"It doesn't get by me often, but when it does..."
From time to time, now matter how hard we have worked, the ball has a tendency to find it’s way behind us. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes the ball hit a chuck of dirt or clay, sometimes it hit the front of the plate and trampolined it’s way to the backstop. Either way, regardless of how good we are at blocking, it’s going to happen.
When it does, it’s important to make sure that we have our action plan mapped out before the game ever begins. If there is a runner on 3B, not only do we need to be quick to the ball, but we have to remain under control through the entire approach. Otherwise, when we do eventually get to the ball, we’ll be off balance and risk, not only making a poor throw, but potentially giving other runners an opportunity to advance to another base, or we could lead our pitcher into a far more dangerous position while attempting to catch our errant throw.
The videos below show two TCC senior staff members/pro clients going through the proper approach to securing a ball that gets behind us with a runner on 3B heading home.
Our goal should always be to arrive at the ball with the front side of our body pointed back towards home plate. To do this, we will always come out of our finished block by turning glove side. If we turn throwing hand side, we will have to add an additional turn in our approach that will cost us time while trying to line up our body towards home plate.
As we approach the ball, you’ll notice both of their trail knees hit the ground first as they begins their slide. They do this to ensure a very precise approach to the ball. By dropping the trail knee first, it starts to slow the body down after a full sprint, and allows them to use their lead knee stop their approach once they have centered themselves up with the ball.
Since a barehand approach could very well lead to a bad grip on the ball and an errant throw, we should use a two hand approach more often than not. Is there ever going to be a time where we don’t have the luxury of bringing our hands together? Sure. And we must use our judgement to determine when that approach is necessary.
After we have raked the ball into our throwing hand, we should immediately start our throwing motion, while bringing our front leg up in front of us to stabilize the throw.
Keep in mind, accuracy is paramount. But, the only target we should be looking for is the pitcher’s glove. No matter where they hold it, hit their glove. If they're waving their glove above their head…throw it to the glove. While keeping an eye on the runner AND us at the same time, they will never be able to react quickly enough to catch a ball that is not thrown to wherever they are holding it. It’s our responsibility to make sure we are on the same page with the pitcher in this regard. Let them know that you want them to hold their glove a couple feet off the ground in front of home plate, and that it’s their responsibility to get it there before your throw.
Make sure to use a velocity appropriate for the distance. If you unload an absolute rocket back towards home plate, your pitcher, who isn’t wearing any equipment, and has their attention split between you, the plate, and the runner bearing down on them, they most likely won’t be able to make the play. Use a quick firm throw back to the plate for the best possible chance of an out.
Let’s face it, this play will not result in an out the majority of the time. There are so many factors in play here. How good a jump the runner got. How far away from us the ball is. The surface in front of the backstop (Pro tip: walk the backstop before the game to familiarize yourself and prepare for what you’ll encounter during the game). But the times where there is a play to be had. Let’s make sure we approach this in a way that gives us the best chance of success.
Catchers, we can’t always control when the ball is going to get behind us, but we can control our approach after it happens.