Week Two: Blocking the baseball
The foundation for week two is everything that was covered in week one, and begins with getting our catchers into a good position. While blocking the baseball may appear to be pretty straight forward, it may be the most difficult thing to do in the game. The unnatural movement of throwing oneself in front of a baseball that is often moving very quickly is not something that we can teach in a single hour. Blocking needs to be drilled over and over again. It needs to be practiced until it becomes second nature. Read the ball in the dirt, glove goes down, chin tucks, and body follows, gaining ground towards the anticipated spot of the ball. Hours of repetition are what truly make great blockers.
Salvador Perez here breaks down his approach to blocking. As you can see Perez uses his glove as the first part to the movement. Glove goes down first followed by the rest of the body. Also notice how he works forward to the ball. We like to have our guys work forward towards the ball as opposed to kicking back our legs, and moving backwards. Moving towards the ball gives us a few advantages.
1. Getting the short hop (this keeps the ball in the middle of the chest pad, limiting its bounce)
2. Helps push the baseball in the right direction
3. Creates less opportunity for a bad hop
4. Helps ups block pitches off the plate
The "Catcher's Horseshoe" is the way we describe how our catchers move to block on pitches off the black and further away from the plate. It helps us direct the ball back towards the plate. in the graphic below we can see the Catcher's Horseshoe and the direction a blocked ball should go.
In the image above, each baseball represents a point on the horseshoe, and the arrow shows the way a blocked ball will bounce off the center of the catchers chest pad.
There are four essential parts to the blocking position. Glove down, chin tucked, chest angled down, and body behind the ball. If we can accomplish all four of those after seeing the ball will be in the dirt, we will be very successful at blocking. Here we can see all four elements coming together. The catcher is only as good as their setup. Catchers need to be in a good stance to be able to block. Catchers most likely will be in a secondary stance, and anticipating a ball in the dirt on something other than a fastball. While we would love for our catchers to block fastballs, it is unrealistic for us to ask our catchers to block all fastballs in the dirt. We can anticipate the other pitches in the dirt, but to anticipate a fastball is much more difficult.
1. Dry block ladder (Work forward dry blocking without baseballs)
2. No hands block (Catcher blocks with hands behind the back)
3. Glove down blocks (Catcher starts with glove down)
4. Regular blocking
5. Consecutive blocks (block, get up, block, get up, and so on)
6. Stud (Mix of blocks and receiving throws)
Be sure to follow us on Instagram @muggeobaseball to see videos of these drills in action.
Don't forget to check back in next week as we cover Throwing for catchers!