5 mins read

Baseball Tips – Catchers – Where’s the Instinct?

Sometimes I’ll be watching a game and one of the teams has a pretty good receiver. I mean, he’s got a gun for an arm, good size, quick feet back there, really good blocks, and so on.

But little things happen in games with guys like these and I sit there scratching my head thinking, “Why didn’t he do this? Or, why didn’t he do that? Or, I had it there if I had thrown that!” There is a small list of these things that this “pretty good” receiver does or does not do. It’s only recently that I think I realize why I see this kind of thing today.

Think, older boys, when your video game was Pong, or at best, the original Atari. There were no computers (and no Instant Messenger, thank goodness!), No cell phones, no X-Box 360, etc. What did we do besides having to cut the grass? Well, we play baseball, softball, and sometimes football on the same day. We did this day after day and we still had baseball games at night. We develop a lot of baseball “instincts” even when we were kids. Kids no longer play truck games in the neighborhoods. Everything is organized now, down to the smallest detail.

Years ago, even though kids didn’t play as many organized games, I think kids played more baseball on average. As they got older, they developed a lot of instincts … things that tell you to throw or not, in a split second. Catchers knew how to read hitters. They knew how to read running backs and they remember # 14 always looking down when he started back to first as soon as he saw the catcher’s hand go up and start throwing back to the pitcher. The catchers knew when to go out on the mound and say mean, silly things to make the pitcher laugh a little, just to relax. A lot of catchers were calling their own pitches at thirteen.

Today, this seems to be less and less. Catchers are more like wind-up figures. Just go and watch a game today, even older kids. You will see receivers looking into the dugout after each pitch, looking for the next signal and pitch to call. Many times they have no idea why some of these are called. It’s like a wireless video game for the coaches sitting on the cubes near the circle on deck. And to make matters worse, after each release, what do you usually hear? You hear two or three coaches barking at the catcher, pitcher, and infielders who receive multiple instructions and demands. Sometimes it’s a puppet show … not a baseball game.

Players attempt pickoffs when asked to do so or if there is a play underway. If they go it alone and throw the ball, you’ll hear, “Hey! What was that? Did I call it that? Come on!” Too much instinct. I will not do that again.

I’m not saying that today’s receivers are not good. In fact, I think they are much better than in the past in most cases. I will see many who are more trained in throwing and blocking than they were years ago. Batting, well, I think players today are better hitters than hitters in the past. Today’s kids are more exposed to different baseball training methods and different baseball drills. They receive much more instruction and are therefore more skilled than children of years ago.

It’s those little things that they don’t have as much as players in the past. Those little things are instincts. I guess they do get them eventually, but only at an older age.

There are coaches who encourage the receiver to think for himself in different situations. You can always correct and teach later. This is commendable, as it doesn’t happen very often anymore. In time, you and he will think alike and you will see him turn into a smart receiver, not a wind-up dummy looking for the next instruction.

Maybe some of the coaches can let their receivers and other players work on developing their own instincts at times. There may be a game that you know you’re going to win or a game where the score indicates that maybe you can let the catcher try to call pitches, encourage the infielders to communicate with each other, and try to set up a few things on their own. Let them take control. Let them be responsible for what happens on the field. They will make mistakes, for sure. But that’s when you, the coach, come back for a little word or two and then walk away. If things seem to be going the wrong way, take control again.

You will see them become smarter players over time. They will develop some instincts. They will think a little differently and maybe understand why you do some of the things that you do.

Most importantly, they’ll wait for that moment in certain games where they’re winning enough to say, “Hey! You got it … don’t screw it up!” They will have fun … like we did in the neighborhoods years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *