I have been asked many times what is the best way for a catcher to make the force play at the plate when bases are loaded and the ball is hit to an infielder. This play should be the front end of a double play. The out at first is often lost due to a late throw by the catcher. To follow is the techniques that I teach and think is the fastest way to get the out at the plate and get the ball to first for the second out.
Here is what most of the kids are taught that come to me for instruction.
They step in front of the plate and set up as if they were a 1st baseman. They then stretch for the throw, and then have to reset the feet to make a throw to 1st for the DP.
Problems with this are:
It requires a pretty good look down to properly get your foot on the corner of the base to avoid getting run over by the person coming home if the throw is late.
- Presents a high risk of appearing that you were pulled off by an errant throw.
- If the throw is off target and you do get pulled off pretty tough to look behind you to find the plate to even get the lead runner.
So......here's what I teach:
Once ball is hit catcher sets up about one foot BEHIND home plate. They are positioned such that if they moved one foot forward they would be straddling the plate. They get their hips and feet set square to the fielder that is making the throw.
They get into a low ready position with their glove up at chest height. If the ball was handled properly by the infielder they make the play as follows:
As the ball approaches they step directly at the ball with the glove side foot. This step should carry them OVER home plate. This foot never touches the plate. Then as the ball is making contact with their glove they are sliding their back foot forward and dragging it across home plate. Then continuing toward 1st they make a cross step to begin their throw to first without any breaks in the movement. If done properly it will look like a middle infielder turning a DP at 2nd.
If the ball was NOT handled properly by the infielder, so their throw may be arriving very close to the same time the runner does, I suggest that they move in front of the plate and assume a 1 st baseman’s stretch position. Get the out at the plate for sure.
I prefer this to the previous technique because:
- By staying behind plate till ball is in the air, if the throw is off mark catcher will still be able to see where home plate is and if necessary just make catch and touch home for the 1 out.
- This technique creates a faster release since the tag on the plate is done “on the way” to making the throw to first. All one fluid motion.