Ep. #017- Todd Coburn AKA “The Catching Guy”
Join Evan and Todd Coburn AKA “The Catching Guy” as Todd shares his catching journey and provides a wealth of knowledge, tips and insight on being the best catcher, and the best ball player, you can be.
What You’ll Learn:
01:13 Todd’s journey as a Catcher- from Little League to Pro ball
02:30 Work ethic and his major transformation
18:37 How he became “The Catching Guy”
24:53 Importance of the Pitcher Catcher relationship
28:18 Todds “Big 3” for receiving
42:12 “Mitt Magic”
43:01 Characteristics of a great Catcher
45:27 On “Blocking” as the difference maker
50:14 The age catchers should start calling their own game
54:03 Pitching “by the book” and pitching “backwards”
1:07:35 Favorite Foot Quickness Drills
1:12:16 Todd’s “Big Four” for Throwing
1:16:42 Mindset and managing emotions
1:26:15 Training and Clinics for Catchers
Thank you for being here with us! Evan and the Born To Baseball Team are looking forward to celebrating your success and sharing this journey together.
If you enjoyed this episode we’d be really grateful if you’d rate the show and leave a review on Apple or wherever you’re listening here. This will help other ballplayers find the Born To Baseball Podcast and give us more chances to shout out our listeners!
Now, let’s play ball!
Read show notes here.
Born To Baseball Links:
Episode 017_TODD COBURN_THE CATCHING GUY
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Calling all ballplayers. Are you ready to take your game to the next level? Were you born to baseball? didn't bring it in. it's game time.
Hey guys, welcome to the borns baseball podcast. I'm Evan and today we have the catching guy, Todd Coburn with us. Todd was an all conference catcher at Butte junior college and went to the D 2 college world series with California Polytechnic State University. He was drafted by the Astros in 1991 and spent some time catching in the Phillies organization. He is the founder and president of the catching guy and gamer baseball. Todd, I really, really appreciate you being here today.
You bet and thanks for having me.
Can you start us off by sharing your early baseball journey through high school? Did you always love catching?
I did. I've always been a catcher from from literally practice number one. Kind of a funny story how it started I was I actually got put in the outfield at first but I was kind of hard to focus and I would watch airplanes fly by and birds fly by and the coach had a good idea said you know what we're going to make them have to focus put them behind the plates that Todd put the gear on. And I fell in love with the position immediately. And played it literally every year my entire career. All the way up in the high school. And I think I have a pretty unique story with with my experience, at least in high school baseball, getting to the point that I got to I was actually cut from the team my freshman year I wasn't very good baseball player. I love baseball. There was nowhere else I'd rather beat. I wasn't very good at it. I got cut my freshman year of high school I made the team my sophomore year, I always say that I was just kind of average Joe just average player average hitter average catcher. I did play most of the time because I was the best option that coach had. I made varsity my junior year. Super excited. Of course, I thought I was gonna be a varsity baseball player. I ended up being what they call the bullpen guy. All I did was warm up pitchers all season long. I got like 10 at bats my whole junior year. And in between my junior and senior year, I had this mindset of man. All I want to do is play baseball. I want to get a college scholarship. My dream has always been to play professional baseball. But I'm not even playing on my high school high school team. I better figure this out. And that's when work ethic kind of kicked in for me. And then in between my junior and senior year, I practiced and worked out literally every day practice so much. My parents were like, Hey, you need to take a break, take a day off. I'm like, No, I've got goals. I've got dreams. And to make a long story short, by the end of my senior season, I got drafted by the Houston Astros. So pretty, pretty unique story. But yeah, I've always been a catcher, and always loved that position. And that's kind of where it all started for me.
What was it about catching that made you fall in love with it so quickly?
I think for me, it was. Again, I started in early age. And one thing was when I put on that gear, I felt like a gladiator. I thought man, this is really cool. I look all tough in this cool gear. And then once the game started, I realized I had the whole field in front of me all eyes were on me. You know, I was able to you know, set an example for my team, I was always high energy I would I would never shut up and I just kind of fit perfectly into the position. I mean, that's, you know, communication and being loud. and energetic is a super important part of being a catcher. And just with my personality type, it just fit perfectly. So again, just being being in the action being involved in every pitch, I get bored really easily. I think that's one of my work ethic comes to this dam, always doing a camp always doing a clinic always on a podcast always doing something because I get bored really easy. And as a catcher, you're always in the action. So again, it just kind of with my personality type of fit right in.
That's great. Like you mentioned you were drafted out of high school, but you decided to go to college instead. What influenced that decision?
There was a couple things about that. Number one, I wasn't like a high draft pick where it was going to be like this life changing money. And I thought you know what, I know I can't play baseball my entire life. I better get some school done. So I wanted to go to school to get bigger, better, stronger and smarter. So it was a financial situation for the family. And also I knew I wanted to get some school done. So I knew once I got drafted at the level I did wasn't a very high draft pick, there wasn't very much money involved. I thought I need to get get some education and, and just work on, you know, work harder and work on getting drafted even higher.
It's a really mature decision too because a lot of times it's like, you get drafted especially out of high school and it's like it's a dream come true. But then it's like, you know what, let me make a smarter decision No way, in a way
No, absolutely. 100% it was a you know, again, it was basically just going to be a plane ticket they say we will sign you if you want to sign we'll get you out to spring training and what happens happen so I thought, you know what, it just makes more sense to get some school done first. Again, continue to work hard like that work ethic kicked in and just continue to do that and and see what happens and I did I got drafted 10 rounds higher than next time I got drafted. So I was drafted in 1990. drafted higher 1991. Again, it was another situation where, you know, financially, it wasn't gonna make that big of a difference. For me and my family. It made more sense to get to go play an awesome awesome school live in an awesome city in San Luis Obispo, California. Play for a great program. Like you mentioned the intro get a get a chance to play in a college world series even though it's de to college world series of so called World Series. Yeah, absolutely. And we almost want it all We lost four to two in the national championship game rebels national champions. But again, get getting that school done. I fell in love with San Luis Obispo. I go back there all the time, and never would have happened if I didn't decide to go to school instead. So pretty cool.
Yes, definitely. Really, really cool. You're an all conference catcher at Butte Junior College. What would you say were one or two things that contributed to your success?
Oh, well, definitely. Again, I kind of turned myself into a baseball player in high school. So I think the thing that the biggest thing that attributed to my success and being able to be recognized all conference when I got to college was just the time I put in. And I stress this all the time of my camps and tell them the kids that I work with. I was literally you can ask all my old teammates, I was literally the first one to the field, whenever possible. Obviously, there were some instances where something for school prevented me from from doing that, or, you know, other circumstances, but I was almost always the first one to practice. In the batting cage. If there was no other teammates there, I was hitting off the tee until a teammate showed up. And then we could throw to each other. And then after practice, depending on practice winner, if I had something going on after not, then I'd be in the cage again, hitting more after so 100% think it was doing my work ethic and the time that I put in. And for me, I took a lot of pride in my performance, I wanted to be known as the best I wanted, you know, my teammates to think I was the best I wanted my opponents to think I was the best. So I took so much pride in everything that I did, that there was no no holding me back, so to speak. And I that was always a goal of mine, be the best on the team, be the best in the conference, do what I could, you know, needed to do to shine and and kind of made it happen. So I think work ethic is probably the number one most important thing.
It's a huge key success. Do you think that work ethic is something you can teach? Or does it just come with a player?
That's a great question. So I stress it all the time. And there's some players that I speak with at my events, that I think that portion of my talk goes in one ear and right out the other, and they still end up spending majority of their time playing video games, you know, vision out on the couch, whatever you want to call it, but the ones who really listen, the ones that really want to have success and want it to happen and really have a passion for the game and getting better. Those are the ones I can't tell you. You know, again, I've been doing working with kids for over 20 years now, numerous emails, messages, even phone calls, saying hey, you know, I thought my son had a good work ethic after your camp. He's taken it to a whole other level. I want to thank you so much. Not only is he doing better in baseball, but he's actually doing better in school because we understand that you don't get good grades you don't play so we got to work just as hard in the classroom as you do in the gym and on the field in the batting cage. So yeah, it's a it's something that I preach all the time. And the kids I think that really, you know, have a passion and want to make it happen. Make it happen to kids for whatever reason that you know, baseball is just something that's fun for them or they enjoy catching but it's not necessarily a goal of theirs. They might not you know, vibe with it as much as the others do. So, I've always said it that way too. If you truly want to make it happen. You'll make it happen. You'll buy in you'll put in the time and they'll do what you got to do and if not you You won't, and there's you know, maybe you just have a different passion in life. And it's not going to be baseball or catching in particular, and it is what it is. And you just do the best you can whatever it is you decide you want to be the best that
it's a decision that every player has to make, whether it's it's really their passion or just something they enjoy doing.
What was your college world series like? Like, what was that experience like?
It sounds kind of funny, but I almost expected it to happen. That team out I played on this was in 1993, we had our leftfielder sign in playing the angels organization, our centerfielder sign in played in the White Sox organization. We had I don't know if the our rightfielder our normal rightfielder ended up playing professionally. But our third baseman played with the Brewers organization, our shortstop, although he didn't play professional was probably the best shortstop I've ever played with. We had a second baseman that played professionally, we had a first baseman to play professionally. I think four of our pitchers off of that team play professionally, I play professionally. So my point is, we kind of had some swag to us. We knew we were very good. We had like 10 players off of one college team that played professionally. So we're basically a minor league team playing against a bunch of collegiate kids, you know. And I guess my first point again, what I'm getting at is, of course, we were excited. It was an amazing experience, really disappointing to not win at all, because we went into that season, with some swag knowing we were good and expecting it to happen. And we basically made it happen and then we just were that close to that ultimate goal of winning it all. So again, I'm not downplaying it at all I'm just saying it was like it wasn't Wow, we made it it was all right. We've you know we've accomplished a goal we made this happen Alex when it all kind of thing and is it was it was definitely exciting was fun. It was, you know, my first experience with with kids asking for autographs asking for batting gloves. Can I have your hat? So one of the kids at one of the games asked if they could have my cleats. But just really cool to just be in that really exciting atmosphere of really big time games and kind of, you know, lead perfectly into playing some some professional baseball.
That's your ridiculous team. You had to be awesome.
Yeah, we had a couple that were that close to making it to the big leagues. But no one off that team ended up playing the biggest we had plenty of guys who played 6789 years professionally. And we were really good team fun to play for.
You were actually drafted again, like you said, by the Astros, how did it feel to get drafted again? And how did you get your name kind of out in the scouting community? Was it like showcases? Or was it a coach who advocated for you?
You know, back in back in my day, there wasn't very many showcases there wasn't a lot of travel. It was just, you know, right place right time. You got to you got to shine, so to speak in front of the right people. So back in high school just to kind of lead into this. Like I said, I was I was, I don't say I'm a nobody. That sounds pretty harsh. But I wasn't known in northern Nevada. In high school because my junior year I never played I played 10 games. So in between my junior and senior year, I told you I worked out so much and worked out so hard. And I think it's important understand that confidence, in my opinion is like the number one most important thing. To be an athlete, you have to have confidence in your abilities. You have to have that swag if you want to succeed. What confidence comes from practice comes from reps I practice so much I went into my senior year, both catching and hitting like on the hitting side of things. It didn't matter what that pitcher was going to throw it to me Didn't matter how hard he threw. I didn't care. I knew I prepared so well that I was going to succeed. So true story, my first two games in my senior season, while the first game I was three for three with two home runs and a triple. Wow, I set my second game I was three for three with three home runs. So I had Yeah, I was five home runs six or six with five home runs in my first two games as a senior just went in with this. This confident swag attitude. I don't care what you throw me. I'm going to smash it. Well, that second. Yeah, that second game in particular. There was some scouts in the stands to watch the opposing teams pitcher. The pitcher was a prospect. And I just happen to have a three for three with free home run game and I actually think I threw two guys out catching. So the scout started to take notice and who's this kid who is this guy and so I had to start filling out Information cards for the scouts. And they started to come out to my games after that. So it was one again, one of those right place right time. And I had amazing game in front of some scouts. And that kind of carried over into going into Junior College, where I made a name for myself. And so the scout started to come out and I had a pretty pretty darn good first season, we had a really good team. My first year Butte went to the playoffs, were 19, and one in league only lost one game really, really stacked. We had a rightfielder who play professionally, a pitcher, you play professionally. So we just we just again, just got has some good games in front of the right people. And, and again, that's how I was able to get drafted.
A lot of times, it's just like, being at the right place at the right time.
was it any different playing pro ball than college baseball, like did the game speed up for you.
So every level that I played on, hitting was always a challenge for me even after I just told you what a great couple games I had there, I had five home runs in my first two games, I hit two more the rest of the season. That's kind of a little side story to that. Hitting was always a challenge for me. So like I've added about 360, my senior in high school about 310 my first year college just below 300. My second year, and my average continue to go down as the pitching got better and better. So I guess my point is, by the time I got the professional baseball, those pitchers are pretty darn good, right. And so I had some respectable seasons, I've added 261 year to add another year, which is totally respectable numbers. But I really started to get overmatched with not necessarily the fastball is I could always hit the fastball is pretty good. But those pitchers are starting to have the really good sliders and the really good curveballs. And so the average continue to go down. So I guess to answer your question, defensively, I feel like I could catch and throw with the best of them. I was actually what they call utility guy, which I'm sure you're aware of. And I ended up playing a lot of third base first base. I've even played a little bit outfield, so I was athletic enough, lucky enough to be athletic enough to play multiple positions. So on the defensive side of things, I felt like I had, you know, Bigley tools. But the pitching man, it kept getting better and better and better. And my average kept going down, down, down. And I was what they call a perfectionist. And if I didn't, didn't do well, I get pretty frustrated with myself. That's why I stress so much now in my events, the importance of the mental game. And, you know, really got to practice controlling your emotions and understanding that baseball is a game of failure. And you have to learn to deal with those failures and that kind of stuff. So again, to answer your question that the game didn't necessarily speed up just the pitching got better and better pitching made me fail more often and more failure got me frustrated. And yeah, it was a really, really cool experience. It was always my ultimate goal and dream pretty disappointed when I stopped playing. But I do love what I do now and getting to coach kids and tell them my story. So
hey, I mean, first of all, hitting hard hitting.
No, I say it all the time. You got to you got to learn to control your emotions, if your emotions start to control you. baseballs is a game that, you know, if you try and try and play the game mad and over swing and overthrow. It's it tends to mess everything up. So you have to learn to control those emotions. Stay calm, stay level headed. It's super, super important. maybe more importantly, than the physical side.
How did you become the catching guy?
Ah, great question. So I did. Once I was done playing, I got into coaching. I coached a couple different high schools, couple different junior colleges, I was actually coaching at Cal Poly as their graduate assistant while I was getting my master's degree. And way back in 2000, year 2000 Excuse me, I got into doing some lessons with some kids and working some baseball camps. And although I thought I wanted to be a collegiate coach, the second I started working with kids, I was like, wow, this is exactly where I need to be. You know, having a positive impact on kids lives was really impactful for me as well. Just seeing when, you know, teaching a young player, whether it's hitting, catching, pitching, whatever, and they get it and they succeed and they start to have some more success was amazing for me. So I've been doing that ever since. So I started to run my own camps, way back in 2006. And I did all around camps, hitting infield outfield catching, you know, bass running everything. I'd done one of my camps. This was the fall of 2016 I think it was maybe 17 and I sat down in my office after camp I'm definitely not bored with it. I loved what I did. But and not burnt out. But I just decided right there on the spot, I need to make a I need to make a change. Every time at all my camps when I teach catching my energy level picks up, I'm more excited about teaching it, have the most fun teaching it and looked on the social media. trying to think of a name of something just to teach catching. I typed in the catching guy, I thought to myself, man, I'm just a true, passionate catching guy. I love teaching catching on the catching guy looked on social media, if anyone had the catching guy, nobody did punch it in started some pages. And there you go, I became known as a catchy guy. And it was just one of those things where I started posting some information, just teaching what I normally teach. And people started to eat it up, I guess, whether it's my teaching style, the way I word things, whatever you want to call it, people kind of vibe with it. And I went from zero followers to 10,000 followers in like a month. And yeah, now after four years, I'm well over 100,000 followers over all the different platforms and travel the country, just teaching, catching and speaking it conventions and all that kind of stuff. So kind of a funny story. But that's where it all came about. Just sit in my office one day and decided to make a change and focus on my passion and what I love teaching the most. And here we are.
Yeah, that's a pretty cool story. And I mean, just like early like finding what you're passionate about, even if you might enjoy doing but really finding what you're passionate about doing what you love and enjoy the most.
Absolutely, absolutely. I'm pretty I'm pretty lucky to be able to do what I what I love and do what I do might be able to make a living out of it. This is all I do for a living. I don't do any other side jobs. I'm just the catching guy and just get to teach, teach catching and work with kids. It's pretty cool. Kids and coaches.
Yeah, really cool. Who has been one of the most impactful people in your baseball career?
Oh, man.Well, as a player, I was lucky enough, my senior year when it all started to click for me to have a coach who had a passion for the game. He was actually a former catcher himself, you know himself he played? Actually, I don't think he played professionally. He may have played a little bit of metal maybe, maybe maybe I can't remember but I just know that he instilled his passion in me and his work ethic in me. You know, I told john like a lot of times be the first one out to practice well, he'd be in a cage with me, you know, flipping me baseballs and really working with me to get me better. His name is Ron Malcolm. Coach Malcolm is real fiery coach really intense. And he kind of helped me develop my my passion and intensity toward the game and, and really striving to be the best. So again, as a player, it was definitely coach Malcolm, way back in Little League. It sounds funny because I'm almost 50 years old now. But I still remember my little league coach, his name's Ray, Pawnee, he was the first one to decide to put the gear on me and start that passion and love the position the catcher. So if he didn't decide that day, that first practice to have me put the gear on, there's no telling if I'd end up being a catch or not, but I fell in love with it right away. So way back then it was coach, Pawnee, high school coach developed a passion for me. And then, you know, nowadays, just, I mean, there's so many great catching guys out there that I learned from every day, you know, the social media thing that we have nowadays is pretty amazing the amount of information that's out there. So there's, there's a whole bunch of guys out there that I follow. And I literally daily, every morning, I wake up and see what those guys post and learn from them. And it's been pretty cool. So I think as the catching guy, probably my biggest mentor would be Jerry Weinstein, Coach Weinstein. I don't know if you know who coach Weinstein is J dub They call him. He's been in the game for like 5060 years, he actually recruited me. He coaches sex ed Community College back when I was in high school. And I went over to his his facility for a workout. And he asked me to come play for him. And for whatever reason, it didn't work out. And I ended up at Butte College. But coach Weinstein is a mentor to a lot of us out there. Not only catching guys, but just baseball coaches, period just because of his knowledge and his his passion for teaching and willing to help and all that I have his phone number in my phone, and I can text him and ask him a question anytime. So it's pretty cool. So those are probably the three most that impacted me over my career.
And that's great. And I mean, we're, I mean, we're all lucky to have people like that in our lives to help us out when we need it.
so preparing for this interview, I reached out to a couple catchers to learn a little bit more about the position I realized like there are so many so many interesting and like important aspects when it comes to catching and just being out there and being the leader of the field and you're involved in every place, you have to get almost everything right in a way. So your team can win. So what are some of the things that you did to develop a good relationship with the pitchers that you worked with that you feel that resulted in a good outcome?
So I talked about this all the time at my events. 100%, the pitcher catcher relationship is what we call paramount to Team success, right. And I think developing the respect and trust of your pitcher, starts in bullpens and starts in practice. I think learning the personalities of each of your pitchers understanding what their best pitches, what they're really good at what they might struggle with. Are they a pitcher who you can get pretty intense with, and I just call it lighten their butts up, go out and get on pretty aggressively. And then understanding the pitches you need to go out and kind of pat them on the back a little bit. But just getting to know them personally. understanding their their pitch repertoire, what, again, what's our best pitch, what pitch do we just show every once in a while developing the trust as far as well, sometimes, obviously, coaches calling the game but if I'm calling the game, they can trust me and the fingers that I'm putting down, the pitch that I'm asking them to throw is going to successfully get that hitter out developing that kind of trust, developing their trust, and they can bounce that curveball or change up to me and they know that I'm going to block it right. So we want to throw that Chase, we call it a chase pitch, get the batter to chase. But you know, all that trust and all that respect, in my opinion comes from practice time and volken time. And if we can develop that relationship there, once we get in the game, we're just kind of in an autopilot. We're on the same wavelength so to speak. And we just go out there and do our thing and play the game. So a lot of catches, I think especially in particularly young catcher start to kind of dread bullpens, especially on those days where we have to catch four of them in a row, sometimes five of them in a row. The other catcher wasn't a practice, for whatever reason, there was no one else available. Hey, we have five guys who have to throw 2030 pitch pins, and you're the guy so you're stuck in the bullpen literally all practice long. But in my opinion, instead of dreading them, we need to see it as an opportunity for us to get better work on our skills and in receiving and blocking and footwork and everything and develop the relationship with that pitcher. So it all starts in both in time and practice time for sure.
Yeah, pitcher catcher relationships. They're they're super important from what I'm hearing right now. And from what I've heard from other catchers.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think important thing is, there should be some time, even off the field, where you're hanging out with the, you know, with the pitching staff, a lot of the pitchers and developing that personal relationship as well. Not only the baseball relationship, but even off the field is super important. That's interesting.
for players who are newer to catching, what would you say are the basics of receiving? And for more advanced catchers? What are the top one or two things that you're often correcting?
So it's funny you asked about receiving first, I think probably whoever you spoke with let you know that receiving is top priority for most catchers nowadays, just the way that the game is evolving, that position is evolving. They've been able to in the last three or four years really since I became the catch and guide, they've been able to quantify or put a number on how catches receive how they block, you know, how successful are they at different skills. And they've just found that how we receive the baseball will have more impact on a bat on an inning and on a game than anything else we do. So receiving has definitely been been prioritized, has been put at the top of the list. And in probably the last two, maybe even three years, the way we receive has changed tremendously. So one of the things they found with all the data analysis and everything that they're doing the stuff I was just mentioning, they found that the catchers that move the ball are getting significantly more strike calls. So back when I was playing and even when I first started the catching guy, I was what we call a stick guy. So stick in the pitch means minimize movement. Wherever the pitcher throws it, you get your mid behind it, you receive it and you freeze and then you let the umpire decide if there's a strike or not. Well, and I believe is probably the Dodgers who were the catalyst of this they started filming every pitch Every game at every level, and they would watch how their catcher received it. What was the location of the pitch? How did our catcher receive that pitch? Did they move did they stick did their glove turn did their arm move. And what they found was, when they the catchers received a pitch, that was a borderline pitch, it could go either way, it could be a ball or a strike. So it's just off the strike zone. It found that when their catcher received it and stuck it, they got a strike call, and my numbers aren't going to be exact, but you get the point, they got a strike call, like 11% of the time, the pitch was a ball, it was out of the strike zone, they caught it froze, but the guy still got a strike call 11% of the time. Well, they've watched again, and then the times where the catcher would catch it and move it over a little bit, they got a strike call 17% of the time, even though that's it even that's, even though that's a small percentage, it's a higher percentage, they're getting worse either getting more strike calls. So if we can get that strike call, depending on account, anytime we can get the count to two strikes, it changes everything. Even in the big leagues, the average, let's say it's a one day we catch that borderline pitch, we pushed it away from the strike zone, instead of moving it toward the strike zone, and it was called a ball. So now it's to one. Again, my numbers aren't going to be exact, but it's somewhere like to one count in the big leagues, the average is like around 300, maybe even just over 300. But if I catch that borderline pitch, and I move it toward the strike zone, and I get the protocol to strike, and now the count is one in two, the batting average drops down to around 200, if not under 200. Yeah, so if we can, yeah, absolutely. So if we can get every strike we get, especially getting those even counts and getting a getting our pitcher ahead, the chances of the batter succeeding go significantly down. So again, what they found is the catches that move the ball are getting more strikes, more strikes equals more success for the pitcher, which in turn, helps, you know makes more success for the team and more wins for the team. So it's one of those things that is often debated on social media, there was actually a talk about it and kind of you could say a debate or even maybe even call it an argument on Twitter, between catching coaches, there's some traditionalist, some that do not believe in moving the ball. But again, the numbers don't lie, the numbers are showing that catches the move the ball are getting more strike calls. So I guess my whole point, kind of get back to your question, you're asking about some some, you know, fundamentals of receiving when I teach receiving, we talked about being on time, and all our time means is as we're receiving the pitch, we want to get moving toward the strike zone. That's how we know Ron timing from it's moving away from the strike zone, we got to that pitch late. We want to manipulate the ball or manipulate the MIT college coaches call it different things. So constantly moving the ball toward the strike zone. And then we want to give the the umpire a nice consistent look both with our mid position and the movements that we make. So those are the, what I call the Big Three of receiving. And again, the biggest thing that they've come to find that helps the most is moving the ball is getting more strike calls.
Okay, and when you say giving the umpire like a consistent look and always move in glove. What do you mean by that?
So when at all possible, and I don't have my mitt with me or else I'd show you that, but I can use my hand as an example. So with my hand in this position, with my thumb aimed up, my mitt would be in a vertical position. Okay. With my thumb pointing to the side, now my mid is flat, or horizontal, we want to give the umpire a horizontal mid position look as often as possible. If we have to go vertical for any reason, we want to turn on it really quickly back to horizontal, because there's going to be more of the mitt over the plate or over the strikes on in the strike zone. So if I catch Yeah, if I receive a pitch down the middle, like this, and then the pitch is over here on the edge, and I turn my mid vertical, but I leave it there, that's a different look for the umpire, and that's telling me I'm pyre, oh, this pitch must be off the plate a little bit, he's turning his mid vertical to catch it. So the more consistently, we can make the mid look the same. Sometimes we go thumb down, and we turn it up. Sometimes we go thumb up and we turn it down. But getting your mitt looking the same. That's one aspect of giving up our consistent look is with what our mid looks like. And then also, if we every time the pitches in the strike zone, we stick it in. And every time the pitch is a little bit out of the strike zone, we move it and they'll start to pick up on that. So when they see it, they might if it by the way, if they see the move, that means we move late it should be as you're receiving it. If I catch it and then move the umpire will see it and now they're going to start to question what they saw and we might not get the strike call. So as long as we're catching it and moving it all at the same time. That's a consistent look for the umpire. And so sometimes they'll even be pitches that are already in the strike zone. We're going to move those a little bit to if it's low in the strike zone, but it's already strike but it's low. I'm going to lift it a little bit. If it's at the top of the stretch, and it's already a strike, but I'm gonna catch it move it down a little bit. It's off to the sides a little bit, so I'm constantly giving them it just a little subtle move. Sometimes we move more than others. I'm not sure how much you follow on social media, but there was a pitch last night in the Padres game that Austin Hedges caught. It was like six inches out of the strike zone. It was like four inches from the ground and he caught it and lifted it up really quick as he was catching it. And the umpire called it a strike. And everyone was going nuts on social media like this is of course they blamed it on Yeah, of course, they blamed it on the umpire this this is the worst thing ever. Was it bad umpiring? Is it really good receiving by Austin Hedges, right? moved it so quickly, and so on time. But yes, he kind of fold the umpire. But that's our job is to try and get as many strikes as possible for our pitcher to help our pitcher and team succeed. So you know, moving the ball is getting more strikeouts. So that's what I mean by consistent look is always moving a little subtle move, and get it looking the same as often as possible. Sometimes it's nearly impossible, especially in the big leagues nowadays, to have those so many pitchers going 100 miles an hour. And not only is it moving at 100 miles an hour, but it's moving at the same time. So sometimes, you know, we're catching a pitch and just try not to break our thumb or let the ball fly by so our mid position. Sometimes it can be challenging to make it look the same for them prior but when at all possible, given them giving them a consistent look what gets more strike calls.
Yeah, that makes a lot more sense. At least for me now. Yeah, there you go. So I'd like to talk to you about some like receiving techniques. For our listeners. I know you mentioned your big three. I believe you only mentioned one of them, though. So if you can mention all three, and how they kind of help you get increased strike calls.
Sure. So I actually did say all three, I just didn't say a number before I just kind of That's right, I just kind of spit all that information out just so I'll make it a little more clear. So number one on the list, the most important thing with receiving is being on time. And as I was saying, being on time, all that means is, so if say my fist is the baseball, I set my mitt here, and this is where the pitch is, I have to move my mitt over to catch it. If I get there late, my mitts gonna go like this, as I catch it, my mitts gonna be moving away from the strike zone. So to be on time, I have to get my hand behind it as quickly as possible, then the ball gets there. And if that happens, I'm able to move my mitt toward the strike zone. So again, sometimes it's impossible, you guys are throwing so hard with so much movement, it's nearly impossible to be on time every time. But when at all possible, we want to beat the ball to the spot, it's going to get our mid around it and bring it back. So if the pitch is high in the zone, maybe even just out of the zone, I have to do my best to get over the top of it, and then have my mitt moving down as I catch it. If it's down to the bottom of the zone, I want to have my mitt underneath it and moving up as I catch it. If it's on either edge, I need to get around it, or inside of it and move it back as I'm catching up. So that's what being on time means is your mid is moving toward the strike zone. And again, sometimes we move it more than others depends on Pitts location, how early were we? How late were we that kind of stuff. And also, I'll explain this to you the way we're on time. There's two components to being on time, in my opinion, what I teach number one is you have to be relaxed. A relaxed body is a quick body, if I'm really tense back there, and the pitches are away from where I'm expecting it. If my muscles are flexed and I'm tense, I'm going to move slower. If I'm relaxed, I'm going to move a lot quicker. It's just the way the body works, you get into the physiology of the body, a relaxed muscle moves your contracts faster than a tense muscle. So we want to be relaxed. So that's why if you watch baseball nowadays, you'll see so many captors pretty much all of them. There are very few instances where they hold their mitts still, most catchers most of the best anyways will show their target. And then they relaxed their hand and their hand goes all the way down and they touch the ground. Okay, so they're what they're doing is they're relaxing their hand, wrist and forearm, they're relaxing their shoulder, they're getting their mid down below the strike zone so they can move back up toward the strikes. And as they receive the pitch, they're relaxing and getting below the zone. Okay, and then another component to being on time is and this isn't always possible with pitchers your age, but you get to higher levels where the pitchers can throw it where they want, inside and low outside and low up in in up in a way down the middle. So if you have a pitcher that's able to throw it where they want, in order to be on time, it just makes sense to move my mitt into the area where I'm expecting the pitch to go. So my mid is already over there. So if I want that down in a way to a righty and then the pitcher hits there Spot my myths already there, because before the pitcher even threw it, I moved my mid into that area. So that's how we're on time we relax. And then we move our mid into the area of anticipated fits location, that's going to help us be on time and be able to move it back to the struction as we're receiving it. So again, number one on my big three is timing, we have to be on time. And it's funny because I just posted a video. This was the the beginning of this week or the end of last week. And I got into a little bit of debate with some coaches out there that are saying, You can't teach kids to do that to move the ball. But the guys in the big leagues can do it because there's so much stronger, more advanced, more experienced, in my opinion. And again, I've been working with kids for 20 years. So I can I've seen the difference I've seen it's possible, it just makes sense that we should be you can and should be teaching kids advanced techniques, and have plenty of examples out there of kids that I've worked with that are around your age, they're only 1112 years old, and they're just moving pitches, you know, and manipulating the mid and getting strike after strike, call it even at the lower level. So it's 100% possible to have kids use these advanced techniques, okay. Number two is going to be manipulate the mitt or move the mitt move the ball again, back in my day. And even more recently, like in the last few years, we used to teach stikit but they found that moving the ball gets more strikes. So we've already had a really in depth talk about that and why we move it and how we move it. So number two on my list of Big Three is moving the ball. And then number three is like we just got into depth was giving the umpire a nice consistent look. So number one, timing number two, manipulate the myth number three, give the umpire consistent like those are, in my opinion, the three most important things and receiving and some of the catching guys out there might have a little bit different philosophy or feelings on some of those and they might, you know, switch those around or something but but that's that's in you know, for the catching guy for Coach Todd that's that's in my opinion, the big three.
Yeah, well, that's really insightful. And those are some great tips I mean for for catcher's and being able to, in a way steel strikes.
There you go. Exactly. Some coaches don't like the terminology steel strikes, but I say it that way all the time. We're, I call it mid magic, when done correctly, when done correctly is like a magic trick. The umpire literally can't see it. I've actually I've actually talked to a big league umpire about that. He said they're good. They're so good at it, Todd, we can't see it. Now everyone has that centerfield camera view? So we have all the you know, dads and parents out there and coaches that see the centerfield camera view and they're like, Oh, my gosh, hedges move that 12 inches. How is the umpire calling that a strike will try and get behind a catcher on a pitch moving at 100 miles an hour. And a catcher using crept technique. They can't see it. That's why I call it magic. It's a magician. We're magicians back there.
Yeah, I like that name. Yeah, yeah. It's clever. So catching definitely is not for everyone, and is probably the toughest defensive position out there. So what are some characteristics of a young player that they should have if they want to be a great catcher?
So for young catchers, I think they're sometimes leadership that that field general mentality comes natural to some kids. But most kids that side of it, it comes over time, it comes with experience, you start to build more confidence in yourself back there. So in my opinion, for most young catchers, probably the most important quality, obviously, you need to be able to catch the ball, right, and you got it, you got to do your response back there. But the most important characteristic is physical toughness, physical and mental toughness. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable, you have to go into it understanding, you're probably going to have some pain at some point in the game, you're going to get, you're going to get hit by the ball, your legs are going to get tired from squatting, your arms going to get tired from throwing so much. Sometimes you run into the runner, you know the runners coming in to score and you're catching energy, all you're doing is turning to try and tag and just the way the play worked out. You guys run into each other. The bats flying right past you. Sometimes the batter throws the bat and it hits you. I mean, there's so many things that happened back there as a catcher that or create or cause physical pain, that it takes a really unique personality to be able to deal with that pain. So physical toughness and again, always include mental toughness, being able to, to deal with the grind of being a catcher. You know, some kids when they get tired, they're like, I'm done. I'm tired, My feet hurt. I don't want to play anymore, but as a catcher. We're like, I'm tired. My feet hurt. My head hurts. Mom's kill me. My wrist hurts from the ball. I just blocked in the dirt and I got a foul tip off my big toe. But it's the life of a catcher. So it says on my shirt, it's the life of a catcher, I'm going to deal with it, and I'm going to pound through it. I'm just going to keep going and be there for my pitcher and be there for my team. So, again, to kind of get back to your question, I think for in particular for young catchers, you have to understand it's a grind being back there. And you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and deal with the pain and toughness, you have to be physically and mentally tough to be a catcher.
So how do you train catchers at the youth level to throw their bodies in front of a hard ball and not be afraid of blocking? And what are some of the core principles when you work with your players on blocking?
So I call blocking the difference maker. And what I mean by that is everyone thinks they can be a catcher until they need to block and then once they have the block balls in the dirt, especially if they have a pitcher who's throwing hard and they're wild and they're spiking, fast balls. And the balls flying all over the place. And then you know, usually to be like, you know, I'm going to go back to the outfit I don't want to catch up, I don't want to catch. So that's kind of goes back to what we were just talking about that physical toughness with blocking? Well, I'll say it this way. human instinct says if something's flying at you, especially flying at your face, your instincts say, duck, Bob, we've moved Get out of the way this I don't want this to hit me I'm going to move. So catchers we have to go against what our instincts say and actually jump in front on purpose. So getting comfortable with the ball hitting them is super, super important. And so and actually, it's funny because at my camps, when we get to blocking day, I can tell almost immediately the kids that are not going to have much of a future catcher, because what I'll do is I get the catcher down into blocking positions. So they're down on the ground on their knees, and I talked to him about body position and their posture and where should my hands be where should my knees be? Where should my feet be and all that. And I'll literally stand right over the top of them and take a baseball and I slam it into the ground right in front of so hits the ground, and then it hits them. There's some there's some kids that just go like this. And that's it that there's let the ball hit him. And then there's some kids that go in, they start flinching and bobbing and weaving. And I explained to them, hey, you can't be moving like that, it's going to mess you're either going to miss the block, or it's going to hit you and fly off to the side. Because you're moving so much you have to get comfortable heading is so that the flinch is I call them they've got some work to do. If they're flinching, they need to get comfortable the ball hitting them and they're not going to be a catcher. It's just that this is the reality of it. Right. So again, to kind of get young catchers comfortable with the ball hitting them, we have to hit them. So I'll bounce the ball, I'll bounce the ball and make it hit him in the facemask, I'll bounce the ball, make it hit him in their chest, hit them in their arm. Sometimes it's it sounds mean, but I'll do it on purpose, I'll throw it a little bit crooked and make it hit them on their form. So you get that smack sound, they get a little steam feeling. And if their reaction is to curl up and don't want to do the drilling and more, we might have some work to do and turning them into catch are the ones that take it. They're like non good coats, go ahead, throw me another one. That's the mentality that we need. So it's actually what I call a sit and get hit series. They get down in blocking position and I'll bounce ball after ball after ball run into him hit the ground hit him in the mask and him the chest and wherever. Then we practice getting our mid position. And then we get them are they comfortable getting from their, you know, their ready position or their secondary position? Or even if it's a one knee setup, dropping down behind the ball? Are they comfortable? Are they quick and moving? Are they hesitating or they're trying to catch it instead, we just need to get them the ball hitting them. And again, sometimes I'll literally instead of bouncing it I'll go up and I'll just throw a ball right into the catcher's mask. Because if they're if they're flinching and turning, they're actually risking hurting themselves. If they look at it, sometimes sure it hits your mask and it makes your ears ring because it's a you know really hard pitch. But for the most part you don't get hurt. It has to be your the guys in the big leagues. You hear stories about foul tips in the mask and they get a concussion. They actually get concussed from the ball hitting so hard, but those balls are coming in and you know, 100 plus miles an hour. On at the youth levels. There are some definite hard pitchers. But rarely Will you see any kind of serious type of injury I got. I got hit in the mask one time in 20 years of catching and it hurt the rest of the time. I was just fine.
I like how you said like the catcher, they have to really get used to throwing your their body in front of it and being able to take those hits and say Yeah, I'm fine and stay in the game instead of curling up and I'm not a catcher. So sometimes I do almost imagined myself catching and it's like, but once I envisioned myself blocking ball. It's like ugh, I really don't really want to try this out. Yeah,
yeah, well, you're out there a shortstop and you have the body up on some ground balls, right? You have to take some off the chest body up to it and knock it down and throw them out. Sometimes you get that between off it is what it is. So you guys are doing it sometimes without gear on. So I bet you'd be just fine back there.
Thank you. So I attended your virtual pitch calling clinic. And I have to say it was it was really, really good. There was a lot of really great content. And for me, even though I don't catch, I found like even for pitcher, sometimes I do call my call the catcher calls or games, but I get the ability to shake them off. So I was wondering, at what age would be the best for your catchers to start calling their own games.
So I think my, my philosophy on this is probably the rarity, not the norm. I was lucky enough, back in my day, that coach was like, Alright, go play, go call your own game. Like he they rarely called pitches. I don't know if it was my era, or whatever it is, or my coach's philosophy, maybe they didn't quite have the understanding of it or something and just put it on me. But literally nine years old, I was already calling my own game. Now obviously, at nine years old, we don't have sliders and all kinds of breaking balls and stuff. I mean, we did throw curveballs probably earlier than we should have a lot of them back in my day. But I think right away, I think we teach the catcher's, you know, to Hey, go go call the game. And then either in between innings or after the game. As a coach, we take notes. Alright, this batter in this situation, this is what was called, and this was the outcome. And then we sit down and talk with our catcher after the fact and say, Hey, so you remember we had second and third, you threw a fastball when a changeup would have been the best pitch. And this is why because the batters reaction to this, that that just kind of teach them how to do it, and give them the freedom to call that game right away. I think it and I did mention this in the pitch con clinic. I think it maintains the tempo of the game. A lot of times a lot of times that catchers like he's got a lot going on his head or he or she has a lot going on their head. And Coach has all that stuff going on. And so sometimes there's like this lol in the game where the catcher finally looks over coach coaches doing something and then coach finally looks over and coach causes and it just slows everything down. infielders. Instead of being off on their toes and ready to go, they start to kind of want mind wander waiting for assigning a call. Okay, now, here we go. So I think it keeps the tempo of the game up. I think it helps tremendously with the pitcher catcher relationship they were talking about earlier. Yeah. And I think it actually helps tremendously with the catcher umpire relationship as well. Because we're keeping the tempo of the game up. And a lot of umpires out there. They do it for the love of the game as well. Right? And I think they respect catchers, you can call a good game and receive pitches correctly blocked balls, and they're like, I just think all of that pitch calling stuff comes can be very beneficial with all those different relationships. Obviously, it's going to help the catcher's learn, kind of develop some more game savvy and learn the game more learning about hitters learning about outcomes, learning about where the defense is set up. It was actually one of my favorite parts of being a catcher, actually, if not, the favorite part was to, you know, have bases loaded in a one run game or to run game toward the end of the game, and full that batter and get him to pop up or get them to swing and miss because of a pitch that I called. It was always so fun. And I took just as much if not more enjoyment out of getting a guy to pop up, strike out a rollover on a ball, as I did throwing a bass run around or getting a good hit. It was so such an important part of the game for me. And I think as coaches we should be teaching these catchers immediately. So by the time they get to the higher levels, they know the game they know how to set up hitters, they know how important is that pitcher catcher relationship. And they're they're good to go and dialed in, by the time they get to high school and beyond.
The earlier the better.
Absolutely, perfectly said yep.
Can you talk about what it means to pitch by the book as well as pitching backwards. And if you could give some like scenarios to support that?
Sure. So pitching by the book, like we talked about yesterday, is it's kind of a funny way to put it, but it's just the reality of it pitching by the book is almost everybody in the park knows what pitch is coming. So pitching by the book is after throwing a hard pitch, you throw a soft pitch and then if you throw a soft pitch, you throw a hard pitch. After you throw high and hard one, you go soft and low. If you throw soft and low, you go high and hard. After going soft and away you go hard in you know that it's just like it's doing something different every time mixing up that batter. And again by the book just means you know stereotypical pitch, even the batter a lot of times knows Okay, they just threw one that almost hit me They're probably going to throw a little curveball. Now, after making me move back, it's just, you know, setting up hitters in that way. And there's a lot of times in games, where you can throw by the book and get the batter out, okay? Then throwing backwards or going against the book means, you know, basically, this is the exact opposite. So, every time that pet, the battery is expecting a fastball, you throw a breaking ball, every time they're expecting a breaking ball, you throw a fastball, or anytime they're expecting such a slow pitch and speed pitch, you come with a fastball and vice versa, or after hardening, you go harden in again, after soft and away, you go soft and wagons. So that means doubling up on a pitch during the same pitch over and over again. And there are instances where we double up on a pitch with the same pitch twice. Sometimes a mess with the batter will triple up on a pitch. Every once in a while we'll quadruple up on a pitch. And if you remember in the clinic, one of the examples I showed at the end was and I can't remember the pitchers name. But he throws he threw four straight breaking balls to Kyle schwarber, a very powerful, very big powerful hitter, big time home run hitter. And after the third curveball in a row, the camera goes on the shore when he's like a little grin on his face, he's like, what is going on is that really all you're going to throw me and he's like, yeah, I'm going to throw you through another one. And then out of nowhere after four curveballs in a row, then he snuck a fastball in there. And he got him to take a really weak swing and got him out on an easy ground ball to the first baseman. So again, pitching by the book is hard in and softer way hard, high soft, and they'll soften low hard and high throwing kind of the exact opposite where you threw the pitch before pitching backwards against the book is doing the opposite of that trying to mix them up, double up on pitches, double up on locations, triple up on locations, you know, instead of like by the book is get ahead with the fastball, get them out with us speed, going backwards would be start them off with some kind of off speed pitch a changeup or a breaking ball, and then finish them off with a fastball. So that'd be backwards of what everyone is expecting. So that's what we mean. And again, you said you know, give some scenarios on when you might do that. The example I gave yesterday in the clinic is, you know, maybe the first time through the batting order, you try and just pitch by the book the entire time through all nine batters, or 10. If they have an eh, like they're doing travel ball, you just you get ahead with the fastball, and then you throw a speed to finish them off. And then the second time through the order, that same batter comes up, you throw that fastball, he remembers his last at bat. Okay, after they got a strike on the fastball, they threw me a breaking ball. So I'm going to stay back and hit this breaking ball and then I'll send you throw into the fast one. They're like, Whoa, they're late, it totally fools them. So first time through the audio pitch by the book, second time through the order you pitch backwards. And it's not always the case. I mean, like I think the example I gave you're trying to pitch by the book, and guy hits a double in the gap. And then you're like, Okay, well, that was kind of a fluke, I'm gonna pitch to this next batter by the book, and they hit a ball in the gap, like, Okay, this pitching by the book is not working, we need to start messing it up right away. So there'll be instances in games, and I was some of the examples I gave is, you know, hitters reaction to the previous pitch, success and failure, the previous pitch, what was the outcome of it. So there's different things to take into consideration, but to when we switch it up, but that's what pitching about a book or pitching backwards means,
before I went to the clinic that you held, I had no idea what pitching by the book or pitching backwards was. So that was part of it. Like just being so informative, and helping me out and almost it gave me a new approach when now next time I go out on mound, it's like, now I can use these things to help me get more hitters out.
No, that's perfectly in it. And as a pitcher on the pitching side. Obviously, as a catcher, we need to recognize this. But sometimes even as a catcher, we might miss out on something that you as the pitcher. See. Right? One of the examples I give a lot I don't think I've talked about this yesterday was Europe on the mound, you're addressing a catcher and you look at that batter. And they're standing like this. And you can just see their eyes are really big and they're frozen like a statue. They're already intimidated, right? Those guys that get in the box and had this kind of stuff going on and had this determined look on their face, like okay, now it's time to go to work. This guy's got some intensity to him. He's got some swag, he's ready to smash. Because they're frozen like a statue. Like, okay, I got this guy, the guys have the swag. We got to go to work, you know what I mean? So that's kind of stuff to look for. Even when you're out there on the mound. You know, sometimes it's before the first pitch is thrown. Sometimes a kid gets in there and he's got that swag and you throw that first fastball. And then the next time you get to the box is like oh, and his swag goes away. You know what I mean? So that's stuff that we should pick up on his catcher's, but a lot of times you might pick up on as a pitcher instead. So, again, that's why I say, in my opinion, I think the pitcher should always have the ability to shake and say no, I want Though this other pitch is something you picked up on in the guy swinging, you know, maybe you realize he's stepping out so we can beat him away. Maybe you notice he's diving in so we can get under his hands, something that I might miss, I think the pitcher can pick up on those as well. So it's always, in my opinion that the pitcher should have the ability to shake. So they have 100% confidence with they're about to throw.
Definitely. You shared that sometimes a hitters body language, after a certain pitch can determine what pitch you're going to call next. But you also mentioned like different scenarios, whether it's the hitter actually verbalizing something to the catcher or mumbling something under their breath, or if they're just like, really timid, or just super loose. So can you talk more about like, how, as a catcher, you can pick up on those type of things, and how that can affect what pitch you're gonna call?
Yeah, you know, so this probably happens a little bit at the lower levels. Honestly, I can't remember back that far on. And if I did, I'm sure it probably did here and there, but at the higher levels, especially when you have pitches that can hit their spots, pitches are getting the better arms and going with some pretty high velocity to start to get some movement on their pitches. I just know, in my experience, there were several times where we would purposely call a brushback pitch you know, a pitch inside, a moving back kind of pitch go in for a purpose is what we call it just going inside is throwing inside. But throwing for a purpose is we're trying to get a reaction out of the batter, we're trying to get them going Oh, like and literally having to move out of the way sometimes you go inside, we go a little too far inside about it turns into a gets hit in the wrong gets hit in the back, and they get to go to first base for free. And even in that instance, especially if the guy's going hard. That batter might think twice about leaning into it next time Next time, they're gonna get out of the way kind of thing because it hurt pretty good. But my point is, there were times where we were going for a purpose. And the guy would like do a back flop getting out of the way. They would turn away duck dropped their bat, and they would literally like look at me like was that on purpose? Like you guys trying to hit me? And then I knew right away we got to right where we want them. Every once in a while. You almost hit someone and they get like ultra focused and ultra intense and they still hit it really good. I've actually had a couple of brushback pitches and then a guy hit a home run. Which is like the ultimate revenge for the batter, right. But most of it most of the time, if you knock the guy down, they'll groan theyll moan, they'll, they might even turn to the catch and look at them. They might look at the pitcher, like what's going on. And now you know that they're not focused on their plan anymore. They're not focused on their task at hand. And now we can probably throw some kind of chase pitch next, throw that loan away, change it, throw that loan away, break and ball, we've got the batter all frazzled in their head thinking man, I hope this guy doesn't hit me. They're focusing on what they don't want to have happen instead of what they do want to have happen. And then we've got to write where we want them. Right. And then it doesn't always have to be a fastball inside. That's just the the best example to explain it. There's going to be times where you have a pitcher that they have a really good curveball. And I showed that Clayton Kershaw example, with bo bichette he threw that curveball to bo bichette goes a righty Kershaw's a lefty, so it's not like the pitch even came close to hitting bo, but his knees buckled and he jumped back out of the way, like whoa, and it wasn't even close to him. So you could tell right away as a catcher and I know Kershaw had the same thought like, he wants nothing to do with my hammer. Why would we not throw it again? Right? And I'm not going to throw it in a hittable spot. I'm going to throw it down and try and make him Chase and that's exactly the set them up perfectly. Funny thing is, and I think I talked about this the first session because I did two sessions of the pitch calling I didn't talk about the first time but this I didn't talk about the second time I did the first time was later in the game bo bichette to Kershaw deep. actually think he had two home runs that game but on the the home run he off Kershaw, it was off a slider his slider instead of that curve on a why they wouldn't stick with the curveball after his reaction to it. So again, those are just two really good examples of how the batter reacts to whats thrown to them will tell you exactly what to throw the next pitch double up on it or switch it up and go go with something else. But those are two good, really good examples.
So I remember when you when I attended the clinic, you talked about how if maybe the catcher gets a call, and the haters pretty frustrated with it, and then you can pick up on that as a catcher. And you see Okay, now let's make them Chase. I believe you gave an example of was it Ryan Braun?
Ryan Braun? Yeah.
And you gave an example like he was frustrated with a certain pitch, and then all of a sudden the pitcher he goes out and he throws that same pitch but for chase pitch, and since he's frustrated, he goes out to get it. What a catcher almost look up at the hitter to check that
Yeah, absolutely our eyes, our heads always on a swivel. And we need to be attentive to that kind of stuff. And this is something I think that's really important for especially young catchers to understand. It's super important for us to develop a positive relationship with the umpire. Because if we become their buddies throughout the game, if that batter disrespects the umpire, looks back at them, gives them a look like, like Braun did start arguing with them. If that umpire I'm sorry if that batter disrespects the umpire. That next pitch we could probably call a fastball for baseball is off the plate. And that umpire is going to ring up the batter, we call it doing their dance, they're going to ring up that batter because this batter just disrespected me his strikes on just went from a regular strike zone to this big, right. So we need to watch that pay attention that now if if I'm catching and I've been having bad body language, I haven't developed that relationship with the umpire. There's been pitches that I've caught that I thought were striking. He's called the ball. And I do this and I kind of drop my shoulders and I throw it back to the pitcher out of frustration and my pitchers out there acting frustrated and kind of showing up the umpire. If that's the situation, we're not going to get any calls. But if we've developed a good relationship with them, we've talked it out throughout the game we've become buddies with the umpire on a first name basis. You know we've caught up pitch we thought was a strike umpire call the ball I throw back to the pitcher I can actually kind of quietly go Bob was that low and he'll talk it out. Yeah, I had that low man. I thought that was a good pitch. No, I was low talk. Okay, okay. You're just tap talk it out with him develop that relationship. So in those instances during the game where the umpire maybe makes a bad call, or what that batter in, saw was or thought was a bad call and shows up the umpire or if the other team's coach is starting to bark at the umpire Come on blue. That's terrible call. umpires, they're human. They're going to kind of it's um, if it's the right way to sit, but they might hold the grudge a little bit and the other team's strike zone expands and we can start to work pitches off of the plate that the batter can't even reach and the umpire is going to call a strike. So yes, be very attentive to how the hitter reacts be very attentive, the hitter starts to argue with the umpire if the other team's coach is yelling at the umpire, if the team's bench is being really disrespectful and yell at the umpires, that's just going to help us out. So we need to stay positive and develop a good relationship along with a bad relationship for the other side that's going to help us out tremendously.
Definitely as an infielder myself, I know that footwork is a key component to being able to make a play and getting a good throat first. The footwork is also extremely important for catchers. What are some of the best ways that catchers can improve their mobility and improve on their footwork.
So I have my I have four of my favorite foot quickness drills and exercises that I tell my kids to do. Number one, jump rope. Jump Rope isn't just you know, it's like double dutch in the park with with, you know, friends like it's for whatever reason, there's this like, stereotypical thing about jump rope. It's like for girls or something. And hopefully I didn't come across wrong, but my point is elite level athletes, almost all do some type of jump rope training, right? I always use fighters like boxers and UFC fighters. If you ever watched those guys do jump rope. It's unbelievable. They're doing like double unders and triple unders and crossovers and swinging backwards and running in place in their feet moves so ridiculously fast. The same concepts will help catchers as well. So doing jump rope that plyometric of hitting the ground getting up hitting the ground, getting up hitting the ground and getting out the plyometric movements is going to develop the foot quickness that we need to be able to, you know, throw runners out, go out and field a bunt retrieve a ball in the dirt that we block and just get our feet moved into the position they need to be in to make the throw quickly and efficiently, right correctly and efficiently. So jump rope, I always encourage my catchers to get their own jump rope and start to jump rope regularly like three or four times a week before practice before even before a game if you have an area where you can go do it, you know, comfortably and you know, obviously not unless you're out on the field but in a bullpen or something. But it's a great warm up exercise on gets the heart pumping tremendously and it's going to get all the muscles activated in our lower body and about that foot quickness. So jump rope is number one, number two, it's called dot drill. You may have seen those black mats with five white dots on it. So if my fingers or my legs, they're on, the dots on my feet are apart, then my feet jump forward and touch the middle dot and then it spread back out so my feet are going apart together apart together apart together. I'm jumping on the dots on the ground. There Dot drill forward and back, there's Dot with a turn, you can do single foot hopping on all the dots, two foot jumps on all the dots, you know, like hopscotch type stuff on the dots. But dot drills, another great foot quickness drill, there's line drill. So we're going to choose a foul line is a, you know, the general idea, you jump from side to side over the line as fast as possible, you jump forward back over the line as fast as possible. You do like scissor switches with your feet, you can do crossover with your feet, but you're jumping over the line with little tiny, short, low to the ground jumps. Again, the idea is that the tempo is just faster, hitting the ground getting up hitting it up, picking it up picking it up. There's another one is line drill. And then finally, and I do this at most of my camps will do agility ladder. So the ladder, we lay it on the ground, and there's all the different there's literally 1000s of different variations of footwork drills you can do through an agility ladder. Some coaches hate it, some coaches love it, we definitely don't call it a speed ladder. It's not necessarily gonna make you faster. But there's definitely it's a big fancy word, but I'll explain what it means. There's a huge neuromuscular coordination component to the agility ladder. neuro means your brain and your nerves that go through your whole body muscular is obviously your muscles. neuromuscular coordination is just your brain telling your feet to do something and they do it in an efficient and coordinated manner. Right. So the more agility ladder exercises you do, you know, the, the in and out out and he shuffles and the cariocas and all that kind of stuff. The more you do those, the more coordinated you're going to be with your feet. So foot quickness is actually on my list of most important things for throwing success. And those are my four favorite exercises to help catchers and athletes develop quick feats can be jump rope, dot drill, line, drill, and agility ladder.
Yeah, those are all great tools and things for any position, any sport, really. It can help with just agility and being able to develop quick feet Really?
Yeah, no, absolutely. That's what I say it all the time. It's beneficial for all athletes. it's beneficial for all baseball players in particular catchers, middle infielders footwork around a bag and even first baseman for sure.
When it comes to throwing like to a base, what would you What do you tell your catchers to focus on when it comes to like stealing or back pick.
So for, for throwing, I have what I call my big four, I told you with receiving how my big three for throwing. Number one is going to be mindset with throwing. Okay? What I mean by mindset is two prong number one confidence in your abilities. We already had that talk about confidence. Confidence comes from reps, so practice it a lot. So if it happens in a game you've practiced so often, you're just an autopilot. And you know, you can throw that runner out. Sometimes I call it the Johnny Bench mindset. Johnny Bench is arguably one of the best catchers if not the best catcher of all time. And he had a famous quote where he said I can throw out any man alive. Like it didn't matter who how fast they were who they are, he knew in his mind, he was going to throw him out. So having that mindset is super, super important. The second component to mindset is, knowing who the good runners are. So we have a little anticipation or we're expecting them to go there's going to be runners that are what we call plus runners that they go, depending on game situation there, they can still base and then we have plus plus runners, like the Billy Hamilton's, like when they get on we pretty much know they're going to go right everyone knows they're going to go so just when we anticipate we have that mindset, we're going to react quicker and even move quicker. Second thing with throwing is you want to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. So quick hands, we call it a quick release is essential. Some coaches will actually put arm strength or quick feet ahead of quick hands, but in my experience and all the video analysis and breakdowns that I've done over the years, the catches that get rid of the ball quickly have just as much success as the catches to have strong arms. I actually always use Tony Walters for an example for this Tony is known as having some of the quickest hands and one of the most athletic catchers in baseball. His average velocity is like 79 miles an hour. It's under 80 miles an hour but his average pop his average pop time is still under a 2.0 It's a 196 at least that was his numbers last season. Right so he doesn't have a bazooka for an arm but he still has a ton of success throwing runners out because he's so quick with getting rid of it. And obviously when we get rid of it we have to put it somewhere near the back so quick hands and then our accuracy put it somewhere close or infielder can put the tag on. So number one is mindset number two is quick hands number three is quick feet game we already talked about the importance of quick feet. And then the fourth thing is going to be on strengthen mechanics. So arm strength is definitely a difference maker. We want to strike To be as quick as possible, the average release time. So release just means by the time the ball hits the mitt, and then the ball leaves the catches fingers. So from top to release, that's release time, the average is around point seven. The elites are between point five, five and point six, five. When you can focus on quick release, you'll have tons of success, but continue to work on your arm strength. And again, kind of directing this to your young listeners kind of games around your age, focus on getting rid of it quickly. But continue to do your band work and your long toss and your you know, your push ups and getting stronger. So then you've worked on the quickness, you have that valid and then you add on strength. And now you're gonna have tons of success. And I was used jt realmuto as an example that he's got one of the fastest releases, he averages about a point six. And he throws the ball harder than most in the game. His average velocity was 88 miles an hour. You have your jorge alfaro, and your Martin Maldonado. Those guys throw the ball around 90 miles an hour's real Gary Sanchez, but they're not quite as quick as JT jt has the quick hands, he's got the bazooka for an arm. That's why it's considered the best throwing Catcher in the world. He averages a 1.88 pop time when he throws it down a second because of his quick hands and his in his green arm. So that's what I tell kids to focus on when they ask about how can I have some more throwing successes, get rid of it quickly? Right work on the jump rope, the, you know, agility ladder, whatever it is, for your quick feet, continue to work on your arm strength, and you'll have tons of success.
I know you've mentioned earlier, like some characteristics that good catchers should have. So when it comes to the mindset of a catcher, would you say how much would you say is above the shoulders?
Well, you know whether regardless if you're a catcher, or whatever position you're playing, and I'm actually a perfect example this. I actually I tell stories all the time in my camp. So I have what I call coach toss final thought. And they're called lessons from a coach who should have made it as a player but did, I had on a six foot three, or rip 200 pounds, I could hit the ball 400 feet, I could throw the ball close to 100 miles an hour, I could dunk a basketball, I could do the splits, I could play first I can play third. Obviously I was a catcher put me out, but it doesn't matter. athletic ability wise, I was elite, I was very elite. What I never practiced. And what I didn't work on and was very bad at was the mental side of the game. And we touched on this a little bit earlier and one of the topics that came up where it came up, but I can't stress enough how your physical abilities. Again, whether you're a catcher, or whatever you play, your physical abilities will only get you so far in this game. It's your attitude, staying positive, even in what might be considered negative situations. Your effort and always doing your best never getting down on having a bad game and you just don't run hard. You don't you know, put your you don't stay focused, and your ability to control your emotions. Those three things are what is going to not only help you get to the next level, but stay at the next level and succeed at that level. And it's easy to keep your head up high. smile on your face, your chest bowed out, when things are going good. It's how you react when things go bad and matters. So for me personally, that first about the game, or first inning catching, if I threw a guy out, or I hit a ball in the gap or hit a home run or just hit the ball hard, I used to have a pretty good game, if I struck out popped out rolled over made an error if something bad or something went wrong early in the game, I almost always have a bad game. And that's not the way it should be. We have to learn from the failures and move on not dwell on the failures. It's such a it's a skill that has to be practiced. And it's something that I never really did. And that was like the ultimate divine demise of my career. And I became a coach at 24 years old. Because I couldn't handle the mental side of the game. No one ever really taught me No one ever had these kind of discussions with me when I was a young kid. That is, you know, just kind of let us play so and I got myself in trouble a few times. And I guess I could tell a quick personal story just as an example.
You know, there's there was plenty of instances of this early in my career, but the one that kind of ended it all for me. I struck out in a game I was playing in the Phillies organization, South Atlantic league. I struck out on a pitch that I thought I should have smashed. On the way back to the dugout, I broke my bat over my knee. I threw it in the trashcan. And I basically did that one too many times. There was player development. People there in the stands and coaches got to talk in and managers and player development and they decided they'd had enough of my attitude and that kept me from the team. I got released from my contract. draft. Because my attitude stunk. At the time, I wasn't playing very well either I was in a little bit of a slump hitting wise. And so the coaches looked at my numbers, watch my little temper tantrums, and they released me from my contract. So I guess to kind of get back to your initial question there. You know, and I can't stress enough this is whether it's a catcher or anybody, you have to learn to control your emotions. That's such an important part of the game, you say how much is between yours. You know, there's that that saying that the game is 90% mental, that is 100% accurate, you need to be able to deal with the failures of the game, it's really the difference between the big leaguers and everybody else's their work ethic. I would say it this way, when you feel like you've worked enough, work some more. And then their ability to deal with failure, you can even add in their ability to make adjustments because they're facing the best of the best if you're hitting your face in the best pitchers. If you're pitching your facing the best hitters, you need to learn to make adjustments to face the best of the best. And you have to understand that you might throw your best pitch, and they still hammer in the gap. Or you might take your best swing, and still swing and miss how you're after those failures is going to make a huge difference in in your future success.
Being able to bounce back and just being able to learn from your failures is yes, got to stay level headed.
Yes, you have to stay level headed. And I used to let myself get so frustrated. And I would just boil over to the point where I would do stupid stuff like break bats and, you know, do just do things that I shouldn't be doing. And again, it was my ultimate demise. So it's again, it's lessons from a coach, you should have made it as a player but didn't, it's great that I get to pass on these messages to kids like yourself, you know, there's something to be said about the guys who made it to the high level and being able to tell you how they did it. And then there's guys like me, that should have made it to a higher level. I mean, I played professional. So that's pretty cool in itself. But I didn't reach my ultimate goal playing in the big leagues is the lessons and things and mistakes that I made that I can pass on to kids like yourself and your listeners that that hopefully don't make the same mistakes I did and figure out how to how to make the adjustments deal with the failures and move on
so before we wrap it up can you recommend at least two current big league catchers that younger guys can really learn from just by watching?
You know what, yeah, there's a, I think the obvious one is jt realmuto. In my opinion, now he's like he was a Gold Glove winner. He does have a pretty unique receiving style, where he just kind of catches the pitch and rakes it through the zone, he doesn't really present it to the umpire, which is pretty unique to him. But he has a lot of successes in the top 10 and receiving receiving metrics, as we were just talking about, he's actually the best throwing Catcher in baseball right now. Because of his arm strength and quickness. And then he's always top 10 and blocking as well. I think he was like, top five and receiving number one and throwing in like ninth in blocking or might have been the other way around. It might have been ninth and receiving and like fifth or something like that in blocking. And I always have actually posted about this on my social media. You can learn a lot just by sitting there and watching the best of the best watching a game and see how they do they what they do. JT is kind of what they call a read catcher, there's obviously you've probably noticed that a lot of catches in the big leagues now set up on one knee is done. There's a whole bunch of benefits to setting up on one knee, in particular with receiving side of things. But it can also help with blocking although a lot of people argue that it messes up blocking, it definitely makes a little bit more challenging on lateral blocks. But one of the most common mistakes and blocking especially for young catchers is they're late getting down to their knees to block. Well, if I'm on one knee and the pitcher bounces that I'm already down. So it's going to help me be on time. And there's definitely we could talk about that for the next hour and a half. But I won't say much more about that. But to get back to your question. jt realmuto is a really good example for young catchers to watch and learn from because he does everything so well. And again, that's why he was a gold Glover. And then the other one that that actually a lot of people kind of get surprised when I say he's actually a former gold gold Glover as well, but he's not. For whatever reason he's not considered to be at this jt realmuto level or whatever. But it's Tucker Barnhart. And I think that one thing that's unique about Tucker is everyone is so focused on the one nice setups, and they'll even do it with runners on but Tucker and he'll even tell you this, he actually spoke on another podcast out there and stated this that when there's runners on base, he just does not feel comfortable getting on one knee so he stays in a traditional setup with runners on and I believe he's top three in blocking metrics in baseball, at least top five. He's really up there's one of the best blocking catchers in baseball. But in my opinion, he does everything. Well, he's really transitioned to this new receiving technique he'll set up on one knee when needed, manipulating Ball. Again, elite elite level blocker, nothing gets by that guy. And he's got some of the quickest hands as well in baseball and has a lot of throwing success. And I just like his, his approach and his mindset and his ability to work with his pitching staff. So again, and actually before I get lit up on social media about not seeing Yadi or Salvy, some of these, you know, these savvy vets that are out there. It's hard to pick, like a favorite. I love watching all those guys. Yadi has been one of my favorites forever. Salvy has been one of my favorites forever. roberto Perez is obviously always underrated for some reason, but obviously a Gold Glove winner one of the best. There's there's so many out there that you can watch. But right now, in my opinion, I use Tucker Barnhart has as an example on blocking. And then just watching how JT approaches the game? Those are two of the best to really learn from.
Yeah, I mean, two great examples. I'm not a catcher myself, but I have seen them in the success that they have. And it's it's incredible what they do.
So do you have any clinics that you're currently working on or projects that you're working on?
Yeah, you know what, so obviously, I know you're aware of this, we're all in a pretty unique situation right now, with the COVID virus thing going on. And some people right now are lucky enough to be able to play some baseball. But there's still a lot of states and cities out there and leagues that are just been shut down. And when this all started to go down in March, I was lucky enough to have filmed almost all of my drills and exercises over the past few years. And doing a lot of online stuff. So I have I literally have I don't have a catchy one. I'm sorry, I don't have a blocking one put together. But I have a throwing program out there called drop your pot. It's actually the second version. So it's called dropping pot 2.0. I have one called mitt magic for receiving out there. I have I always get asked, How can I throw the ball harder? How can I be more explosive? How can I get more endurance. So I developed a eight week strength program. That's totally doable for youth kids. So I have that on there. So all those are online programs that I have going on are on the catching guide.com. my social media pages are basically clinics almost every day, when I'm super busy, I don't get a chance to post but when I'm not, I'll post, you know, at least one sometimes two or three times a day. And I'll post the breakdowns. And you know, they're always very educational and how to help kids out. So I'm just the catching guy on all the social media platforms. And then what I've started to do is try and direct everybody to what's called the catching lab. And this is a perfect time and opportunity for everyone out there to get some online work and continue to work even when they're shut down unable to get on the field. The catching lab is is all done online. It's self paced. And we're also going to start doing a whole bunch of Facebook Lives. I know not everybody's on Facebook. But we also have zoom clinics coming up like I just did a pitch calling. We're in the process of working on doing a receiving one mitt magic will probably be the next online one that I do. We'll do a blocking one I call it be a wall. I just did a little practice one of a drop your pops. So working on throwing session all online. So all that stuff, if they follow me on my social media the catching guy, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, go to the catching guy.com. And then if for those that are on Facebook, there's I have a page that's kind of a smaller group page is called How to catch featuring the catching guy. And I'm constantly giving tips in there in that group as well. So
where is the best place that our listeners can reach you?
Yeah, the website is the catching guide calm that has all my contact info on there my email if anyone ever has a question, or you know, concern or whatever, again, my social media, join the hundreds of 100,000 followers that I have with. And again, it's on Instagram. Just search the catching guy, Twitter, the catching guy or Facebook to catch a guy and that's all my all my pages have pop up on their forum.
Well, Todd, I really, really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to share some incredible insight with the youth community.
Awesome, man. Thanks for having me. happy to help. Hopefully they find some some takeaways from our talk. Yeah, I had a blast. Thanks so much.
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