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The complete catcher
Ripken Baseball


Learn to catch like Pudge. 

 It's sometimes said that the catcher runs the diamond. Do you have what it takes to excel in this critical team role? Cal Ripken, Sr. tells you what makes a great catcher.

The catcher is the only player in foul territory and the only player that can see all the other players on the field without turning his head. It is his job to call the pitches, call the plays and to generally run the ball game. He has to work hard and has to keep himself in top physical condition.


A catcher should: 

Have knowledge of pitching. 

Have knowledge of the opposing hitters. 

Be able to handle each pitcher as the individual he or she is. 

Have a good arm. 

Check the condition of the playing field before each game, particularly in front of the plate. 

Check to see how hard the wind is blowing. 

Be a take-charge type fellow. 

Practice his throwing and shifting while warming up on the sidelines or at any time he is playing catch.

Show desire and determination to become a good receiver. 

Study each pitcher individually and work him accordingly. 

Do everything to help the pitcher—not make himself look good. The catcher and the pitcher are a team within the team.

Discuss the game before and after with the pitcher so they think alike and work together as a unit. 

Go to the mound and talk with the pitcher. Do not yell from behind the plate. 

Make a thorough study of opposing hitters and discuss them freely with the pitcher. 

Learn to receive the ball gracefully and work it cleverly into the strike zone. 

Give a good target (types of targets for pitchers vary). 

Learn to know pitchers and types of targets they prefer. 

Learn to throw well to all bases, and to throw back to the pitcher accurately. (Hit the pitcher in the glove shoulder.)

Learn to call for the pitch-out at the proper time. 

Have the pitcher throw something he can get over until he is ahead of the hitter. 

Call the throw (where the pitcher or infielder is to throw the ball on the bunt). 

Field a bunt with body low and eyes glued on the ball. Use two hands bringing the ball into the glove with the bare hand—kind of a "raking together" action.

Learn to protect his fingers. (He should not point fingers toward the ball when receiving it. He should have his hand in a relaxed position with fingers in toward the palm, thumb under the first finger but not clenched like a fist.)

Learn to catch with one hand but not be altogether a one-handed catcher. 

Practice throwing the ball with fingers across the big seams—with this grip the ball will not sail or sink. (Throw to second base whenever the bunt is in order and the pitch is missed by the batter with men on first and second.)

Never delay a throw because he does not have the proper grip. 

Hide signs from the first- and third-base coaches and give them slowly and clearly so the pitcher and shortstop have no trouble getting them.

Know what pitch he is going to call next so as not to display indecision, as this will tend to make pitcher indecisive too.

Learn to block the low pitches by hitting the dirt with both knees. He should not try to block balls he cannot get his body in front of. If a base runner is stealing he should try to catch the low pitch instead of blocking.

Keep his pitcher working and keep the game moving. 

Rub balls up for pitchers. 

Use simple, easy signs or the pitcher-shortstop combination will not bother to read them. 

Learn to catch pop flies. In learning to catch foul flies, the catcher should move under the ball until it appears that it is dropping right on the tip of his nose. When possible the mitt should be face up. Learn to keep the ball in front of you.

Learn to shift his feet properly. On moving to his right from a spread stance, step into the pitch with the right foot to receive the ball. The left leg naturally follows through into throwing position. On moving to his left from a spread stance, a catcher should take as short a step with left foot as possible and move into the ball getting the right leg in throwing position.

Study the effect umpiring has on each pitcher. Experience will teach a catcher whether to agree with the umpire or his pitcher.

Stay behind home plate when throwing in infield practice. 

Chase foul balls on the ground as the ball should sometimes be kept foul, and also, the pitcher might like to use that same ball again.

Have his weight slightly forward and evenly distributed on both feet, from either the sitting or crouch position.

Keep himself out of the sitting position when receiving the ball. Move right or left foot. 

By receiving the ball from a well-balanced crouch he can position himself to throw, field bunts and handle all receiving chores alertly.

Keep himself as close to the hitter as practical. He will then keep the pitch closer to the strike zone, and the foul tips won't bounce off his glove.

Have someone at times watch him to make sure he is not pumping signs or moving up on the curve ball and back on the fastball.

Check his equipment. Poor equipment can cause serious injury and retard progress. 

Always keep elbows outside of knees to work corner pitches. 

Always keep low so as not to block umpires. This also enables him to catch low pitches with the glove up.

Practice catching short hops or low pitches—drop to both knees and block these type balls.The ball may go over or around the catcher but it should not go through him.

Always keep the ball in front—this keeps the runner from advancing another base. The ball a catcher has to retrieve behind him is the toughest ball for him to get and then make a good throw to the base.

Anticipate a bad pitch. Then he will be ready to catch or block pitches well out of the strike zone. The strike is easy to catch.



There is no set way for a catcher to throw. He should throw in a manner that is natural to him. If his progress is slow and a change necessary, the overhand throw is most desirable.



A comfortable stance with good balance is a prerequisite for proper receiving, shifting and throwing.

Sign position: Place feet shoulder width apart and squat down. Turn heels outward to bring knees to a position to block signs from base coaches.

Catching or throwing position: Either stand and move feet a bit wider apart or sit and do the same thing. Make sure to get the right foot ever so slightly behind the left. Pick up the tail up slightly to allow weight to shift to the balls of the feet and allow for quick reaction behind the plate.


Tips for special situations

Double steal 

The manager has a sign with the catcher specifying whether he is allowed to throw through to second base if he wishes or whether he must not throw through. Sometimes a catcher can come up and throw directly to third base and catch the runner off the bag—this comes with experience. There are other times the catcher will throw back to the pitcher. The situation determines this—catcher's arm, base runner, score, etc.

Catcher must always figure speed of base runners. 

Catcher should always look at runner on third base before making his throw to second base on a double-steal situation. Exception: if a play would be one that you were going to throw directly back to the pitcher then the runner on third would make his move toward home more freely and quickly.

If pitcher is a poor fielder, it is not a good idea to throw back to him with the runner stealing on the double steal.

The second baseman should take throw at second on the double steal whenever possible. 

Timid catchers

Let a timid catcher wear a mask at the plate on plays at the plate—sometimes this is necessary anyway, particularly in a squeeze situation or possibly on a ball hit to the third baseman when the runner at third has a big lead.


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