"Thumb Down = Catcher Down"
To say the catcher position is a tough one would be an incredible understatement. There are so many things that require us to put our bodies on the line. It is not uncommon for me to receive e-mails throughout the year containing X-Ray shots and MRI results from parents of catchers around the country, with the question - "how do we make sure this never happens again?"
I would say almost half of those e-mails are about hand or thumb related injuries like the one pictured above. I would also say that after reviewing video of their catcher, almost all of those injuries stem from improper receiving technique.
For years coach have been telling catchers to receive the pitch with their thumb pointed down, or at 6 o'clock on the clock dial. By starting in this position you leave your thumb exposed to an excessive amount of force. Especially on pitches to the glove side of the catcher, where the first instinct is to recoil the forearm towards the chest, bending at the elbow, possibly turning the thumb even further down towards the ground.
I want you to stick your hand out in that position and see how far you can move your thumb in the opposite direction of an object moving right towards it. You can't. So even if the coach has instructed the catcher to use "soft hands" (which only allows the ball and glove to travel further away from the strikezone), they still cannot lessen the blow to the inside of their thumb.
Now, change the position of your hand, pointing the thumb at 3 0'clock on the clock dial, fingers pointed upwards to the sky. Since most "thumbings" occur on pitches to the glove side, start rotating your hand around the outside of an imaginary ball. Do you notice how the thumb maintains mobility? This is the "A" glove position we refer to in our videos and articles and instruct our catchers to approach every pitch to that side of the plate in this manner.
By using different glove positions on different pitch locations, you help your hand avoid injuries that can keep catchers off the field.
Does this mean that our way is the full proof way of keep catcher's hands injury-free? Not a chance. No such way exists. There are so many different variables that go into how a ball strikes the mitt that we cannot possibly account for all of them. However, we can do our very best to minimize the number of occurrences.
Thanks for reading this month's Tip of the Month!
From behind the mask,