all this unrealistic base running that in no way teaches anything that will be used once the player gets to the bigger field. Simple, the coach wants to win, and doesn’t care if the tactics he employs are not ones the kids will use at the higher levels.

No wonder our youth catchers have so much trouble making the throw at the big field. It’s bad enough that the throw is 42 feet farther then the small diamond, but as a youth player they have never been able to use the simple premise of..Runner goes..catcher throws. We have allowed our catchers to get caught up in the ridiculous game of cat and mouse coaches play on the base paths instead of just acting like a catcher and making the throw. Teach your catchers if they see the guy break, make the throw, don’t wait for the coverage to get there, make the throw. That’s real baseball. If the infielder doesn’t go to the bag because he’s not paying attention, then he will be the one that needs the instruction. If your centerfielder is paying attention then he will do what his job is and back up the play. That’s baseball!!!

Put in place rules that limit this joke called base running that has no other purpose then to run up scores at the expense of the development of young catchers and pitchers. I’m not opposed to teaching aggressive base running, stretching a single to a double, tagging up from 3rd on the fly to the outfield. But the ridiculous antics of some teams that run the bases in a manner that will only ensure they will be thrown out when they get to the higher levels needs to stop.

Lets hear how your leagues approach the issues in this entry!!