May 2018 - Tip of the Month

"Clear The Zone"

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There have been plenty of rule changes over the past few years in regards to the responsibilities of a runner and a catcher during a play at home plate. And while there is still certainly an expectation of marginal contact, the goal has always been to maintain some level of safety while giving every catcher an opportunity to make the play. 

This all came to a head during a game between the Cubs and Pirates yesterday where Cubs' 1B Anthony Rizzo took out Pirates catcher Elias Diaz during an attempted double-play. 

 

At the time, MLB ruled it a clean slide and all of the runs counted. Today, however, MLB changed their tune, referencing their own rule-book after review. 

According to MLB Rule 6.01(j), a bona fide slide "occurs when the runner (1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base; (2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot; (3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and (4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder."

It's that last part that creates the issue for Rizzo. He intentionally changed his pathway to home-plate with the intention of breaking up the play. He admitted as much in the post-game interview today as well. So, the wrong call was made and Rizzo's slide was on the border of a dirty play, but "not egregious", as MLB has said. 

The issue at hand here is that, even if you consider the fact that Rizzo's slide was illegal, Diaz's approach to this play left him particularly vulnerable.

Now, I don't mind that he started behind the plate. This is something TCC teaches as well. However, you do need to be exceptionally aware of the timing during this play for that approach to work.  The problem is that his body direction was more towards the 3B line and then forward towards 2B than it was away from the play and in the direction of his throw to 1B. 

If he had setup on the right side behind home plate, and worked his body more towards the right 1/3 of the field, he may avoid contact here. 

One other approach, which just so happens to be the one we default to in our program, is to make this play as a 1B would. The right foot on the top right-hand corner of the plate, the left just slightly in front of the plate, but non-committal in terms of body direction. We let the throw determine the direction we lunge in and come off the plate the moment the ball hits our glove. Our body will be moving forward towards the throw, but also working up the line towards 1B. We obviously need to maintain an acceptable angle inside the line to avoid hitting the runner heading to 1B, but this allows us to clear the zone more effectively. Here's an example of what this looks like. 

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Catchers, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it's our job to minimize the frequency that contact occurs in this situation. The runner is coming, we have to get out of the way. 

We hope you enjoyed May's Tip of the Month! Like and Share below!

April 2018 - Tip of the Month

"To the left, to the left"

 

One of the most common mistakes catchers make during a throw to 2B is letting their hips kick out to the left after receiving the pitch. This occurs for one of a few reasons. Either, one, the catcher has been taught to "replace their feet" (one of the most mind boggling instructional queues ever given). Two, their hips leak to the side as they attempt to bring their throwing-hand side foot underneath their center of gravity. Or, three, they have been taught to jump left to clear a throwing lane with a left handed batter in the box. 

Regardless of the reason, all three lead to a catcher's momentum being thrown to the side, away from their intended target. If the hips are moving left, the body is not striding forward and the entire timing of the throwing sequence can be "thrown" off. 

Focus on turning in place, wherever the bulk of your body weight was when the ball hit your glove. Make sure to beat the pitch to the spot with your body and you'll be in complete control of hip direction during the entire throw. 

Hope you enjoyed April's Tip of the Month! Like and Share below!

March 2018 - Tip of the Month

"The Work Never Stops"

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Thomas A. Edison once said "There is no substitute for hard work". Truer words could not have been spoken. 

One of the reasons I enjoy doing this for a living as much as I do is seeing our students fully realize their potential and reach the goals they have set for themselves. We've said it from day one... "We are only going to be as successful as our students". 

Soon after announcing our 2017-2018 Road Trip Camp schedule, we received a registration from one of our long time students. This particular young lady had recently let us know that she had received a full athletic scholarship to play Division 1 softball. We were obviously extremely excited for her and proud of the work that she had put in over the years in our program. 

