Private Baseball Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

For 1,742 games, one of the game’s best-ever catchers set up behind home plate, looked out on his pitcher and every other player on the field, and took control of the action. And here, in one quote, he has summed up quite nicely baseball’s most demanding position.

Also known as The Little General, Bench was a two-time National League MVP, 14-time NL All-Star, and 10-time Gold Glove winner. And, just like every other player to put on the catcher’s gear, he was tasked with directing his troops.

That’s the thing about being a good catcher: It includes so much more than simply calling and receiving pitches. It’s definitely the most physically demanding position in the game; it involves an exceptional amount of athletic and “baseball” ability, and it calls for the intelligence and leadership one would expect from their commander in battle.

Key Traits
Catcher may not be the most glamorous position, but the secret reality is that it is perhaps the most influential position, even more than pitcher.

The attributes one must possess in order to keep things under control for nine innings -- while squatting down in the dirt, in the heat, in the batter’s box where all the critical action takes place -- include skill, smarts, and selflessness, in equal measure.

Within these three important categories we can think of at least nine areas where young players should focus -- once they’ve decided they have the toughness it takes to become the next Little General, or Pudge, or Yadi, or Buster.

Perhaps toughness isn’t exactly a skill. Nor, probably, is durability. But both are integral to being a good catcher, as are the following tools and talents:

1.)Agility - Let.Nothing.Past.You. This very well could be a mantra for all catchers to repeat to themselves on game day, and being able to pounce like a cat from a crouching position is crucial to keeping every ball in front of you.

2.)Arm strength - Want to make a name for yourself? Be the guy whom baserunners respect -- or even fear -- because of your accurate, bazooka arm. In the long term, keeping runners honest is as good as mowing them down.

3.)Communication - The others up the middle may think they’re in charge, but the catcher’s the one directing the defense, hollering “Two Outs!” when the time is right, and advising his pitcher both on the mound and between innings.

Handling hurlers’ sometimes fragile psyches means catchers must be part coach, part counsellor -- and part charmer, like when dealing with pitchers’ arch nemeses, home plate umpires. On top of all that, there’s the situational awareness of the offense and defense that catchers must have to properly manage the game.

1.)Guiding the pitcher - Most importantly, this boils down to using your powers of persuasion to keep your pitchers’ confidence up from pitch to pitch, inning to inning, game to game, especially in those dog days of summer.

2.)Working the umpire - Making the home plate umpire your best buddy can work wonders. By showing him professional respect -- for example, by calling for time after he takes a foul ball to the foot -- you can gain an edge when it comes to things like pitches off the edge.

3.)Knowing the score - Obviously, the catcher knows which team is winning and losing according to the Jumbotron, but they also have to know in a figurative sense what’s going on with everything -- defensive adjustments, hitters’ counts, how many outs there are, who’s up next, baserunners’ tendencies, batters’ tendencies, and on and on...

Unlike every other player on the diamond, catchers have to hunch down awkwardly, hustle on nearly every play, and wear a veritable suit of armor to protect themselves from contusions, concussions, collisions, and high-velocity projectiles aimed in their direction. Catchers are the ultimate “team-first” competitors.

1.)Modesty - As we all know, pitchers are the ones who get the glory when they strike out the side to clinch that playoff berth, but well-oriented catchers understand that’s just the way it is, without caring they’re not receiving the acclaim.

2.)Positivity - Even when times are tough, the catcher has to remain the steadying, positive force on the field and in the dugout. Leading by example, being vocal, and always working hard are the ways to do it.

3.)Selectivity - Most catchers have the impulse to throw the ball whenever they’re being challenged by baserunners -- strong-armed ones in particular. Their cannon shots down to second base and snap throws to first and third are exciting potential game changers, but it’s sometimes best to hold the ball and let the pitcher and defense do the job.

Becoming a Catcher
If you watch the major leagues or college baseball, or even high school games, you’ll observe certain traits in the guys behind home plate. At some point, probably after Little League, they decided that becoming a catcher was what they wanted to do, and they assumed the role.

And assuming that role requires lots of hard work -- as one would expect from a position with so many responsibilities that does so many things on the baseball field. When it’s time for your budding backstop to put on the catcher’s gear, Rick Strickland Baseball has the offseason programs for you.

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