Baseball Catcher-Most needed player

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Baseball Catching-Most needed playerBasseball catching

The catching position is the most important as well as the most under coached position on the baseball field. A great baseball catcher can make pitchers better, make a defense stronger, and keep a game plan on course.  So why don’t coaches spend more time educating themselves and players about correctly fielding the position?

Introducing Greg Creager

This article is going to be the first in a series by a fellow coach. Greg Creager has played catcher his whole life. He played D1 college baseball until an injury ended his baseball playing career. As with most of us with a passion for the game, his dedication to the sport has never stopped. He is now a partner at the Fort Smith Baseball Academy located at 10818 Old Hwy 71 Fort Smith, AR.

I became acquainted with Greg through a Facebook group called “Coaching Baseball – Tips, Drills, travel teams, and more…” Greg often posts great information and comments. When he posted the following tips on catching I had to contact him and see if he would let me bring his knowledge to more people.

Greg’s words are top notch information about the catching position and if more coaches take the time to teach good athletes how to catch the future of baseball will be a lot brighter.

Importance of a catcher

Baseball catchingCatchers, as you know if you read my page about the position, is the most important position on defense. A great catcher is a leader both physically and emotionally. Catchers are an extension of the coach on defense.

The catching position is the brain of the baseball team, yet most youth coaches but kids behind the dish that they can’t play at another position. Or worse they put a good athlete behind the plate and don’t give them any instruction. With inferior ability, lack of coaching, or both, players develop many bad habits that are hard to break.

Coach G’s words of wisdom

I work with a lot of catchers. One thing I notice that is becoming an epidemic is the bad habits that get started at young ages.  I have also seen these problems are the result of a couple of things, 1.) the coach knows nothing about catching and doesn’t spend any time, and 2.) at an early age (coach pitch) they just throw a kid back there that they don’t necessarily want to play in the field. So having said that I hope to change that with hopefully one child and one uninformed coach at a time.

So here is Coach G’s first catching tip of the week. Baseball catching

Primary stance: this is the usual position catchers are in without runners on, the threat of stealing or two strikes. This setup allows you to sit more comfortably while still performing the most typical duties of calling and receiving pitches.

You want to be low in your stance giving the pitcher a good low target. Being relaxed with your legs slightly wider than your shoulders with your toes angled out, which allows your hips to be open. (A good rule of thumb is the plate is 17 inches wide, and your knees should be on each side of the plate when you squat.) Your mitt should be in the center of your body, away from your chest with your forearm (not elbow) resting on your knee. Be sure to have your mitt at about the same height as your batters knees which should be the bottom of the hitting zone. Keep your throwing hand down at your side behind your leg NEVER BEHIND YOUR BACK.

*When the catcher puts their throwing arm behind their back it puts them in an off-balance position. It also causes the shoulder joint to be in a more open position making the catcher susceptible to foul balls causing injury to the shoulder.

Also don’t set up so far back off the plate. Get as close as you can while still being out of the batters swing to get those low strikes instead of those low balls that should have been strikes.

Stick the strikes,

Coach G.

Summary

Coach G’s words are a description of the primary catching position. There are other positions that a catcher needs to learn. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to bring you all of those stances as well as the mental responsibilities of the catcher. We will also get into the differences between coaching youth players (Little League) and older kids (Travel and 90-foot basepath).

Thank you,

Coach Wood

*Coach Wood’s added note

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Hitting Approach-How to coach the approach

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Hitting Approach-How to coach the approachhitting approach

Every hitting coach I ever talk to uses the term “approach” when talking to a player about hitting. Almost every player I talk to about hitting has no idea what that coach is talking about until you start asking them questions. This post is going to help coaches teach a hitting approach and get players to understand what they are learning.



What is a Hitting Approach?

The first thing we have to do is define a hitting approach. A hitting approach is simply the plan that the batter is going to use during an at-bat. Things like offensive philosophy, where a batter is going to position themselves, what pitch the batter is looking for and where the batter wants to hit the ball are all things that make up their approach.


