In theory, baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, hit the ball, and catch the ball. There are a lot of skills involved in each aspect of the game. Whether you are interested in getting better as a player or simply trying to have a catch in the yard, there are some fundamental baseball skills that you can practice. These skills will help you whether you are trying to catch a batted ball or one that was thrown. If you’re new to the game, here are a few tips on how to catch a baseball.
Perhaps the most essential part of catching is having the right equipment. A glove is necessary to practice catching. Though there are several drills that you can do barehanded or with a board strapped to your hand, ultimately you need to have a glove to practice catching
The glove you use to catch will depend on several factors – your age, your position, and the size of your hand. Most kids have a standard-size glove that they use. If you look on the inside of the pinky finger of the glove, you often will find the size of the glove printed or branded.
Glove Size and Positions
The size will also vary depending on the position that you are playing. A first baseman’s mitt has different webbing than an infielder’s mitt. A first baseman will often scoop throws out of the dirt, or catch errant throws, so it is designed that way. An outfielder’s mitt is usually a little longer – good for catching fly balls and occasional hard grounders. And a catcher’s mitt has a truly unique shape to it with extra padding to withstand the pounding of repeated pitches. An infielder’s mitt is usually shorter so defenders can quickly and easily grab the ball and make a throw. The type of glove a pitcher uses depends on the level you are playing. Most pitchers prefer a glove with no open webbing. This allows them to conceal the ball longer from the batter.
Another important factor in choosing a glove is which hand you throw with. A left hander’s mitt actually goes on the right hand because you are throwing with the left and catching with the right. A right hander’s glove will be the opposite. You will throw with the right and catch with the left.
When you are ready to catch, you need to get yourself in a fielding position. The best way to do this is to get your feet shoulder width apart. Balance your weight on the balls of your feet. You do not want to wait back on your heels.
Next, put a slight bend in your knees. This allows you to move in multiple directions to catch any ball thrown in your direction. You want to sit back a little into a soft squat. Keep your upper body up and facing the direction that the ball is coming from.
Hold your gloved hand out to side of your body. You glove should be flexed open and ready to receive the throw or batted ball. Some players like to pound their fist into their open mitt to test the pocket and ready themselves for the ball. Your bare hand should almost mirror your gloved hand. Lastly, your head is up and your eyes are trained on the source of the ball. You are now in the ready position to receive the ball.
Eyes on the Ball
In the same way that a hitter needs to keep their eyes on the ball, a defender needs to do the same. You watch the way the ball is released by the player throwing the ball – or the manner in which the hitter hits the ball.
Give Them a Target
If you are playing catch with a teammate, one of the best ways that you can signal that you are ready is to hold your glove up. You will hear coaches calling this a “target”, or you may ebem hear them say something like “give them a target”. What this simply means is you need to hold your glove up so they know where to throw it.
When you give a teammate a target, it is best not to hold your glove directly in front of your face. Doing so obstructs your vision and makes it difficult for you to catch anything close to you. Instead what many players will do is hold the glove chest high and out in front of their body. The bare hand again mirrors the glove and is ready to cap a catch after it is made. In some cases, defenders may field a ball (like a bunt) with their bare hand because it is moving slowly enough.
Adjust to the Ball
Adjusting to the ball can only happen if you are keeping your eye on the ball. If your stance is balanced, you are able to adjust to any ball that is thrown. If you have presented a good target for your teammate and they have an accurate throw, then you will not have to move at all.
However, sometimes even if you present a good target, the throw can go off target. When this happens, what you need to do is move with the ball. By adjusting to the ball, you will step to whatever direction it is headed. The goal is to keep the ball in front of you. This is also why it is important to stay balanced on the balls of your feet, so that you can easily move with the ball.
Pocket the Ball
When the ball nears your mitt, your goal is to catch the ball in the pocket of the mitt. This requires some coordination. As the ball hits your mitt, you want to be sure to squeeze the mitt closed so that the ball doesn’t pop back out. Your barehand is used to cover the mitt as an added protective measure.
Positioning the glove will depend on how the ball is thrown or batted towards you. If the ball is to one side of you, it could force you to backhand or forehand the ball. If it is above the belt or below the belt, that will determine the manner in which you turn the glove.
Practice, practice, practice
Catching is a skill that needs practice. Catching throws and batted baseballs can be fun. Keep your eye on the ball, offer a target, and catch it in the pocket. Play some catch and practice those skills. Good fundamentals in catching the ball can lead to good throws and outs for your team.
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