Catcher – a one-hand position
Lately I’ve been noticing an interesting phenomenon. For some reason, I’ve been seeing catchers trying to catch pitches with two hands. They start with their hand behind their back (also wrong) or behind their shinguard (correct position). Then as the pitch comes in, their throwing hand comes forward and they catch the ball with two hands.
That is not only poor technique, it’s dangerous to the catcher’s throwing hand. While we often stress two hands for catching in the field, catchers need to use one hand. There are a couple reasons for this.
One is foul tips. If the batter tips the ball it could deflect anywhere. If the throwing hand is coming up to help catch the ball, a foul tip can hit it. The result could be a jammed, sprained, or broken finger or thumb. None of those are very conducive to continuing to play.
The other is it it actually takes longer to throw the ball if the throwing hand is coming forward to help with the catch. In the field, using two hands helps both with securing the ball and making a quick transfer to throw. But at the catcher position, because the hand is starting behind the shin guard, you want to catch with one hand, then bring the glove (and ball) back to the throwing shoulder. The hand meets it there and the transfer is made.
So how do you get catchers to get in the habit of using just one hand? One way is to have them hook their thumb in the strap of their shinguards until after they make the catch while practicing. Then practice using one hand a lot.
It’s important for catchers to protect their throwing hands. Using one hand to catch will make that happen.
Posted on November 28, 2008, in Catching. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.
I was completely in agreement with that philosophy until about one month ago. I have never before endorsed having the throwing hand out there for fear of an injury to the unprotected hand. I have since changed my mind due to a video I bought – ‘A Coaches Guide to Training Catchers’ vol II by The New England Catching Camp. Their site is http://www.catchingcamp.com. I highly recommend this video to anyone. I have a couple others I bought only to be disappointed. This video goes into great detail, 2 hrs and 40 mins worth. It explains techniques and philosophy (not usually found in video). This is how my mind was changed. The coach explains how foul balls don’t usually hit the chest protector – they usually hit the face mask, shoulders, the ground… and even less, they hit the glove. For the throwing hand, he recommends the thumb inside the hand (wrapped by the fingers) and behind the glove. With the proper receiving techiniques he teaches, I believe this to be a safe technique. He also goes into detail about how the transfer from the glove to the throwing hand needs to happen out in front of the body, that it is faster, that it aligns the elbows for throwing better and etc. He shows how bringing the glove back to the throwing hand misaligns the front elbow and shoulder and what happens when that elbow is misaligned. I’m always looking for ways to make things better, and I finally got a video that I believe in and has lots of detail. As you know Ken, my daughter catches and I have already begun changing some things on her, including putting the throwing hand behind the glove.
Interesting. I was talking about making the actual catch with two hands, the way a shortstop would take a throw on a double play. I still wouldn’t do that. But since you bring it up…A couple of weeks ago I attended the National Fastpitch Coaches College class on position play. The instructors were John Tschida, head coach of the University of St. Thomas, Bill Edwards, head coach at Hofstra, and Allison Habetz, assistant coach at the University of Alabama. They demonstrated and recommended the hand behind the shin guard method. What I find interesting is how the more things change the more they remain the same. Back in my playing days, we all kept the throwing hand behind the glove. We didn’t fold the thumb in, but it was there. Then came Johnny Bench and everyone started putting the hand behind the back. Then it went to behind the shinguard, which makes more sense than the back. Now keeping the hand behind the glove is being recommended again. I can’t speak to the principles in the DVD since I haven’t seen it. I know Marc Dagenais thinks a lot of the who runs the New England Catching camp, so it’s worth checking out. One thing I do have a thought on is the safety aspect. You say on the video he says balls don’t usually hit the chest protector, they hit the mask, shoulders, and ground. I could say the same about balls hit back at the pitcher. I have never seen a pitcher hit in the face with a line drive. I’ve seen them go off the glove, and especially the shins. But I sure am seeing a lot of face masks being worn by pitchers these days, just in case. I think the same is true of balls being deflected off the bat and hitting the catcher’s hand. It only takes one to put a catcher out for the season. From what you said he didn’t say it never happens, just that it “usually” hits somewhere else. Is it worth the risk? Maybe.I’ll have to check out the DVD sometime. Maybe I’ll be convinced.
I agree with the throwing hand behind the shin gaurd. While playing little league I did use the throwing hand behind the glove. Later the coaches told me to keep it behind my back to protect the elbow after I took a nasty foul ball off my funny bone. He always said “having one less elbow exposed was best”. I agree, although after reading the previous article you wrote about keeping the hand behind the shin gaurd and researching it I have told my catchers to move the throwing hand behind the shin gaurd so they have a slightly quicker transition to the ball while still protecting the elbow. Thanks,,,Rick
My daughter’s biggest issue with throwing to a base is her transfer. Since we have been working on the new technique it appears to be shortening the transfer time. I am not quick enough to time just the transfer but her overall time of ball in glove to out of hand has been quicker. We have not been throwing full distance so I cannot yet tell if it is helping the accuracy as the video states – so we still have that to wait and see. As for it being dangerous, I believe the key is teaching the girl to keep that hand behind the glove regardless of where the pitch is, within reason. If the ball is hittable, then the hand needs to be protected. Also, to teach this, I believe that A) the girl needs to be old enough to be able to do that physically and B) she needs to practice it a bunch before facing a batter. Practicing this technique is very important. My daughter catches for her pitcher almost every week and is practicing this technique to get it ingrained in her..muscle memory and so forth.For those who will continue to put the hand behind the shinguard, I offer you an alternative that I learned at a clinic a couple years ago. Have the catcher put her thumb in the crease between her thigh and her stomach (thumb would be pointing across to the other side of the hip), and have the other 4 fingers point down at the ground. This doesn’t help or hinder any throws, but it lessens the distance the hand has to go to get behind the glove on a block. So for throws it is the same, but it significantly helps the time when blocking. And when doing this, it keeps the thumb, hand and elbows safe.
Mike, the best measure, and the one the colleges use, is pop-to-pop time — the time from when the ball hits the catcher’s glove to the time it hits the receiving fielder’s glove. That’s probably the best way to measure whether the transfer has improved. Have her do it the old way a few times and time it, then do it the new way. If the time improves, problem solved. If not, then it’s a matter of preference. It’s also a lot easier to time!Everything has a trade-off of course. When I try using one hand versus two hands, I feel I can move the glove faster over a wider range by using a one-handed technique. If the catcher receives the ball dead center, the transfer may be faster with two hands. If it’s off to the right, or especially to the left, it may not be any faster, and the glove movement might be slower — or the glove will move and the hand will not, leaving the hand unprotected. In any case, be sure to check off-line transfer to make sure it’s happening efficiently too. Or else make sure your pitchers can hit their spots!