One of the areas we put a premium on at summer camp was mastering the basic fundamentals of catch and throw. Every single play on defense requires a catch and throw – whether it’s the pitcher throwing to the catcher, the shortstop throwing to the first baseman, or the outfielder throwing to the relay man. If you want to eliminate free-bees and minimize run production, owning your catch play is a great place to start.
Catching is one of the more difficult skills kids try to learn at a young age. It is also one of the most traumatizing – miss one and you could have a black eye for the next couple weeks. As a result, glove presentation during catch play is a crucial point to drive home early on. Have kids present a target in the middle of their chest, fingers to the sky, and out in front of their eyes. Whether the ball moves left or right, create the habit of catching out in front with eyes behind the glove. If you wouldn’t field a ground ball behind your line of vision, you sure shouldn’t play catch like it.
Throwers must also learn how to utilize their eyes effectively. Every single throw, get them to pick out a specific target and get them to try and throw it through the target. Your eyes are going to guide your body. By creating an external focus, throwers are able to train their instincts and figure out how to optimally move to locate the ball to a specific location. Kids have no time to think about where their arm or glove is in the middle of a game. Just as a hitter “sees ball and hits ball”, throwers should see target and throw through target.
It’s crucial to drive home you own anything that touches your glove. Drops are not acceptable. If you let kids get away with drops in their catch play, don’t be surprised when they start booting around balls in the infield. By creating this specific focus, kids become more engaged during catch play and really start to concentrate when the ball comes towards them. One of the most important skills you can teach kids is basic focus and concentration. There are a lot of things in baseball that can get dull and monotonous. If focus is lost during these crucial moments, kids won’t learn. If kids aren’t learning, they are regressing.
An overlooked part about catch play is the feet. Just as if you were in the infield, your feet should never stop moving throughout catch play. If the ball takes you a certain direction, the receiver must move their feet so they can get in a good catch position. As a thrower, you should be constantly utilizing your feet to put you into good throw positions. Stagnant feet leads to poor catch positions, poor throws, and a lack of focus/concentration. You catch with your feet, you throw with your feet.
When you can start to figure out some of these things, it’s important to get kids to stretch their arms out and throw the ball from farther distances. Very seldom are plays going to occur where throws under 40 feet are required. Throwing the ball far and hard is a skill you need to teach and emphasize in your catch play. This helps teach kids how to use their bodies more effectively while building better work capacity and arm speed. It also helps receivers learn how to move their feet and make various types of catches. Being able to understand how to use the ground is a skill players can practice when throwing from longer distances. Throwers can practice long hopping the ball while receivers can practice fielding these types of hops and seeing which ones they can and can’t handle.
Utilizing competition is a great way to break the monotony of catch play. Get kids to see who can drop the least amount of throws, who can throw the hardest, farthest, or the most accurate. These challenges will help increase focus, concentration, and can make catch play more enjoyable. Creativity is key – as long as you’re getting the right output.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Keep learning and growing.