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Monday, May 16, 2011

Baseball Coaching Digest - The Catcher, Your PR Player

Baseball Coaching Digest - The Catcher, Your PR Player
By guest author: Nick Dixon

This is a short article explaining one of the most important roles that your catcher will play in every game. The role is that of being the team public relations representative with the umpire staff. The attitude and behavior of a catcher can have a huge effect on the attitude of the umpires. Many times what a catcher does or does not do, has an affect on how an umpire perceives the whole team and catching staff. The best way for me to help you see what I mean is to give you several examples of how bad catcher behavior can possibly adversely affect an umpires attitude during the game. I am not saying that all umpires will react negatively to what a catcher says and does. However, more times than not, bad catcher behavior will make the umpire angry and cause a negative atmosphere.

Here are a few examples of how a behavior of the catcher can affect the attitude of the umpire.:

Example #1 - It is the first inning of the game. The pitcher throws a pitch that is "border-line" that could have been called a strike or ball. The plate umpire calls the pitch a ball. The catcher gets angry. He turns and stares at the umpire and shakes his head in "disbelief" before throwing the ball back to the pitcher. The next 6 pitches are border-line also. Every one of them is called a ball also. The atmosphere is tense. The brief stare may cost his team big time.

Example # 2 - It is the 3rd inning. The catcher has had a rough time handling the wild pitcher his team has on the mound. A lot of balls have gone to the back stop. The plate umpire has gotten hit in the shins by several pitches. The umpire tells the catcher that he has got to do a better job of blocking the ball. The catcher resents the umpires comment. He makes no attempt at all to block or stop the pitches in the dirt for the rest of the inning. When a ball bounces away or goes to the back stop, the catcher makes not effort to retrieve it. The umpire has to go and get everything. As one would expect, the atmosphere is tense. The team begins to feel that the umpire is making calls against them. The truth is that they may be correct.

Example # 3 - The catcher is a great player in his own mind. He feels that he is the worlds #1 gift to baseball. He thinks that umpires are an unnecessary evil of the game. He has little or no respect for them and that fact shows in what he says and how he acts. When the umpire tries to establish a sense of rapport, the catcher is short, impolite, and disrespectful. He often does not respond to the umpires questions. When he does respond, he answers with a "huh", "yea" or "no". The umpire senses an attitude and resentment may build. The atmosphere is tense and the team may suffer later in the game should a close call have to be made. The calls that can go against them may.

Example #4 - The pitch was called a ball. Every player, coach, and fan of the team feels that the pitch should have been called a strike. The coach yells to the catcher, "Where was that pitch? Was that a strike?" The catcher yells back to the coach, "Yes it was!". Then the catcher yells at the pitcher, loud enough for everyone present to hear, "Throw that one again, he can not miss that call two times in a row!'. What do you think the umpire's reaction is going to one? Do you think these loud verbal exchanges are helping the defensive team?

I am not saying that umpires are evil people that hold a grudge or have big chips on their shoulders. What I am saying is that umpires are human. They come and umpire sometimes after a hard 8-hour shift. They just expect to be treated with respect.

6 Things Catchers Should Do to Establish a Good Rapport with the Plate Umpire:

Always answer the umpire with a "yes sir" or "no sir" when he asks a question.
Never turn toward the umpire after a call. A hard stare or glare is not going to help your team. Do not have an "attitude"!
Make sure all comments made to the pitcher and to the coach are positive in nature and do not "show up" the plate umpire.
Be a hustler. Quickly retrieve all "passed balls". Work hard and show a willingness to go above and beyond when it comes to helping keep the game running smoothly with no delays.
Never shake your head or show negative emotion to a ball or strike call or an out or safe call.
Stay down on all pitches. Make an effort to field or block every pitch. Consider it your job to protect the umpire.

I hope this article give you some insight into how a catcher behavior and attitude can help create a positive game atmosphere and develop good rapport between your team and the umpire staff.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick