In today’s blog post, I continue to talk more about catcher conditioning. We are going to talk specifically about defending base line bunts (the ball that is bunted down the first base line and how the catcher should respond for maximum positive results), as well as more on how the catcher should respond to pop-ups.
Catcher Conditioning: Defending Base Line Bunts and Pop-ups
Base Line Bunts
This particular play creates a problem because we not only have the ball next to the line, but we have a base runner. And as long as the base runner’s in the three-foot parameters, if we strike them with the ball, they’re safe. So we want to make sure on this play that we get away from the base line so we have a clear shot to throw the ball to first base.
What our catchers do on this play is they come to the ball and they break down. When they do their shuffle, they jump back away from the base line to carry them away from the runner so now they can have a clear throw to first base.
Let’s take some time and talk about pop-ups. Again, this is something that’s going to happen in a ballgame. It’s something that you want your catcher to be efficient at, so you need to take time during practice and do a series of pop-ups with them and talk about a few basic techniques that are very important.
Number 1: She needs to pick up the ball as fast as she can. So again, we’re looking at using a jump turn. The catcher’s in a down position and the ball is popped up. The catcher needs to grab her mask, get it off her face quickly, and now she’s got to turn and look up for the ball. She’s already going to have a general idea of where the ball is to begin with because she’s going to see it come off the bat. It’s going to come up left, it’s going to come off right, and so forth. So she will take her mask, pull it, do a jump turn, look up in the air, and see if she can find that ball.
Number 2: Now this is a very important part that comes into play next – the mask. The catcher takes her mask off, she turns, she finds the ball. Once she finds the ball, she needs to get rid of her mask. So she takes her mask and she throws it away opposite where the ball is. What a lot of catchers do is when they grab their face mask and pull it off, they just release it and throw it. They throw it right off their head. Now, the mask is laying somewhere around their feet close to them. When they move to the ball, they can trip over it. You do not want this to happen. You control your mask. You pull it off your face and you hold onto it. Once you find the ball, you get rid of it, you move to the ball, and you make the play.
Number 3: When you field the ball, you want to field the ball above your head. You do not want to basket-catch a pop-up with a catcher. Anytime your glove is below your eyes, you will not watch the ball travel past your eyes. So the glove always comes up above the eyes so you can see the ball and the glove.
Number 4: The big thing you’ve got to worry about on pop-ups is the fence. When the ball is up and it’s near the fence, you’ve got to let your catcher know she needs to hustle and get back to the fence to make the play. If she drifts to the ball and she starts worrying about that fence, chances are she’s not going to make the play. So you’ve got to eliminate the fence from their play. Anytime the ball is hit deep and she thinks it’s going to be close to the fence, she has to hustle, run all the way to the fence, find it, come off that fence, and make the play.
For more great catcher conditioning drills, tips and techniques, be sure to check out my “5 Free Softball Coaching Videos from 11 Time NCAA Champ Sue Enquist”! Sue will take you through more great tips on catcher conditioning for fielding and defense! And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, where I will share more great softball fielding ideas and suggestions, and where you can talk to other coaches and players about other important catcher conditioning and practices!