Archive for July, 2009

BC Catcher

Catcher Tony Sanchez taking the signal from the Boston College bench

I have noticed a trend of coaches relaying pitch signals to catchers. I’ve seen it at many high school games. And, I’ve seen it at almost all college games I’ve attended. While watching a Boston College game this season, I noticed BC catcher Tony Sanchez wearing something on his forearm resembling a quarterback wrist coach. Sanchez receives the sign from the bench, consults the paper taped to his arm, and then relays the sign to the pitcher. The system works for being competitive in a given game, but I wonder what sort of an effect this has on the catcher over the long term.

One of the major responsibilities of the catcher is to call the game. Know the pitcher’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Know the scouting report on the opposing hitters. Take that knowledge and orchestrate a perfect combination of pitches and locations over the course of the game that will keep the hitters off balance. This is no easy task, and one of the reasons why the catching position is the 2nd toughest on the diamond. I can see how college coaches would want to take control of this responsibility. Winning is king and their livelihood might be on the line. But…high school? Are we taking too much away from these kids?

Clemson catcher

Allowing high school catchers to call the games could accomplish three things:

1. Keep them in the game. When you’re calling a game, you constantly have to be thinking and on your toes. When you are relaying signs, you could fall into a less focused mode.

2. Teach them to think for themselves. Do we want to be sending these kids out into the real world with this notion of taking orders and being fed all the answers? I know…it’s deep. Think about it.

3. Prepare them for the next level. Maybe if catchers were allowed to call the game at the high school level they would be better catchers at the college and professional levels.

What do you think about this trend? Is it good for baseball? Is it good for the kids? Does it have anything to do with the shortage of good catchers in major league baseball? I would love to hear from some current or former high school/college catchers on this.

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You are the runner on 3rd base. The infield is drawn in. How do you give yourself the best chance to score? You will score on a hit, a sacrifice, and possibly on a passed ball/wild pitch. Another way to score that run is by breaking for home once you see the ball hit on the ground. This is commonly known as “the contact play.”

What I like about the contact play is that it puts pressure on the defense. Even with the infield playing in, breaking on contact will force the defense to make three successful plays: 1. The infielder must field the ball cleanly. 2. The infielder must make an accurate throw to the catcher and 3. The catcher must receive the ball and tag you OUT.

Keys To Executing The Contact Play
1. The third base coach should communicate the play to the runner at third base and any other runners on the bases. This is key. If there are runners on 2nd and 3rd, the runner on 2nd will be able to get a better jump if he knows the runner in front of him will be breaking for home on contact.

2. The runner on third should take as much of a lead as he can at third base and get a good secondary walking lead.

3. The runner on third should break for home the instant he sees the ball hit into the ground.

It Could Get Busted
The most common way that the contact play gets busted is when the ball is grounded back to the pitcher. In this case, it’s the runner’s job to get in a rundown long enough to allow the batter to get to 2nd base. Of course, the batter’s gotta be bustin’ down the line to make this happen as well.

Pick Your Spots
Like any baseball play, there are no hard fast rules. You need to consider the situation. How much of a risk are you willing to take given the score and timing of the game? How fast is the runner at third? How strong are the infielders? Etc.

In general, there are two situations when it makes more sense to put on the contact play:

1 OUT–With 1 out, there will be less chances to score that run so you might want to be more aggressive.

RUNNERS ON 2ND AND 3RD–Even if the play gets busted, you will still have a runner in scoring position for the next batter.

What sort of success has your team had with the contact play?

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Guest Blogger Kyle Provost breaks down the importance of taking the proper lead off third base.

leading off third base

Game Scenario

Imagine being just ninety feet away from scoring the tying run of the biggest game of the season. The game has been well played with stellar defense and great small-ball baseball strategy. The pressure mounts for the hitter, who faces a full count with the game on the line. With the pitch on the way most would argue that the game is solely on the shoulders of the hitter at the plate. As is often the case, the importance of sound baserunning is forgotten. We’ll get back to our game situation in a bit. First…some general advice on taking your lead.

Know The Situation

As a baserunner it is crucial to be aware of your role in dozens of situations. It could mean sliding to one side of second base to break up a double play or knowing the outfielder’s arm strength in case you need to advance on a fly out. Baseball seems to be full of surprises, and you need to be ready for every possible scenario.

Taking Your Lead

It is important to take all of the precautionary steps when leading off of a base, while at the same time adding some calculated risk to gain that competitive edge. Take your lead far enough to be a distraction for the pitcher, but within a hangnail’s reach of getting back on a pick-off attempt. Also, make sure you increase your lead when the pitcher commits to throwing home. This is most commonly referred to as the secondary lead. This will give you a greater chance of advancing to the next base if the situation arises to do so. A secondary lead can mean the difference of scoring from second on a single, getting home on a wild pitch or passed ball, or even increasing your chances to break up a potential double play.

Leading the Comeback Charge!!

Back to our game…The runner at third began his lead in foul territory of the baseline, which proved crucial to what was about to transpire. With the game on the line, the hitter roped a solid groundball down the third base line, hitting the runner directly in the foot. Because the runner took his lead in foul territory, the ball is considered dead on contact. The runner would have been ruled out if his feet were in fair territory.

The batter had new life, which resulted in an RBI single and an eventual win for a smart base-running squad. In the end, it was a matter of making the right decisions on the base paths that allowed for some heroics.

Bonus Tip

Once a ball hit to third has passed the runner in fair territory, the runner should move to the inside part of the base path to block the third baseman’s throwing lane to the catcher. If the ball strikes a runner on any throw, then the ball is still considered live and no outs are recorded.

Blogger Bio

Kyle has been around baseball for the past twelve years of his life as player, manager, league owner, and even radio broadcaster. Kyle played for North Middlesex High School until he began his radio career in 2002.  He was a play-by-play personality for Franklin Pierce University, Keene State University, and the New England Collegiate Baseball League in NH. After departing from NH, Kyle focused his efforts on creating one of the newest Boston-area based baseball leagues.

Along with his brother Jason Provost, Kyle formulated the Royal Rooters Baseball League, which was named after arguably the most famous Boston fans of all time. The RRBL is housed in mostly Boston suburbs including Reading, Cambridge, Wakefield, and Medford. The competitive woodbat baseball league is marketed as great baseball for weekend warriors. The league has grown to nine teams since its creation in 2005 and looks to add a tenth team in 2010.  The players come from all over New England with experienced playing backgrounds ranging from former High School standouts, to former and current Division I, II, and III studs. You can find more information on RRBL’s website at www.royalrooters-baseball.com.

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