A hitting approach is flexible. Meaning that what your approach is during your first at bat of a game may not be what it is in the 3rd at-bat of the same game. An approach is so flexible in fact that it may change from one pitch to the next during an at-bat. As the situation changes so must the approach.


An example would be a batter comes up to the plate with a runner on first base. On the second pitch of the at-bat, the base runner steals second base. The hitter just went from being a mover to being a producer. This changes where they are trying to place the ball and what pitch they are probably looking to hit thus changing the approach.



Coach the approach

hitting approachThat brings us to the hard part, how do we teach such a flexible thing to kids. As a coach, I believe in keeping things simple. Start with explaining the fundamentals of offensive situational baseball. Tell your players about the three things that every hitter can be. An “on-er,” someone that gets on base. Or a “mover,” someone who pushes the runner into scoring position. Finally a “producer,” a hitter that drives in runners from scoring position.


Which one of those three a batter is will not be defined by their position in the batting order but by the situation of the baseball game. If your four-hitter is leading off the second inning, he is an “on-er.” His job is to get on base, put pressure on the defense and help the team.


hitting approachUnderstanding what their mission is at the plate will help a player start to build their approach. The player also has to know how they are going to use their strengths as a hitter to battle the strengths of the pitcher. Your cleanup hitter is probably not going to be bunting to move a runner over even if they are in the role of a “mover.” When your number 9 hitter is in the position of “producer,” they may be looking to get a safety squeeze down to drive a run in.



I know me. Do you know me?

Starting with the basics a player needs to know themselves. Some hitters are very confident, they know the strike zone and know they can make contact on most pitches. Other players aren’t so sure they, maybe they swing and miss a lot or have a weakness for chasing that ball at the eyes, so many kids have a hard time laying off.hitting approach


As coaches, we have to help each player develop their approach accordingly. I remember struggling my sophomore year in high school. My coach pulled me to the side and said,”You know you get three strikes every at-bat don’t you?” He then told me that I should never come back to the bench unless I put a ball in play or swung and missed three times. That was my approach, swing and hope you make contact. Not the best approach but that’s what the coach wanted until I snapped out of my funk.



Take care when coaching

We use phrases as coaches to get our players to do things. We have to be careful who we are saying certain things too. You don’t want to confuse a player by contradicting their approach with a coaching phrase.


Some of the phrases I hear are, “box it up,” or “see ball hit ball.” To me, that means two different things. “Box it up” means be selective pick a zone and don’t swing unless it is in that zone. Whereas “see ball hit ball” means if you pick the ball up early swing at it.



What are we talking about?

So now we have an understanding of what we want to teach when we are talking about a hitting approach. How are we going to get our players to understand what we are teaching them?


The first thing we need to explain is that an approach is a plan and like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Our hitters need to know that their plan is going to change. They need to take the time to think through an at-bat.


In youth baseball, I group everything into four levels. You have straight instructional baseball. This level includes T-ball and coach pitch into the first year of kid pitch. Then there are transitional baseball beginners; this level would be kid pitch baseball on the smaller fields including modified fields. Players then move up to advanced transitional baseball. This level is when the players are on a full sized diamond for the first couple of years mostly middle school, Babe Ruth and Senior League type baseball. Finally, there is competitive baseball. Competitive baseball  I would consider to be anything from J.V. through varsity high school, 16u and up travel teams and Legion baseball.



Instructional Baseball

hitting approachWhen you are talking to younger players at the instructional levels, they can have a simple plan.
With T-ball players, it may be as simple as explaining that the where they stand in the box affects where they are going to hit the ball. For a player that is facing live pitching for the first time, they may want to deal with the speed of the pitch. With a fast pitcher, they may want to go into the box and think to get my foot down early and stay middle/opposite. They can be successful as long as they have a plan and know what that plan is.



Transitional baseball beginnersHitting approach

The approaches we teach players as transitional baseball beginners are a little more complicated but need to be widdled down to their simplest form for each pitch of each at-bat. There are more situations in a baseball game the older a player gets. The approach gets complicated only to the degree that you have to have more than one approach so you can hit in all situations.


Transitional baseball beginners are dealing with stealing and pitchers and catchers that are more consistent. Pitchers are going to throw strikes, and runners are going to change positions on the field during an at-bat. Players need to be able to adjust their approach based on the situation.


Younger players are less likely to think along with the game. They are learning and don’t have years of experiences to draw upon for guidance. As a coach, you are going to want to make sure you have a system in place to help that during an at-bat or a game when circumstances change.


When there are runners on base, you have signs that you give to a batter to let them know if you want them to bunt or hit and run. Therefore, you should have an indication to change their approach. The signs don’t have to be complicated you don’t even have to hide them. Give a verbal command like, “Now you’re a mover.” If your players understand offensive situational baseball, they will be able to understand you and what the team needs their approach to be.



Advanced transitional baseball

Hitting approachAdvanced transitional baseball brings on a new set of challenges. Though a lot of coaches treat this level as competitive, I still consider it an instructional level. At this level, you are still teaching a lot about the game of baseball. The introduction of leading is a new concept for some players at this level. Also, the size of the field changes what players can do with the ball on offense and defense.


A player’s hitting approach is going to be modified as well. Hitters may be changing their primary roles as they move up. A kid who was hitting 220-foot home runs the year before may now be asked to drive the ball in the gap to the opposite field because that same ball is a 220-foot pop-up now. So being a producer has gone from meaning hit a home run to get a base hit.


Players at this level should be asked to think along with the game more as well. As a coach, you are going to review a player’s decisions more as opposed to helping them make the decision. By letting them make the decision, you assist the player to learn to deal with critical thinking in high-pressure situations. We can do it for them or teach them to do it for themselves.



Competitive baseballHitting approach

Now the fun part, competitive baseball. At this level, a player must know how to adjust their hitting approach between pitches or even have two approaches for a pitch. That is an odd concept for some players.


A player is stepping into a situation where pitchers can throw multiple pitches to several locations in almost any situation. I like to think of this as logic and “what if” preparation.


Logic says the pitcher is going to try to get ahead early, so I am thinking fastball middle away. What if he decides that I am looking fastball, so he is going to throw a curve. Now I have an approach for both. I should be able to pick up a high school curve from release, so there is plenty of time to adjust if I have a plan before the pitcher releases the ball.



The key

Hitting approachThe key to teaching hitting approach at any level is going to depend on the player’s knowledge of the game and the coach’s ability to communicate the team’s needs to that player. With the combination of those two things, players will become better hitters, and better hitters make better teams.


Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how to “Coach the Approach.” I would love to hear back from you after you apply this at any level. I am sure that it won’t take long for the results to show.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Baseball Coaching Tools – Coach’s Bag

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Baseball Coaching Tools – Coach’s BagBaseball coaching tools

All coaches need a coach’s bag. Most don’t realize that they already have one though. It is one of the most important baseball coaching tools. The coach’s
bag is full of everything you need to teach baseball on the field. You bring it to every practice and every game. Every coach should make one. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?


This article will give you an idea of what you need to be prepared to coach. All these things make up the staples of the coach’s bag.



What’s in the baseball coaching tools – coach’s bag?

This is a list of the basic items that make up my coach’s bag. You may find that you don’t need some of the items or you may want to add others. It is your bag so customize it to meet your needs.

  • Fungo Bat (Don’t leave home without it)
  • Wiffle balls
  • Batting Tee (must have at every level)
  • Field cones
  • Glove (best tool for self-defense)
  • Dry erase line-up board/note board
  • Training paddle glove
  • a few indoor balls (soft core t-balls)
  • a few new baseballs
  • First aid kit (might be provided by the league but you have to have it, get extra ice packs)
  • Athletic tape (used for everything from bumps and bruises to fixing broken shoelaces)
  • Pens / pencils
  • Sharpie
  • Notepad (small pocket size for taking notes during practice. Great for good post practice or post game speeches)
  • Scorebook or scorekeeping app for a phone. (See batting out of order in Little League rules post)
  • Pitch counter
  • Water cooler
  • Collapsable pitching screen/hitting net
  • Pitching machine.

