Product review: A Coach’s Guide to Training Catchers DVD
Ok, I will admit I am a little behind the times on this one. A couple of years ago (at least I think it was a couple of years ago) I received a complementary copy of a video called A Coach’s Guide to Training Catchers from Dave Weaver, owner and head instructor of the New England Catching Camp.
I sat down to watch it then without realizing how long it was. I didn’t have enough time to complete it so I stopped it and set it aside, meaning to come back to it. But then life happened, and I didn’t get back to it. Until recently, that is. A change in my work schedule has me on a train three days a week, which gave me plenty of time to give it a look.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource for training catchers, this is it. The DVD is 2 hours and 40 minutes long (more on that later), and covers everything from stances to receiving the ball to blocking to fielding bunts to throwing out runners. It appears to be shot during one of Coach Weaver’s camps, so the kids demonstrating are not necessarily the “best of the best,” hand-picked athletes but instead regular players. Some of them may indeed be excellent catchers, but it doesn’t appear that the video was skewed toward it like so many are. Instead, their skills are the results of training, making what’s shown more relatable to the bulk of the people toward whom the video is aimed.
I liked many of the techniques demonstrated by Coach Weaver. A good example is his take on displaying the ball for an umpire, aka framing the pitch. For many people, framing means catching the ball and then pulling it in toward the plate or making some other sort of move that is likely insulting to the umpire’s intelligence. Coach Weaver shows it as catching the part of the ball that’s furthest away from the plate, i.e. if the pitch is high, catch the top half of the ball.
The stances and blocking are pretty much the same as what I teach, so of course I like those as well. Catchers make their bones through their ability to block balls in the dirt, especially with a runner on third. All too often catchers want to “catch” those balls, which leads to disaster when the ball takes a bad hop and gets away. Coach Weaver shows how blocking the ball keeps it close, so runners (especially those on third) stay put. It takes some work to get catchers trained to let the ball hit their gear instead of trying to get it with their gloves, but it will definitely help you win a few more games.
One technique he advocates that I am not a fan of is having the throwing hand in a closed fist behind the glove with runners on base. His take is that it creates a faster transfer of the ball from the glove to the throwing hand. Honestly, I’m not convinced of that. And that comes from an ex-catcher who used to keep his throwing hand behind his glove at all times, because that’s how old I am. The Johnny Bench hand behind the shinguard didn’t come in until after I was pretty close to done. That being said, I wouldn’t stop a catcher from doing it if she’s comfortable. I’m just not sure it’s necessary. I’d need to see some hard numbers to convince me it’s the way to go.
The one thing I found as a negative to the video was it seemed a little ponderous to me. One of the reasons it runs 2 hours and 40 minutes is Coach Weaver has several kids, male and female, demonstrate the techniques. In a live setting it’s probably not a problem. On video it can feel like it’s taking forever. I actually found myself running it a 2X speed or more, which give Coach Weaver a bit of a chipmunk sound to his voice but speeds things along.
Here again, I will note that I’ve been teaching catchers for a while so a lot of the information wasn’t new to me. That may have colored my thinking as I watched it. If you’re coming at it new, all the repetition may be necessary so you can grasp the concepts. On the other hand, it’s video. If you need to see it again you can just run it back as many times as you want. A little judicious editing would be appealing in my book. Coach Weaver says he’s coming out with a new video soon, so perhaps he will incorporate that suggestion (which I have made to him directly).
It is definitely worth owning, though, especially at $39.99. Parents of young catchers, or coaches who understand the value a top-notch catcher can bring to their teams, will want to invest in this video. Catchers are the backbone of your team. Be sure that backbone is strong.