Catcher calling pitches.

Discussion in 'Softball Catcher Discussions' started by lewam3, Jan 26, 2012.

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    Coach K at WKU:


    I was told by one of my mentors a long time ago and I completely agree with it 100%:

    "This is our job, winning and losing is a huge aspect of our job and you're going to put the biggest most important aspect of the game (pitching calling) and your job in the hands of an 18 year old?"

    We do not allow our catchers to call the game. The most control on picking pitches and which pitch comes from the coach, but the pitcher can shake off because they know if they feel what pitch can be thrown. Yes, there are catchers out there that call a great game, but there is a reason why most college coaches call their own game. That aspect has NO bearing in us recruiting a catcher.

    Catchers: we look at framing, blocking, and the arm from Home to 2B. then Hitting. Catching is one of those positions that defensive aspects are a lot more important that the hitting aspect, but, it's not set in stone.

    I don't mind sharing my thoughts on anything softball related. Just remember, they are my my thoughts and opinions and not the only way to do something :)

    Coach K
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    I love this game! There are so many ways to approach it and get great results... here is Coach Wagner's thoughts (Rhodes U in Memphis)

    Hey Doug,

    Every time I recruit a catcher I ask if they are comfortable calling their own game – however, the value placed upon this ability varies between college coaches.

    I am in the camp of – a catcher that can call her own game will develop into a better collegiate player because it demonstrates the athlete already has grasp of the nuisances of the game. My thought process, right or wrong, is basically as follows:

    1. A catcher that calls her game has to understand the game in order to do so – situations, spins, individual batters, opposing team dynamics. A catcher that looks to the dugout for each pitch tends to disconnect from “thinking”. The position of catcher transitions from a leader, an individual that has been able to learn from their mistakes throughout their career, to an individual whom lacks confidence at the college level because, “what if I make a mistake?” These types of inner thoughts are a hindrance to any player, especially a catcher which is involved in every pitch. I don’t want a catcher who is looking to defer to others when the game is on the line. I want a catcher who has worked through every different scenario in their head before the batter enters the box…this can only happen if the catcher has been allowed to be an active participant in the game of softball, not a glorified backstop.
    2. Softball players, 99.999% of them, are not going to make a living playing softball – in fact even those athletes that play professional still can’t make a comfortable living unless they receive endorsement deals. My opinion let the kids play the game. If a kid is a catcher, let them be a catcher. In my opinion, right or wrong, coaches that micromanage catchers are not only doing them a dis-service for their prospect of being “game ready” as a college freshman, but they are robbing the athlete of a lot of joy that comes with that position. The catcher gets beat-on every game – balls in the dirt, crouching for every pitch, risking getting hit with the bat or foul balls – if a catcher is expected to play the position, let ‘em PLAY the position. Let the kid experience the game of softball, it’s a great game; I’m not a fan of recruiting a catcher and trusting them to do all the dirty work but not trusting them to “think”.

    I coached a D1 institution last season and in place of on field practice, we held catcher practices where we required our freshman catcher to meet with the coaching staff and watch MLB games; why? She was a freshman in college and had never called a game. Because of this disservice she lacked situational awareness and proper thought process behind the plate. We spent hours watching baseball and asking her to think out loud to develop an understanding of pitching and catching. Questions such as: How does the amount of outs affect our pitch selection? Paying attention to opposing hitters’ tendencies… How to work with a struggling pitcher by choosing locations rather than spins… How to manipulate a batter to feed a defense… these are all skills a catcher should have at the college level and unfortunately, fewer and fewer are entering the ranks with a full grasp of what it means to be a catcher because they aren’t allowed to learn. Too many travel and high school programs lose sight of proper player development, even if it means dropping a game or two, and focus strictly upon the teams winning percentage as a determinant for how successful a season was.

    Although I have given my opinion throughout this email, one thing I can say with absolute certainty – if you are a travel ball coach and your catcher is comfortable calling her own game, it will only help the catcher receive collegiate attention.

