Play Catch for Better Baseball


Play Catch for Better Baseballplay catch for better baseball

Play catch for better baseball seems like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t think that playing catch is an important part of baseball? I will answer that question, almost every youth baseball coach in the world. You are sitting there reading this saying, “Not me!” I am sitting here writing this thinking, “Yes you.”

Coaches must prepare a team for everything

Most coaches start practice either with a stretch and throw or vice-versa. The problem is not many youth coaches pay attention to the throwing part of it because the players are just warming up. Well whether you are warming up, hot or cooling off there should be a purpose to your movements.

When a player is, “Warming up,” they are more aware of what their bodies are feeling. Warm up is the best time to train the brain to use proper fundamentals. When players use good fundamentals during their entire practice, they are more likely to return to them unconsciously during high-pressure situations. Preparation is the name of the game, and it is never too early to start preparing.

Receiving position

Play catch for better baseballHave you ever watched kids when they are warming up? They have gloves down at their sides, or they put the glove way out in front of them like they are going to will the ball into it before it thrown. Neither of these is good mechanics for receiving a ball during a game usually. There are exceptions first base and some tag plays, but most of the time, you want a player standing shoulders squared to the the thrower in an athletic position with knees and hips flexed. Their eyes should be looking in the direction of the ball, and their hands should be about shoulder height on either side of their head. This stance is called a receiving position.

Throwing mechanics

That is the firPlay catch for better baseballst part of playing catch. The second part is the throw. Throwing mechanics are just as important for a fielder as they are for pitchers. The other thing about the mechanics is that they are pretty much the same whether you are pitching, catching, playing infield or outfield. The distance of the arm swing is the only thing that changes.


A pitcher and outfielder are going to have the most similarity in their throwing arm swing or arc. Both positions have time to deliver the ball but need to maximize the velocity at which they throw. Infielders and catchers have more similarities in their throwing arc. Catchers and infielders require velocity on their throws but gain more of an advantage by getting the ball out of their hands quicker. Therefore, their arc is much shorter than pitchers or outfielders.

Pairing for mediocrity and excellence

At the college level, we try to have players warm up with other players who play similar positions. This way we can have the players monitor and help each other maintain the proper throwing and catching techniques. Our starting shortstop plays catch with the starting second baseman on game days and on practice days he warms up with the backup shortstop.

This method, in my opinion, is the best way to have players warm up at that level. At the youth level, it is somethingPlay catch for better baseball that may not work for your team. Youth players are learning the game. They are probably all getting exposed to playing multiple positions and may need to learn all for throwing arcs. As a coach, you are also dealing with the issue that some kids are better than others at playing catch.

I would like to promote a team-first player second philosophy to warming up. With this system, the player who is the weakest would play catch with the strongest player during warm up. Continue pairing players like this all the way down the line. Pairing this way will help the weaker players catch up with, the better players, in theory, making your team better. I don’t like to hold good players back though so my solution to that is each day you practice or have a game your players should rotate. Pairing players who are stronger together and players who are weaker together from time to time.

How do you play catch?

Playing catch is a part of practice because it is a part of the game. When you play catch the right way you give yourself a valuable tool to use to become a better baseball player. Better players tend to make better teams. Always observe how your team plays catch in warm up. Instruct players when necessary, and ball all means make them focus on doing it right.

Going out

Playing catch the right way will start with players relatively close to each other. The distance should be such that both players can comfortably throw the ball with extreme accuracy to the other. After about three to five throws one player should start backing up a couple of steps every couple of throws. The player should continue to back up until the players have reached a distance that is slightly longer than their hardest throw. Both players should be reaching each other on a hop.

The goal of every throw should be accuracy at a good velocity. Throwing a ball where you want every time softly doesn’t make you a good player. Just as throwing the ball hard all over the place doesn’t help either. There is a velocity and accuracy combination that each player can obtain that works for them. Belt buckle to head, between the shoulders is a good area to throw the ball. Make sure your players understand that and do it.

Bring it in

Once players have reached the one-hop range, the player that was backing up should start working their way back to their partner. On the way back players should work on positional defense. Ground balls for infield fly balls for outfield and catchers should receive and pop.

As an infielder receives a ground ball, they should go through their mechanics of fielding and stride into their throw. They should then return a ground ball or fly ball depending on their partners position back to them. Outfielders should do the same thing with fly balls. Finally, catchers should crouch into a position to receive a pitch when they catch the ball they should pop up to throw a runner out and return a throw to their partner. All of this is done with the same accuracy consideration as well as continuously closing the distance between players.

After a few weeks, you will find that if you can get your team to play catch for better baseball that is what you will get. The better ball will happen right before your eyes. For more information about how to play catch check out my article, “Teaching Baseball FUNdamentals.”

Thank you,

Coach Wood


Don’t forget to get your copy of “The Science of Sticky Coaching” by Joey MyersPlay catch for better baseball




Baseball Catcher-Most needed player


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.


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