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?
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.