I know that is quite a list but you have to remember that I have been coaching for 28 years. Some of these items are must haves and others you can acquire as you see need over time.



Why you need this?

The items at the top of the list are must have items. Some things may be provided to you by the organization you are coaching for. Some items you may have to go get yourself.


Baseball coaching toolsA first aid kit, game balls and practice balls should all be provided for you by the organization that you are coaching for. If they are not going to provide these things you should look for a new organization to associate yourself with. These items you can’t practice without.Baseball coaching tools



Add on your own

You will probably have to get your own fungo bat, Wiffle balls, batting tee, field cones, training paddle glove and pitch counter. These items are important on-field baseball coaching tools. When it comes time to set up a drill during practice or getting ready for a game you don’t want to start hunting for the items you need to get the job done properly. Efficiency is a sign of a great coach.


Some of the other things on the list like a glove, pens, pencils, sharpies, and a notepad you may already have at your house. Athletic tape is everywhere. Pick up multiple rolls.

Baseball coaching tools


A dry erase line-up/note board is a great tool to have in the dugout you can post the line-up before the game so everyone knows where they are playing and where they are hitting. I like to write something inspirational on the note side so the players get a little fired up.

 


Indoor balls are very useful if you are going to have practice time in a gym or place where the hard real baseball if going to be frowned upon. Having a half dozen or so on hand for random drills is a good idea as well.


When you are practicing your players are working hard. You need to make sure they are hydrated. I prefer that all the players bring their own water but sometimes you have a couple of players that forget. Having a team water container is a good thing. Just make sure you keep it clean.



The Big Stuff

Baseball coaching tools

Baseball coaching tools

When it comes to the collapsible nets, I prefer to have my own for outdoor practice. Some fields or
organizations will provide them but not very often. As the kids you coach get older you are going to want the protection that a pitching screen provides. The hitting net is a really nice tool to have right from T-ball. Being able to have a player working on their swing off to the side during practice is a great way to keep players involved and productive. Don’t forget the tee.


If you are a coach that has a hard time throwing batting practice strikes you might want to invest in a pitching machine. They are incredibly diverse. Some are simple lever mechanisms. Others need to be plugged in and can do other things besides pitch baseballs.


The last thing I am going to go over from the list is the scorebook. You must keep track of the score during the game. If it is you personally or a parent in the stands make sure you do this. The rules of baseball are such that you have to keep track of things like the batting order or things can get really confusing.



Where do you get all these items?

There are items on the list that are pretty easy to find. First aid kits and athletic tape you can get at any drugstore or sporting goods store. Other items on the list are a little more challenging such as fungo bats and training gloves, both are items that you may have never seen or heard of until you took on the coaching challenge.


Whether you are looking for a new fungo or a pitching machine you can check out the Product Reviews on Hitting With Wood. We review a lot of different equipment to make sure that we recommend only the best for you. Most of the time we will give multiple options based on different price points. We want you to get what you need. No sense in spending $2,000 on a pitching machine for an eight-year-old team if you are not going to coach again.



Portable in the end

Baseball coaching toolsYou are going to bring your bag with you to practice and to games. I have a bag that has my game items and a bag for practice. I use a gym bag to carry all my practice items. Most of the collapsible nets will come with a carry bag and a couple of velcro straps make carrying a tee easy.


Therefore when you are setting up at your next practice it will be comforting to know that everything you need for practice is ready to go. Due to the cost of these items, you will want to be sure to collect them at the end of every practice or game. The cost of the tools in your coach’s bag will be offset by the number of years you use them and the countless players that will benefit from your time and effort.

Thank you,

Coach Wood

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest