October 2013 - Tip of the Month

"What Did YOU Do This Morning?" 

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Around this time of the year my schedule starts to get pretty tight. At this point we usually have a good number of our off-season Road Trip Camps scheduled around the country and the majority of my private students are returning to their training towards the end of the Fall season. This is also the time of year when we get to find out just how much rust has accumulated since the Summer season ended.

Now don't get me wrong...taking a break after the Summer season (or in a lot of cases the Fall season) is NOT a bad thing. It's good to clear the mind and get away from the game. Why do you think so many ballplayers take up golf? It gives them something else to get incredibly frustrated about. Or, at least it does in my case.

But when it is time to strap the gear back on and begin to retool our skills, it's important to remember what it actually takes to succeed at this position. Lots and lots of hard work.

One of the parents of a long-time student recently sent me a video of his 13-year old son going through blocking drills in his basement, in his pajamas, at 6:30 in the morning before school, completely unprovoked. Nobody had to ask him to do this. No threatening to add chores to his list or take his iPad away. This young man decided that if he was going to get to where he wanted to go the only person who could do something about it on a daily basis was himself.

One of the questions I have started to ask all of my students is the question "How many?" before every lesson. This question is in reference to the number of blocks they fired while training on their own time. Not in practice while catching their pitchers, not during their Fall games, but on their own, no moving ball, just working on perfecting the mechanics of the block, building good muscle memory.

I usually get one of two responses. The first is an exact number of blocks (I usually like to see 30 blocks - 10 to each side of the plate and down the middle - every other day at a minimum). The second response is usually some combination of a glance upwards, whistling to themselves, twiddling their fingers, looking at their watch, or the ever-so-popular  sudden breakdown of their ability understand the English language, as the ask me "Huh?".

A block, on average, takes 1&1/2 to 2 tenths of a second to complete. Because each rep during blocking drills should include fixing the block into the preferred position to ensure that our brain only remembers that perfect position on the next attempt, I have no problem adding approximately 2 seconds to each rep. So, to be fair to my students, I concede that each block should take around 3 seconds to complete. I'm willing to give my students another 3 whole seconds to get up off the ground and reset their runner's-on-base stance to prepare for the next block.

By my math, firing 10 blocks to each spot behind home plate should take approximately three minutes. I tell my students that I would be willing to give them 10 whole minutes to do it (gotta account for putting on and taking off the gear) and then I ask them if they have a spare 10 minutes every other day to get some work done. The answer will always be yes.

To all the catchers out there...How many blocks did you fire this week? How many minutes did you spend working on your throwing technique? How often did you work on perfecting your stance?

These are the questions I ask my students on a regular basis and these are the questions all of my students and every catcher in the world should be asking themselves too.

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