Now, this is not to say that it happens often, but occasionally we’ll see students get a bit complacent once they have received their ticket to college. Sometimes it takes a little bit of a kick in the behind to make sure they remember that the work is not yet done. I don’t ever expect our students to need that kick, but we’re always prepared to give it. 

This was not even remotely the case with this young lady. She showed up to the camp ready to work. She was attentive, just like she has always been. She asked questions, just like she always has. She was extremely tough on herself after realizing her mistakes, just like she always is. Not one thing about this girl’s demeanor said “I made it, now I can relax.” Instead, it was the complete opposite. 

This girl earned the golden ticket and when it was handed to her, she tucked it away and got right back to work. This attitude and approach is how she got to where she is and why she will continue to see success at the highest levels of the game.

Catchers, no matter how far this game takes you. No matter how much success you experience. The work is never done. The best in the game know all too well that there is always someone seeking to rip that crown right off your head. To protect it, you have to be constantly on guard, ready to outwork everyone. 

January 2018 - Tip of the Month

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"A NEW YEAR DOES NOT MAKE A NEW YOU"

 

Happy New Year everyone! 

The clock striking midnight on New Year’s eve signals a new start, a turning over of the proverbial leaf. It can be a symbol of newfound hope and/or dedication. It, however, does not signal the start to a “new you”. Simply rolling our calendars over to the next year does not enact the change that we may desire for ourselves. We might want to become bigger, stronger, faster, more dedicated to our health or education. But none of that is possible without concerted, mindful and purposeful effort.

I compare this to the New Years gym rush that happens every January 2nd. Go to any gym on the planet on January 2nd and good luck finding a free machine or treadmill. Go back on January 9th, just a week later, and half of the people you saw there a week ago will be gone. It happens year in and year out. People are energized by the new year, they rededicate themselves to something that was never sustainable in the first place. They never put in the time to change the one that that matters the most. Their true mindset. 

As humans, we’ve unfortunately been conditioned to seek out the quick fix, the instant gratification. Often, when we realize how hard real change and progress actually is, we bail and revert right back to what was comfortable. 

So, here’s my challenge to all of you catchers out there. Don’t let your New Year’s resolution be “I want to become the best catcher I can be”. There is no plan of action involved in that. Instead, make your resolution about how you'll become the best catcher you can possibly be. And then…draw up a realistic plan of how to reach your goal and make sure it is feasible enough that you can follow it each and every day. My New Year’s resolution could be “I want to become a millionaire”, but if I don’t actually have a realistic plan of action to achieve that, it's never happening. When you give yourself a game-plan, and a pathway to your goals, they are significantly more achievable. 

Catchers, change your mindset, and you’ll change yourself. 

Thanks for reading this month’s Tip of the Month! Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And make sure to check out the rest of our Road Trip Camp schedule. We still have space available in all of our remaining camps in NH, LA, TN, PA, NV, OH and IL. Don’t miss out! Sign up soon!

October 2017 - Tip of the Month

"It doesn't get by me often, but when it does..."

 

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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.  

 

 

 

September 2017 - Tip of the Month

"If you're not five minutes early, you're late"

 PHOTO TAKEN @ 2017 TCC SUMMER CAMP - AUGUST SESSION

PHOTO TAKEN @ 2017 TCC SUMMER CAMP - AUGUST SESSION

My dad had a saying, and I’m pretty sure most of you all have heard something similar from someone in your life...

“If you’re not 5 minutes early, you're late.”

The purpose of which is to stress the importance of preparedness and punctuality. Nobody likes to wait. Especially not your teammates. 

This month’s tip of the month will focus on that sentiment, specifically in regards to throwing. While some may equate what we’re about to cover as “cheating” during a throw to 2B, we believe it’s the best approach to the real life application of the skill. 

Whether in a showcase format or in the bottom of the ninth of a close game, the ability to keep runners out of scoring position is paramount. Controlling the running game and an opposing team’s aggressiveness on the base paths can have a profound impact on outcome of a game. 

Repeat this phrase. “I will trade a strike for an out all day long.” Now memorize it, and burn it into your brain. I’m not saying there aren’t certain situations that warrant a more conservative approach (i.e. Two strikes on a dangerous hitter, late in a close game, with two outs), awareness is key. But, the majority of the time, risking a strike for a much better shot at an out will in the long run lead to better long-term outcomes. It holds especially true for those underneath the magnifying glass of college and professional scouts. 

Below is a video of one of our student instructors. A college athlete at a very high level, and a catcher who should get a shot to play at the next level. 

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I asked him permission to use this clip because I believe it exemplifies the point we’re trying to make here. Earlier is better, as long as the initial direction of the body is consistently up. 

These throws are off of a pitch to roughly the exact same location so we can get a good sense of the key differences between them.

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In the “before" clip on the left you can see the catcher’s hips kicking to the side with minimal amount of upper or lower body rotation. There is also very little movement upwards. In the “after” clip on the right, you’ll notice the adjustment he made by starting his body up and beginning to close his front side earlier in the process. The phrase we use is “every inch up should be an inch turned.” The result is control of our body momentum and the ability to create better direction after out back foot plants underneath us. If the hips continually kick to the left, most of the time we won’t be able to create forward momentum, and instead we'll fall off to the side during the throw. This will lead to a throw that tails into the runner (or away from the runner, for all the lefties out there) and most likely very high, if not a complete overthrow of 2B. 

The key to all of this is that in the “after” clip, the catcher has started these movements before the ball has touched his glove. By the time his right foot is firmly planted to the ground, his entire side is pointed towards his target and he has complete directional control of his body from that point forward. 

Is there a chance that starting the process earlier might lead to us impeding an umpire’s view of the strike zone? Admittedly, yes. Again, there is a time where sticking the strike will be more important than the runner stealing on us. But most of the time...“I will trade a strike for an out all day long.”

Catchers, remember it’s not cheating if the umpire calls the runner out. Start the process of your throws earlier. The quicker we can get our body athletically upright and turned, the sooner we can get rid of the ball. In this catcher’s case, it sped up his release by over a tenth of a second. That is plenty of time to turn a lot of “safe” calls into "outs”. 

Thanks for reading this month’s Tip of the Month! 

June 2017 - Tip of the Month

"Choose Wisely"

 

The days of heading to your local sporting goods shop and asking the manager to let you try on a few mitts are fading. We live in an ever-expanding online marketplace and often we rely on other’s opinions to choose our own gear. Many times without ever trying it on ourselves.  

When it comes to catcher’s equipment, and more specifically a catcher’s mitt, it is so incredibly important that you do whatever you can to try them on before you buy them. 

Certain companies are known for their quality (we absolutely love All-Star gear and mitts for their comfort, functionality, attention to detail and R&D work), but it does not mean that it will be the right gear for you. 

When it comes to a catcher’s mitt, it has to feel like a part of your hand. An extension of your own body. That is how comfortable it should be. You cannot gain that level of comfort from looking at a picture online or reading reviews. No matter how many 5-star ratings there are, it does not mean that it is a 5-star decision for you. 

Folks ask me all the time, “what glove do you recommend for my catcher?”. It’s such a loaded question because, while I could certainly throw out a few options, I can’t possibly know what is going to feel most comfortable to that player. 

My recommendation to anyone looking to find the right fit when it comes to a mitt….Try. It. On! Find a local dealer for the company of the mitt you’re thinking about buying and try it on. Ask a teammate who has one if they will do you the incredible courtesy of letting you put your hand inside their mitt. Find a way to try it on. 

Catchers, catching is an art and the mitt is our paintbrush. Paint brushes come in so many different sizes and shapes to adhere to the hand shape and size of the artist. So do catcher’s mitts. 

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Tip of the Month! 

