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Softball Fielding - Position Responsabilities of Pitchers and Catchers

By Mike Lamson

A Pitcher’s Responsibilities

The pitcher must always remember that as soon as the ball is released, she becomes an infielder, and infielder that is only 38 to 35 feet from the hitter. If the pitcher is not always ready to play defense, she has a good opportunity to be injured on a hard hit line drive back at her. A good fielding pitcher will help herself win any number of games during a season. The ability to field all balls hit back up the middle will result in a lot of outs and far fewer base hits and runs scored. With runners on base which create force plays, the pitcher must rely on the catcher for assistance as to which base to throw the ball for possible force outs.

When the ball is bunted back to the pitcher or popped up back to the pitcher when attempting to bunt, the catcher again must help the pitcher in determination which base to throw to as the catcher can see the runners while the pitcher probably cannot. On balls bunted directly out in front of the plate or down the line around the 10 foot mark, it becomes a judgment as to who fields the ball. Generally, it is the fielder who gets there first. The most important aspect of this play is communication between the various players to eliminate confusion and not get in each others way. Right handed pitchers will plant the right foot and throw to first base, while left-handed pitchers will have to make a pivot to their right to throw to first base.

On bunted balls to the third base side of the field, a right-handed pitcher will field the ball, make a complete pivot to their left to throw to second base, while a left-handed pitcher will field the ball and pivot to their right for a throw to second base. On bunted balls to the first base side of the field, a right-handed pitcher will field the ball, make a pivot to their left to throw to second base, while a left-handed pitcher will field the ball and make a complete pivot to their right to throw to second base.

 

On bunted balls to the first base side of the field with a throw to third, a right-handed pitcher will field the ball and make a complete pivot to their left to throw, while a left-handed pitcher will field the ball and make a pivot to their right. On bunted balls to the third base side of the field, a right-handed pitcher will field the ball and make a complete pivot to their left to throw, while a left-handed pitcher will field and make a pivot to their right to complete the throw.

On line drives hit between the outfielders, the pitcher will have back-up responsibilities at third base or home plate depending on the location of base runners at the time of the hit.

The Catcher’s Responsibilities

The catcher has three main responsibilities:

1) Receiving the ball
2) Holding and throwing out runners
3) Calling the game.

Receiving the Ball

1) The feet should be approximately shoulder width apart with the left foot approximately two to three inches in front of the right foot. The weight will be distributed over the entire left foot and the ball of the right foot. The knees are bent so that the  butt is approximately the same height from the ground as the knees. The left elbow is relaxed and approximately directly over the left knee. The right hand is closed and is behind the right knee. The target is given with the fingers pointed upwards.

2) When receiving the ball the elbow should be kept relaxed and let the ball come to the catcher, do not reach for the ball.

3) When the pitch is a solid strike, hold the ball for half a second to give the umpire a good view of it prior to throwing back to the pitcher.

4) Frame all pitches on the edge of the strike zone. On pitches on the inside and outside corners, always catch the outside half of the ball. On high pitches, catch the top half of the ball and on low pitches, catch the bottom half of the ball. Following the catch, bend the wrist inward so the ball is always on the inside of the mitt. Do not remove the arm or try to slide the ball back towards the center of the plate as the umpire will start to become upset and will start to penalize the pitcher. For pitches inside or outside, allow the body to shift a little in the proper direction without moving the feet to allow the body to get in front of the pitch.

5) Blocking is an absolute for a catcher. On pitches in the dirt, but over the plate, drop the right knee to the ground with the upper body tilted slightly forward and both hands facing palms out blocking the hole between the right knee and the left foot. On pitches in the dirt outside the strike zone, step out with the right foot and let the left leg trail with the knee close to the ground. Be certain the upper body is tilted slightly forward and turned in approximately 45 degrees towards fair territory. Both hands should have the palms out with the fingers facing downward completely blocking the space between the right foot and the left knee. On pitches in the dirt inside the strike zone, step out with the left foot and let the right leg trail with the knee close to the ground. Be certain the upper body is tilted slightly forward and turned in approximately 45 degrees towards fair territory. Both hands should have the palms out with the fingers facing downward completely blocking the space between the left foot and the right knee. The catcher must anticipate that every pitched ball will be in the dirt and must be prepared for it. The catcher must try to beat the ball to its destination i.e. get to the ground before the ball does. Always remember that the catcher is trying to block the ball, not catch it.

