March 2012-Tip of the Month
"Throw the Stinking Ball!"
Tell me if you've seen this before...
Pitcher walks the first batter. Next pitch crosses the plate and the runner goes; well...sort of. Catcher fakes a throw to 2B and the runner goes back to 1B; well...sort of. The runner dances off 1B to bait the catcher into making the throw, the catcher runs out from behind the plate, attempts to fake the ball to 1B, ball pops out of hand and rolls to the dugout. Runner advances to 2B.
I am fortunate enough in my life to spend what is probably an unhealthy amount of time watching baseball and softball all year round. One of the things that has continued to frustrate me, almost to the point of standing up and screaming out onto the field, is a catcher who refuses to let go of the ball.
The fact is that one of the biggest deterrents to runner activity on the base-paths is a catcher who will not hesitate to let go of the ball.
Now don't get me wrong, I do understand that there are coaches out there who've given strict "Do Not Throw" orders and some of those catchers simply lack the confidence in their own throwing ability to make the play. All of this can come down to making this particular play a priority during practice.
For those coaches out there who are afraid to let their catchers fire the ball to an occupied base for fear that it might lead to an error, give your catcher time to practice these plays. Most of the time, the only reason catchers air-mail balls into the outfield is because they've never done it in a controlled environment. It's truly amazing what a few reps every practice will do. Imagine a season where your catchers possessed the ability to steal the team an out or two every game. Think of the effect it would have on the strategy of the other team when it comes to baserunning.
For those catchers afraid of making an error and looking foolish. At the end of the day....it will be JUST ONE PLAY. Keep in mind that you only need to come close to recording the out to have an incredibly profound impact on another team's philosophy on the basepaths.
In the softball world, because of the rule differences, the runner must commit to the base they were running towards after the ball has been thrown back into the circle. The message, however, is still the same, as I see way too many catchers conceding that extra base.
Remembering back to when I played, I would walk out onto the field with the goal of stealing an out for my team every game. If I could do that, I knew I had gotten into the head of every baserunner on the opposing team and given my pitcher and team a little bit more breathing room over the course of the game.
Catchers, throw the stinking ball!
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From behind the mask,