As a side note, there are just 3 days left to save $100 on your registration for our 17th Annual Summer Camp! This year’s camp will be our best by far and we are so excited to get started. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to save $100! Click HERE for more information or to register!

 

 

Lastly, in case you were wondering....yes, that is a TCC branded catcher's mitt. More details to come!

April 2017 - Tip of the Month

"There's No Such Thing as a Good Throwing Position"
 

As I am sitting here on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking the Caribbean (a surprise birthday present from my wonderful better half), I cannot help but notice the parallels between the waves crashing onto the beach and the smooth sequencing of an elite throwing catcher.  

The rolling waves demonstrate exactly the type of feeling we should achieve while throwing. This smooth continuous overlapping of athletic movements that lead to an explosive release of the ball. The best in the game make throws seem effortless, and they should be exactly that… effortless. 

Effortlessness is achieved through efficiency. Not an ounce of energy wasted, not an inch of movement unaccounted for. Every single tenth of a second contributing to the end goal of getting rid of the ball as quickly as we can while maxing our release velocity. 

How do we achieve this result? Simple. Practice. But concerted, pointed and intent-driven practice. 

I recently began working with a pro who was already pretty gifted behind the plate in his own right. But, there was an extreme reliance on athleticism and his strong arm when it came to throwing. He was never given an approach that would enable him to achieve peak results. 

After sitting down for an afternoon, going through throws, breaking down video, it became glaringly obvious just how much better this guy could be. Before an hour had gone by he had shaved over a tenth of a second off of his release. 

Now, that might not seem like a lot, but let’s put it perspective. Remember all of those stolen bases last year where the runner was safe by just a split second, and you though to yourself, “Ugh! I thought I had him!” Guess what, shave a tenth off of your throw, and now all of those runners are probably out. How big of an effect would that have had on your season?

The great thing is that most of the changes we made were simply allowing his body to do more than one thing at a time, tightening up the process and getting him further along in the throw earlier.

For years, as a player and a coach, I have heard of this strange idea that in order to throw well, we had to get into a “good throwing position”. To this day, I still have no idea what that means. If you are getting into a “good throwing position” you are stopping in the middle of your throw. You are delaying release and forcing yourself to restart your throw halfway through the sequence. 

Let me be very clear. There is no such thing as a “good throwing position”. It does not exist. The best in the game do not get into a “good throwing position”. They don't stop. Neither should you. The key is making sure that your body isn’t moving in any direction that takes away from your ability to get the ball out of your hand effortlessly with max velocity. 

I will go into all of the ways catchers generally waste time during throws in an article due out in the near future, but for now you should all understand that if you aren’t getting to an athletically upright level, turning, making the exchange AND starting your stride forward all at the same time, your going to hear the word “SAFE!” considerably more often than you should. Let those movements overlap, one move leaking into the next. Never stopping the process and you’ll throw out more runners. 

Catchers, the throw is a process, not a position. Keep it moving.

Thanks for reading this Month’s Tip of the Month! 

February 2017 - Tip of the Month

How to take 2 tenths of a second off your pop-time in 2 tenths of a second!

 

 

 

Now that I got your attention, I have to apologize. There is no possible way anyone could give you a way to take 2 tenths of a second off your pop time in just 2 tenths of a second. It’s not possible. It takes a lot of time and focused energy building the muscle memory necessary to make that type of improvement. This will not be what this month’s tip of the month will be about. Why, you might ask? Very simple. Listen very clearly. Pop. Times. Don’t. Matter.

Now if I were some run of the mill Joe Schmo telling you this, you would laugh me out of the room. But I am hoping that whatever respect I’ve earned from you that lead you to subscribe to this newsletter will buy me just a moment to explain myself.

I’ve been an MLB scout for the last 6 seasons and have built up relationships and earned the respect of some of the best college coaches, both baseball and softball, in the country.  I point this out, not to pat myself on the back, I assure you. I do so to point out the fact that the person you all strive so hard to impress, the person holding the stopwatch. I’m one of them. 