Holding and Throwing Out Runners

1) The catcher must consider every runner to be a base stealer. Always be thinking and try to anticipate when a runner may be stealing. Get into the habit of making all throws from the right ear.

2) With a runner stealing second base, use a jump turn to line the left shoulder to second base, bring the ball to just above the right ear with the glove and throw from that position without taking a long stride. When making the jump turn the right foot and leg should be directly under the catcher’s body, and the throw should go directly through the pitchers head.

3) There are two methods for picking runners off first base. For the straight pick off the catcher will make a jump turn lining the left shoulder up with first base and the right foot and leg directly under them. The ball will be brought to the right ear with the glove and the throw made from this position. The throw should be made to the front corner of the base on the fair territory side. For the pick off with a pitch out, the catcher will step to the right and raise up as the pitch is being released taking the throw approximately chest high, making a pivot on the ball of the right foot and throwing from the right ear to a spot at the front corner of the base on the fair territory side.

4) When attempting a pick off or throwing a stealing runner out at third base the location of the batter in the box and the location of the pitch must be considered. With the batter standing normal or away from the plate and the pitch center to outside the catcher can step directly forward to make the throw to third base. With the batter close to the plate and the pitch center to inside the catcher will use a backward crossover step to throw to third base. When attempting to throw a stealing runner out the throw will be on the fair territory side of the base. When a runner is stranded between bases the catcher will charge the runner at a sprint and force the runner to commit to one base or the other and then make the throw to get the out.

5) Force plays at the plate: The catcher will take a position with the right foot at the front edge of the plate and the left foot in fair territory. Catch the ball with both hands as a middle infielder would when turning a double play. Immediately after catching the ball, get off the plate to avoid the runner. If it is a double play situation, make a jump turn to a position approximately three feet in front of home plate with the left shoulder lined up towards first base and make the throw to first base keeping the ball in fair territory.

6) Tag plays at the plate: Always anticipate when the situation calls for the possibility of such a play. Take a position directly in front of the plate to await the throw. Do not step to the ball until you know exactly where it is being thrown. After receiving the throw, step with the left leg directly towards the runner and bring the right knee to the ground. To make the tag push the ball as far into the mitt as possible, lean forward to meet the runner and extend the mitt and the ball out to make the tag. Do not wait for the runner to slide into the tag.

7) When fielding bunts to the right side of the field, get to the ball as quickly as possible while circling the ball so that the left shoulder is lined up with first base when bending at the knees to scoop the ball with both hands and then make the throw to first base keeping the ball in fair territory. When fielding bunts to the left side of the field, get to the ball as quickly as possible while circling the ball with your back towards first base. Bend at the knees and scoop the ball with both hands and turn to make the throw to first base keeping the ball in fair territory.

8) When fielding pop-ups remember to keep the mask in your hand until the ball has been located and then throw the mask in the opposite direction. Field all pop-ups with the palms up. When fielding pop-ups close to the screen or the fence, make sure you find the screen or fence first, and them make the catch.

Calling the Game

1) When giving signals rest the left forearm on the left leg with the mitt forward of the knee to block the third base coach from seeing the signal. When the signal involves the infielders such as pick off plays they must see and acknowledge the signal. Do not be in a hurry to give the signal and do not give them too fast. All signals must be understood by all that need to know just exactly what is happening.

2) Always know what the situation is and what your team needs at the moment in relationship to the hitter i.e. ground ball, fly ball, etc. Know your pitchers strength in tight situations and what their best pitch is. Don’t get beat by calling a pitch that a pitcher has trouble with.

3) The catcher also has the best view on bunted balls with a base runner on base as to helping the first baseman, third baseman, and pitcher know which base to throw to and where to make plays. Also the catcher is in the best position to direct the cutoff person as to cut the ball or let it go through and where to make the play if the ball is cutoff.


 
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