The Building Blocks of Playing Catch Better

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Young players don’t play catch enough, and when they do there simply isn’t enough attention given to it.

At its most basic level defense is all about playing catch. A team that cannot play catch well is a team that will not play defense well.

We talk about all sorts of ways to efficiently structure practices to help you get the most out of your limited time with your team.

But lately, I think younger teams need to spend way more time playing catch.

Whenever I watch the start of a practice I typically see a quick stretch and then the kids pair up and start playing catch.

Very often there is a lack of structure and it is often when the least amount of coaching occurs.

This is the time of practice when the coaches are all hanging out shooting the breeze with each other.

It needs to be the portion of practice when the coaches are the most engaged!

Plus, during the winter months, there is a huge amount of teams in cold climates that are not able to get outdoors, so they end up only hitting all winter.

If you are stuck indoors with limited space we have a quick recommendation for you today.

Double Knee Catch Play

In this modified version of catch the focus becomes how to efficiently move the upper body and extremities when playing catch.
It is super simple to do and I am going to walk you through a couple points to focus on with your athletes.

Primary Goal/Purpose:
To teach players how to properly receive throws and move efficiently through the transfer to link it to strong accurate throws.

How to do it:

1. Place two partners about 15 feet apart from one another.

2. Have them get down onto both knees with their shoulders square to one another.

3. They will both have their glove or a pancake glove on and 1 baseball for the two of them.

  • Keep their elbows tucked into their side rather than flared out.

4. Now the two of them will play catch with the goal of not allowing the ball to stop moving as they receive the baseball.

5. As each player receives the ball we want them to do the following:

  • *If you have enough coaches you can have the players on their knees and a coach can feed them…this just allows for more accurate feeds so the kids can work on exactly what we will talk about (age/talent dependent).

b. Let the ball get deep

  • Meaning players are not going to reach out and stab at the ball, but are going to let it travel.
  • Catching the ball with our arm locked out gives us hard hands.

c. Think of following the ball into their glove with their throwing hand

  • Rather than thinking thumb to thumb, we want them to think their hand comes from underneath and follows the ball in.
  • We preach to them that smooth is quick…don’t rush, just work to make it as smooth as possible.
  • As we become more efficient with our body movements, it will make us smoother and quicker…which then allows players to do things faster. However, just speeding it up without optimizing the efficiencies will lead to out of control, rushed infielders.

d. As the ball is received, instruct them to coordinate their shoulder turn with the reception, again to make sure the ball continues to move.

e. As they feel that shoulder turn the will also complete the transfer and break the hands to come into their arm circle.

f. The idea is to stay as smooth as possible.

g. The goal is not to keep the ball moving as fast as possible, but to keep it moving in a smooth manner.

  • Make sure they know not to try to pull the ball out of their glove with only three fingers, but instead stay wide with their hand, then transition to that three-finger grip after taking the ball out of the glove.
  • Identify what part of the glove we are trying to catch the ball in. It should be the in-between portion between the pocket and the palm for the glove…we call it the sweet spot.

6. As players start to figure out the coordination of the move have them spread out a little more.

7. Eventually, we will bring them up to their feet and introduce the lower half, and how it will sync up with the upper half.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”Bill Gates

The same principle is at work here, making players move fast without fixing the root of the problem will only magnify the inefficiency.

This is a super basic drill but if players optimize their movement with the upper body & upper extremities, then we can introduce the feet. That will be the next step.

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