Posted by Ken Krause
While it’s the pitchers who tend to get all the glory and adulation, there’s no denying that behind (or technically in front of) every great pitcher is a great catcher on the receiving end.
Catching is a tough job. Unlike other players, who spend most of their time standing around, catchers spend a good portion of every game contorted into a squat that gives them mobility while still allowing the umpire to see the bottom of the strike zone.
Catchers also wear all that gear, which not only adds weight but heat – just what you want when the temperature and humidity are both in the 90s or above. If you think a fielding mask is uncomfortable, trying wearing a full-on helmet as well as a chest protector and shinguards. They’re not called the “tools of ignorance” for nothing.
There are other downsides to it as well, which means if you’re going to be a catcher you REALLY have to want to be a catcher. It’s not the sort of thing one dabbles in.
It also takes a certain type of personality to do it well. That’s why I believe there is no one better-suited to the position than a little sister. Here are a few reasons why.
Little sisters tend to be bossy.
A great catcher will tend to have a take-charge personality. She is essentially the coach on the field, putting players into position and, since she’s the only one who can see the whole field, directing throws in live plays (among other duties).
Most of the little sisters I have known tend to have that personality trait. Growing up with older siblings they learn they have to be aggressive if they’re going to be included in group decisions. They also love conveying directions from their moms or their coaches to the others.
They tend to be sharp and direct and are used to yelling/speaking loudly in order to be heard above the noise. They also tend to do it without worrying about consequences because they know as the baby of the family their parents always have their back. All traits most coaches desire in a catcher.
Little sisters relish being annoying. If there is a little sister manual, the first page surely explains that your primary job as a little sister is to annoy all of your siblings – whether that is one or many. Little sister know how to push buttons and don’t hesitate to do so, all for their own amusement.
That’s what catchers are often expected to do as well. As a catcher you should be working on living rent-free in the head of every hitter who comes to the plate.
You want to talk to them, distract them, feed their own doubts about their abilities, exploit their fears, etc. Who is better at that than a little sister?
I have personally witnessed a little sister who is a catcher reduce her older sister to near tears during a hitting lesson with casual comments and snotty remarks. “Oh, there’s a big miss there,” she says on a swing and miss. Or big sis will hit a ball down the line and little sis will say “Foul ball,” not because she thinks it’s foul but because big sis reacts to the comment.
Another little sister catcher I know doesn’t hesitate to point out problems during her sister’s pitching lessons. She will also just give her general grief, making also sorts of negative comments to her just to make her mad.
There’s no real agenda behind it. I think she just likes the turmoil and chaos that results.
Catchers who can get opposing players to lose concentration, especially when it comes naturally to them, can be a huge asset in winning a tight game. Nothing like a catcher who can instinctively and immediately zero in on an opponent’s mental weaknesses. Little sisters are born with that ability.
Little sisters are tough. So not only are you in all that hot gear on a hot infield on a hot day, you’re the player on the field mostly to find your body being hit by the ball on a regular basis. It could be a foul tip, a ball in the dirt you’re expected to block, or even a pitch that is supposed to break right but breaks left.
Whatever the reason, if you’re lucky it hits your equipment, which still has an impact – particularly if it’s hitting your face mask. But it can also hit your arms, your hands, your legs, or other areas fairly easily.
You can also get hit by a bat if you have a bat thrower at the plate. While there aren’t supposed to be collisions at most levels anymore they do happen sometimes.
You also spend a lot of time in the dirt, squatting in it, kneeling in it, diving in it. Of course if you look between innings half the time you’ll find the catcher playing in the dirt anyway so that part probably doesn’t matter as much. But still.
Little sisters know the game. It’s not that they put in any more time studying the nuances of softball than anyone else. But after years of being dragged to their older sisters’ games, and listening to the in-game and post-game analyses of their parents, they’ve picked up a thing or two about how it’s supposed to be played.
Little sisters just seem to know that the first look should be at the lead runner instead of just automatically throwing to first. They know that if they can pick off a runner at first with two outs the runner on third won’t score.
They know that not every pitch that goes up is a rise ball and not every pitch that goes down is a drop ball. Which incidentally not only puts them ahead of many parents of pitchers and team coaches but also most softball announcers on ESPN.
They know which base to throw to when the ball is coming from the outfield and which player has priority when two fielders are going for a pop-up. Although they usually think it should be her if she is involved in the play (see point #1).
If you want someone on the field who knows the game and can direct the others, a little sister will get that job done.
A great choice
Figuring out which of your players will make the best catcher is an important decision that can affect your whole season. Finding out who the little sisters on your team are is a good place start.