    Consider the following: If you have two travel catchers of equal size, arm strength, mechanics, hitting abilities, speed – one can call a game and the other can not – the catcher that calls her games will satisfy 100% of the college coaches (half the coaches want her to call the game and the other half wish to call for her). The individual that can not call her game, at best, will receive looks from 50% of the college coaches (half the coaches that want a true catcher will look elsewhere, and at best your prospect will only receive the attention of the half that wish to call pitches…that’s if all of those coaches have a need at catcher). Make sense?

    Hope this helped – feel free to share this if you think it will help

    Coach Wags
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    How can we argue with you when you present three different views? :eek:
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    Just doing the research myself and sharing with the forum... ;)
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    Nice posts. My older DD is a 13U catcher, often wonder when she would be old enough to call pitches. ultimately, that is her goal but she has put in the time or it won't happen.
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    I highly recommend that she look into attending pitching lessons with one of her pitchers if she is able (if she isn't already). I'd bet that usually the catcher gets to tag along for free. A lot of pitchers (and their parents) would be thrilled to have a catcher along. If it's ok with the instructor, it can be a great experience for both girls.

    That time can be spent getting to know a pitcher's strengths and weaknesses. It creates a bond with the pitcher. It helps a catcher learn about what different pitches are supposed to do. They get to experience good days and bad together. Lessons may include simulated innings where different approaches are taken based on an imaginary batter. I believe a catcher can get to know a pitcher as well or better than many of her coaches.

    Like you say, she has to put in the time. But I don't believe she's too young to start putting in that time and be able to reach her goal very quickly!
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    Doug ... lots of great input from the college coaches ... thanks! It's got me to think a lot harder about making sure we really teach our catchers the game, and the art of pitch calling. That doesn't mean that all catchers need to call all games by any means ... but, at a minimum, we should be training them and then giving the ones who are genuinely interested and who show they are picking up the skill an opportunity to call at least some games, while they continue to get feedback and training from the coach.

    Mmich ... excellent point about catchers attending pitching lessons with their pitchers. A true student of the game has an opportunity to learn a lot about their pitcher, and the different types of pitches by doing this. I have also seen a couple of catchers who could benefit from understanding how hard the pitchers work to learn their craft, and how to be more supportive and helpful when a pitcher is struggling.
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    I prefer the catcher call the game. I've noticed it helps their plate appearances and any chance I can stop from a" thinking" what to do and instinctively "knowing" what to helps their entire game. My personal phrase is "don't think it know it" and training them to manage all game situations is part of my overall development for that pitcher and catcher. To date we have called most games and are in training with each catcher.
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    Thanks for posting all the college coach responses, Doug. What a great resource with balanced viewpoints! IMO, this is what a forum like this is all about. Families just starting the college recruiting process will find out in short order, but the BEST thing is that the 12u parents have a heads-up about how different college coaches approach this. Then they can decide what is the best travel team/organization to provide the best development path for their daughter.

    Parents of pitchers and catchers on a college path put a LOT of emphasis on how travel coaches view game management in general, and how a coach handles pitch calling can give a hint about overall team/game management style and their goals. Re-reading this thread before fall tryouts will give valuable insight for players and parents looking for a change, and the questions to ask.
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    Doug, thanks for your input, great stuff!
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    I love this quote.

    Make them the best player they can possibly be, it will only increase their opportunities.
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    Being at 13U this year, one of my two catchers is probably ready to start calling pitches this season. I'll get her started on the bucket, calling out to the other catcher that is in the game. This way, we can discuss things as they're happening and she doesn't have the added pressure of trying to do this while physically in the game herself. We may take turns (side by side) calling innings or calling every other batter within the inning, just to get her started.

    I like having the control of calling pitches, but I know that it's a necessary thing for the catchers growth and will really get her to understand more aspects of the game.
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    You are welcome, It made me stop and think ... I think I have settled into teach them how, let them run with it to their ability when it makes sense for them and team...
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    Been following this thread and a lot of different perspectives, and agree with your approach.
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    had our girls call 4 games in an all nighter. Loved their decision making. Still on the road to teaching them but it's worth. We can spend time working on coaching other areas during the games.
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    Bacon ended up calling the last bit of that championship game last night/ this morning, for a pitcher she doesnt normaly play with. If you teach them and they do the work, they will supprise you every time.

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