CATCHER THROWS TO THIRD BASE
Excluding the RH batter, the catcher’s throw to 3B is the simplest of the catcher’s throws. The catcher is in a position where his directional (left) side is already turned toward 3B as opposed to having to turn all the way around to throw to 1B. This is also one of the most under-taught catcher’s skills yet one that routinely comes into play.
However, if the catcher does not know, or has not mastered the mechanics of throwing to 3B, the percentage of bad throws is high. The actual throw is easy, but getting to the proper throwing position can be tricky.
At the youth level (When kids first come up to a regulation field) their percentage of success in throwing runners out at third base probably are not very high. When you couple a young catcher’s lack of arm strength with the pitcher’s lack of skill the offense often has their way.
- The Catcher must receive (catch it cleanly) the ball on balance. He must not reach out for it. He must let the ball travel and keep his butt under his shoulders.
- The catcher can cheat (lean left) a little bit, as he catches the ball, as long as the pitch is middle-in for a RHB.
- The catcher must clear the hitter as he executes his footwork. #1 Problem: either no footwork or insufficient footwork. He should never try to throw over the hitter.
- The footwork is a sideways jump-shift in which the right foot replaces the left. For most catchers, they can actually step into their left footprint with their right foot. It is a simple “right-left” that is a shuffle, not two distinct steps. Teach that the feet land almost simultaneously.
- The catcher needs to move diagonally left and forward to clear hitter, but not backward.
- He should keep the feet apart on the jump shift.
- On any pitch, the catcher should move behind the RH batter – even on a pitch slightly outside of the catcher’s right shoulder (you can’t cheat much on this pitch.)
- Throwing from in front of the batter should be done only as a last resort. It is slower and more awkward. Seldom, if ever does one see throwing in front succeed in good levels of baseball (unless the batter makes the mistake of getting out of the way). If a pitch does catch you outside, step forward with your right foot, load and throw.
- With a LH batter, the catcher can simply “jab step” and throw, or take a quick shuffle. It is such a short-quick throw that footwork is not that necessary in terms of momentum – footwork is primarily for clearing a RH batter.
- The catcher “snap-throws” to 3B. Prioritizing accuracy and quickness over power and velocity. I have found it helpful to liken the throw to the second baseman’s double play pivot, in terms of rhythm and quickness.
- As the catcher simultaneously clears the hitter with his footwork and “rakes” the ball to the throwing position, his sights turn to throwing the ball down the 3B line. The baseline can be used as a guide for throwing the ball.
- The catcher obtains his 4-seam grip during his foot work
- The catcher does not remove his mask to throw.
- The catcher does not try to frame or (stick) the pitch.
- The catcher should not aim for the base. He should visualize a string, or a vapor trail (if you like) running knee-high through the inside corner of 3B, to the outfield.
- The most common footwork problem is when the catcher moves too much toward the 3B dugout – his weight gets on his heels and he drifts left – the ball tends to sail high- right. Once his right foot lands, all momentum is directly toward 3B (stand behind him to watch.)
- The catcher only needs to clear the hitter enough to get off his throw; he does not need to clear him by a wide margin.
- Square off the corner, don’t round it.
- The catcher must get sufficient repetition to form the footwork habit. Otherwise, he will likely catch the ball flat-footed and just stand up – hoping that he can throw over the batter. This is normally a recipe for failure or injury to the batter.
- Whenever your catchers practice throws to third base put a batter in the RH box and have a pitcher throw to them.
Stealing Third Base- The catcher and pitcher should be aware of how the offense looks at stealing third base.
- They can take a 4-step lead (instead of a three step lead) at second base and can look at the catcher and try to get your signs.
- They can take two-shuffle steps once the pitcher goes into his stretch position. That already puts them 18-20 feet from the base.
- If the pitcher takes one, two or no looks and does not vary them, the runner will know the number of looks the pitcher takes before he gets to second base. The runner keys off the pitcher’s chin.
- If your pitcher is a No looker- once his hands come set the runner will break for third.
- If your pitcher is a One looker- He breaks on his chin after he has looked at you one time.
- If your pitcher is a Two looker- He breaks on his chin after the second look.
- Pitchers look but they don’t always see. They are concentrating hard on trying to make the next pitch.
- Stealing third is a timing play and everything must be perfect. So the pitcher can help prevent the steal by varying his looks and his time to the plate.
- A good base runner will take no false breaks. He will be trying to surprise the defense and not draw attention to himself.
- Best situation-steal with one out.
Things to look for:
- RH hitter at the plate is good protection.
- The infield is playing straight up with no shift toward the base by either middle infielder.
- Pitcher has a slow leg kick to the plate.
- Pitcher has good control- no pitches wild high.
A NON-CATCHING COACHING TIP:
If the batter ducks or moves out of the way, it makes the throw to 3B much easier for the catcher. Instruct your batters to STAND UP AND STAND STILL, unless they are swinging, when a teammate steals 3B while they are hitting. The batter should keep his head turned toward 3B to protect his face.