Daily Archives: December 10, 2007

Catchers calling their own games

Went to the National Sports Clinics Advanced Clinic in Chicago over the weekend. One of the topics of discussion was catchers calling pitches instead of the coach from the dugout.

That’s a topic I find very interesting. There seems to be a lot of resistance in a lot of circles to allowing catchers to call pitches. From my own personal experience I’ve seen a lot of coaches squatting on buckets at the front of the dugout, frantically signaling pitches. When I’ve watched on TV in the Women’s College World Series I’ve seen the same thing — coaches calling the pitches. 
In the college game I suppose the rationale is that they have all the charts on the opposing hitters, that they know all the weaknesses and thus can make better decisions. I guess you can make an argument for that. Yet often it seems like the person in the dugout calling the pitches used to be a player. If her coaches never let her call pitches when she played, when exactly did she learn? How did she become such an expert between the time she played and now? Or was she maybe, just maybe, perfectly capable of doing it before, only she wasn’t allowed to?

In the youth game the thinking must be that the catchers don’t know enough to call pitches. How could a mere kid know more than the coach? Forget the fact that the coach is most likely not a professional coach with tons of experience in it. It’s just too important of a function to leave to a player.

Either way, that’s bunk. Calling pitches is not rocket science. It’s a skillset that can be learned like anything else. Coaches who don’t allow catchers to call the game are doing them a disservice. As long as the signals are coming in from the dugout the catcher is never going to learn the nuances of the game. She’s merely going to throw down the number of fingers she’s told to throw down, without learning why.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop cold turkey and throw your catchers to the wolves. If your catcher has never called a game before, start her with an inning. Go over what you want — how you want to mix fastballs and changes if that’s all your pitcher has. If the pitcher has more pitches, give her some ideas of what to throw when.

Why bother? Because the catcher can see things the coach can’t. She knows (or should know) what the umpire is calling. She knows whether the curve ball that got crushed was hit because the hitter hit well or the curve ball didn’t break. She can probably also tell where the pitcher’s head is because she’s looking right at her.

If that’s not enough, here’s a nother good reason: you want your players to think. Coaches who try to control every aspect of the game and their players wind up with a lot of brain dead players. Then they get mad when their players make mistakes. How are they going to learn to think for themselves if they never get the chance?

The answer is they won’t. Coaches, give your catchers the opportunity to start calling their own games. They just might surprise you.

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