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

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. If the throw comes from right field the catcher must almost turn his back on the plate to make the catch and then tag…..OK….One for the Righties!!

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.