And I can tell you right now that the throw you just made at the showcase with no batter in the box, no runner running to 2B, cheating up out of your crouch… it meant very little to me. And that goes for many of the college coaches and scouts you are hoping to blow away with your fake 1.9 throw. 

Does that throw give me a glimpse into your potential as an athlete? Sure it does. Does it allow me to gauge arm strength? Yup. Does it prove to me anything other than you are really good in practice? Nope, it does not. 

I will ask the same question over and over again. What can you do in a game?

We get asked constantly why we don’t time pop-times during our camps. It seems that this is the one thing folks want over everything else. And it’s absolutely baffling. Whatever methodology you subscribe to when it comes to throwing from behind the plate. None of it will make you faster until you put in the work to own the approach. Are some changes going to have a very immediate impact  on your ability to lower your pop-time? I would surely hope so. But, will those changes translate in a game environment? Not a chance. That’s not how your brain works. 

Your brain needs time to reprogram the neural pathways to adopt a different physiological response when a runner takes off from 1B. That will not happen during one of our camps. 

You might now be asking yourself why any of you should attend our camp if you are trying to improve your in-game pop-time? Well, it’s very simple. We can give you the one magic tool that will lead to the largest possible drop in your pop-time… information

Not just any information, but information that will give you a mechanical advantage over all of the other catchers who are trying to get the ball to 2B faster than you. 

It’s truly up to you to do something with it and only that will lead to an improvement in your in-game pop time and the number of runners you successfully keep from making you look bad. 

Catchers, remember, if you can’t repeat what you did in practice in a game, it doesn't matter. It also mean you’re not practicing enough. 

JANUARY 2017 - Tip of the Month

Can You Hear Me Now?

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First off, I hope everyone is enjoying a great start to 2017! We've been a bit busy over the last few months and I apologize that you haven't heard from us more often. 

2017 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting for us in our program's history, and now that this year is in full swing we can get back on track with our Tips of the Month.

The first Tip of the Month for 2017 deals with a few things we talk about a lot at our camps and on our site. Communication and leadership. 

Leadership comes in many forms, and leading by example with a quiet confidence is certainly one way to lead your team. However, from behind the plate, quiet is not a part of our vocabulary. As catchers it's important to realize that being vocal on the field is an incredibly important part of our game. We have a view that is matched by none, and the ability to affect plays simply with our direction from behind the dish. If our teammates cannot hear us, we aren't able to do our job. That job includes letting teammates know where the play is happening, how many outs there are before every new batter, where the throw needs to go and letting teammates know where they need to be positioned.

One of the biggest reasons catchers don't speak up is because they are afraid of making the wrong decision or call on the field. Let this be a challenge to all of you coaches out there. If your catcher makes a decision and can back it up at all, regardless of the outcome of that decision, applaud them don't discipline them for being wrong. 

Certainly understanding what the right and wrong decisions are is important, but indecisiveness driven by fear is not something that is going to lead to sound situational decision making... ever. Make sure that your catchers know they have the right to make the call they feel they need to make at that exact moment. Whether it's throwing to 2B on a bunt, thinking that they had a shot at the runner there, or calling for a cut to a base other than home plate because they didn't think they had a shot at the runner who was heading home behind them. It's important that development of critical thinking on the baseball or softball field is a focus, but that attribute cannot mature when stunted with fear of failure. 

On that same note catchers, do not be afraid of being wrong. Make a decision, make a call, and stick by it. Reflect on that call after the inning and determine whether you need to make an adjustment the next time that situation comes around. But do not fail to communicate clearly to your teammates because you are worried about making the wrong decision.

Development of ALL skills should be the focal point of every game that you play until you have left high school. Be loud on the field. Be quick with your decisions. And learn from your mistakes.

We hope you enjoyed this month's Tip of the Month! Keep an eye out for plenty more from us as 2017 rolls on!