What Should A 10 Year Old Practice To Play Catcher In Little League?

This is my second article about what a Little League catcher needs to practice.  If you have not read the first article, please go to What Should An 8 Year Old Practice To Play Catcher In Little League? before continuing.  Once they have mastered those concepts, they will be ready to move on.  At this age, it is important to work on the footwork, as that will help them with everything else they will learn.  Then they should work on blocking more pitches, including those that are to their left and right.  Another new element for them in this age division is the fact that the runners can run, either stealing bases or advancing when a catcher cannot handle a pitch.  This gives the catcher an opportunity to throw more runners out.  Finally, the catchers will need to work on making plays when the ball is hit.

A catcher’s footwork is essential to their success.  A catcher who has good feet can get to more wild pitches, throw more runners out, and get to more balls in time to make the out.  This footwork starts with the squat.  The feet should be about shoulder width apart.  The catcher should be on their toes and balanced both left/right and front/back.  Now the catcher is in a good solid starting position for any movement they will need to make.

The first footwork drill that they should master is a small hop to the left and right.  They should try to move an entire body width without standing up.  The goal is to move quickly to one side or the other and stay low enough to block a ball in the dirt.  It is important to be able to do this without crossing one leg behind the other, which would cause the catcher to trip or stumble.

Then next footwork drill is going from a squat to a throwing position.  This involves going from a squat where the feet are to the left and right to standing with the right foot behind and the left foot in front.  Most of the catcher’s weight should be on their right foot, ready to step forward with the left to complete the throw.  It is very important to be able to do this quickly.  The quicker the catcher can be in a throwing position, the more runners they will be able to throw out.

Now that the catcher’s footwork is getting better, they are ready for some more difficult pitches to block.  The balls should be thrown just off the plate where it will bounce before it gets to the catcher.  The catcher will need to hop to the side and then block the pitch.  They will need to concentrate on staying low and keeping their glove down and between their legs.  When done right, the catcher will end up in the same position they do when the pitch is in the dirt over the plate.

The next step for catchers is to be able to throw to the bases.  We will not worry about first base now, as that is not a throw that many catcher’s make.  The most common base for a catcher to throw to is to second base.  Throwing to second involves the footwork that we already worked on.  The catcher needs to hop straight up, with the feet moving into throwing position.  From this position, the catcher should be able to get a strong throw off.  They should work on strong accurate throws.  The throw needs to go to second base and not the fielder, as the fielder is usually moving when the throw is made.

The other common throw for a catcher is to third base.  If there is a left-handed batter, the throw is relatively easy, as the catcher can just stand up and step towards third base.  However, if there is a right-handed batter, the batter is in the way.  In this case, the catcher needs to move to the left in order to clear the batter.  Once that is done, the catcher should be able to throw to third.  Once again, it is important to throw to the base and not to the  fielder.

So far, the catchers have been working on what happens when a pitch gets to them.  Now let’s look at what happens when the batter makes contact.  There are three main plays that a catcher needs to practice.  The first is a foul popup.  Then they should practice covering bunts.  And finally, they need to learn about covering home during a close play at the plate.
Foul popups are very tricky, especially the ones directly behind the plate.  They tend to move back towards the field.  The best way for a catcher to field these is to turn around and try to keep the ball in front of them.  If the catcher over runs the ball, they will be forced to back peddle in order to catch the ball.  It will take a while to get used to just how far the ball will drift.  On top of that, it is hard to replicate the movement during drills.  The drifting comes from how the bat hits the ball when it is pitched.

Bunt coverage is another important aspect of catching.  Catchers need to be able to pounce on the ball and deliver a strong throw to first base.  The best way to do this is not to run straight to the ball, but rather take a route where the catcher is going towards first base when they get to the ball.  That way, when the catcher picks up the ball, all of their momentum is heading towards where they are throwing.

One of the most dangerous plays for a catcher is a close play at the plate.  It is very important to be in the proper position during this play.  The catcher should be in front of the plate while waiting for the throw.  This gives the runner the whole plate to aim for and they will not have to make contact in order to score.  Once the catcher has caught the ball, they should start moving to block the plate so they can apply the tag before the runner scores.  It is very important that the catcher has their feet on the ground when they do, just in case the runner runs into them.  That way, the catcher would fall backwards, but their feet will not be caught under them.  Even though running into catchers is not allowed at this level, it will happen.  If the catcher blocks the plate properly, the runner will not see any of the plate.  And if the catcher blocks the plate late, the runner may not have time to change what they were going to do.

So to sum up, 10 year old catchers need to work on three groups of drills.  The first is footwork, which the other two build on.  The second is making throws to second base and third base.  The last group is making plays when the ball is hit, including foul popups, bunts, and close plays at the plate.  A 10 year old catcher that can do all of these things will be a standout catcher for years to come.

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