It all starts with a good stance. This tends to be overlooked as it is boring and there aren’t exciting drills for teaching the proper stance. There is no direct measurement of whether a catcher is in a good stance or not. Pop-time gets all the attention these days probably followed by receiving/framing. These are both measurable and quantifiable. What many don’t realize though is that these all begin with proper stance.
A catcher’s success with receiving, blocking and throwing is dependent upon their stance.
CO Catchers teaches three stances for a catcher:
The first is signals stance. This is the basic stance for a catcher when relaying pitch signals to the pitcher. Some may refer to this stance as set-up. The catcher shouldn’t remain in this stance to receive the pitch due to the narrow position of the feet resulting in poor balance when receiving a pitch outside the frame of body. In signals stance the catcher’s objective is to be relaxed and protect their pitch signals from being seen by first and third base coaches. For this reason the knees won’t be wide apart and the glove is in front of our just below the left knee. Below you can see Buster Posey in signals stance. Notice the narrow feet and heels off the ground. What is a little unconventional in this picture is how wide his knees are and how low his glove is placed. We teach the knees should be more narrow (closer together) especially the right knee to shield the signs from the first base coach or runner on first. The glove should be just below the left knee or just in front of the knee (wrist resting on top of the knee) in line with the thigh.
Primary and secondary stance are the two stances from which to receive a pitch
The game situation determines which stance the catcher should be in. When there are no runners on base and less than two strikes on the batter the catcher should be in primary stance. A catcher should be in secondary stance when there are one or more runners on base or if the batter has a two-strike count. In the case of a two-strike count, if that third strike is in the dirt the catcher needs to be able to prevent that ball from getting passed them and quickly recover to retrieve the ball and make a throw to first to get the batter.
Primary is a more compact stance which provides the umpire a much more clear view of the plate but still allows the catcher the ability to shift latterly to receive those pitches outside the frame of their body. There are variations to this stance depending on the catchers hip and ankle flexibility and what is comfortable while still allowing them to move in reaction to the pitch location. Some catchers prefer their feet just wider than their hips or a slight stagger with the feet (right foot slightly further back than the left).
A good example of primary stance is Jonathan Lucroy (below). He has the ability to get very low and compact in his primary stance. This allows him to provide a better view of the pitch and where it is received to the umpire as well as more easily getting to the low pitch. There are key components of the primacy stance which are very evident in the picture of Lucroy below.
- Notice the feet are roughly hip-width and the feet (toes) are turned outward. This provides balance and a solid base allowing the catcher to shift weight from side-to-side depending on pitch location.
- It isn’t quite clear to see from this angle but his weight is rolled toward the inside of his feet which allows his knees to be more narrow.
- The heels are down (vs signals stance where heels are off the ground)
- The right (throwing) hand is hidden behind him. Most catchers hide the throwing hand in primary stance behind the ankle. This is protect the bare hand from foul tips resulting in broken fingers.
- Also difficult to see is that he is relatively square to the plate. Some catchers may stagger the feet (right foot slightly further back).
In recent years there has been a increasing frequency of catchers dropping one knee down in their set-up. This commonly done to allow the catcher to set the target very low. For youth through high school catchers we don’t recommend this when runners are on base as it makes it difficult to quickly transition into a throw and limits mobility to block balls in the dirt to either side.
Secondary stance is intended to better position the catcher to effectively block pitches in the dirt and transition quickly to throwing. This position is a higher squat (thighs roughly parallel to the ground) with the right foot set further back than the left. The throwing hand is also commonly moved out from behind the ankle to behind the glove or tucked between chest protector and thigh.
There are two components of this stance that are somewhat open to personal preference of the catcher.
- Right foot position
- The degree to which the right foot (throwing side) is staggered behind the left is a personal preference but, we believe there is a degree that is too much and too little. We teach the toes of the right foot should be in line with either the arch (instep) or heel of the left foot.
- Throwing hand position
- The matter of where to place the throwing hand is also a matter of personal preference. Many teach to place the hand (in a fist) directly behind the web of the glove. We believe this still leaves it vulnerable to foul tips as it commonly drifts away from the glove (or glove drifts away from the hand). We prefer the hand be tucked between chest protector and upper thigh (as seen above) or behind the ankle in order to protect the hand from foul tips.
We believe strongly in teaching catchers proper stance as the foundation from which all other catching skills are based.
If your catcher has not received adequate instruction regarding proper stance check with us regarding when our next Fundamentals Clinic in which we focus heavily on teaching proper stances. You can check the Events page on our web site for clinic dates.