Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Three ways to quicken your transitions from catching to throwing

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Infield

The photo on the right is my son about to throw a ball to a teammate in this year’s SE Pennsylvania 10u Ripken State Tournament Skills Night.  The event they are participating in was the Around-the-horn competition.  The ball starts at home plate and is thrown to third – second – first – and back to home.  Fastest time wins.  They ended up winning the event for the third year in a row even though they’ve never had the strongest arms of any of the teams involved.  The photo may give some insight as to why.

There are three things you have to do well in order to successfully transition from catching to throwing.  Regardless of what infield position you play, do these three things and your catching and throwing will improve immediately.

1. Be athletic.  It doesn’t matter what sport you play.  If your body is not in a good athletic position at the moment you are counted on to perform a task then you won’t be able to perform at your best.  This sounds obvious but it amazes me how often players do not get themselves in an athletic position when they are needed to be “athletic.”  In the photo, the player receiving the throw is doing something very basic that we teach our infielders to do every time – “Be in an athletic position BEFORE the player releases the ball.”  This means feet are apart with knees slightly bent.  The weight is on the front half (balls) of the feet.  The player’s head in between the feet and the eyes are level and still.  The receiver is ready to go in any direction depending on the throw.  He can easily adjust to a low, high, left, or right throw immediately.  Unfortunately, most young players assume every throw will be a good one which is why they have trouble adjusting to bad ones.  They waste valuable time getting their body ready to move AFTER the throw is made.  A good fielder expects to move on every throw and prepares his body to do so even before the throw is made.  

2. “Thumbs up to catch.”  I did a short video on this which you can access by clicking HERE.  I also wrote an article about it which you can access HERE.  It’s another basic skill that good infielders (mostly middle infielders) do every time the ball is thrown.  It’s part of the athletic position I mentioned above where the fielder’s hands are in this position BEFORE the ball is thrown.  The player in the photo is doing this correctly also.

3. Focus on “quick,” not “power.”  I mentioned at the beginning that my fielders in this competition have never had the best arms of any team involved over the past three years.  They obviously have been the quickest, though.  In baseball, there are times when you have the liberty to focus on powerful throws, like when you are on the mound and can take all the time you need to wind-up and throw.  In most cases as an infielder, being “quick” is more important.  This is why fielders with quick hands are typically more valuable in game-time situations than power throwers.  Showcases may focus on and measure the velocity of a throw from third to first.  Many college and pro scouts even use radar guns to rate players.  However, the radar gun only measures the speed of the ball AFTER it has been released by the player.  Quickness is measured by what the fielder’s body, hands, and feet are doing BEFORE the throw is made.  It makes no difference how hard a fielder throws to first base if it takes forever for him to transition from catching to throwing.  I’ll take the average arm with lightening quick hands and feet over the power thrower with bad hands and slow feet any day of the week.

The best thing about the three priorities above is that all three can be taught.  It makes no difference how physically gifted players are either.  Teach them to do these three things every single time they are needed to catch and throw a baseball and their performance will improve.  If your fielders don’t do them, it will not matter how naturally talented they are.  They will struggle on defense.

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