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Proper Set-Up Is Step One for Catchers
By Rick Dempsey
Former Major Leaguer

Editor's Note Rick Dempsey is one of the most experienced catchers to ever play the game, spending 24 seasons in the major leagues. Since retiring in 1991, Dempsey has served as a minor league manager and major league coach. Here is Part 1 of Rick's series on catching.

Setting up properly is the first component in becoming a good receiver. If you expect to be consistent and have good results from catching, you must be able to control your body and give yourself the best possible chance to be successful. Developing a sound set-up will enable you to adapt to the many other facets of the position much more easily.

Develop a sound set-up is a principle that applies in most sports. For example, a golfer wanting to hit the ball straight consistently must set up to the ball properly. A basketball player must set-up properly to shoot. The same concept applies in tennis, football, you name it.

In catching, it is absolutely imperative that you set up properly in order to be able to receive, block and throw. There are no shortcuts if you want to be the best you can be. One of the reasons there are not more quality catchers at the major league level is that very few understand the importance of the set-up. You must be in the best possible position to react and catch or block a pitch that takes 1.1 seconds from the time it leaves the pitcher's hand to the time it hits your mitt.

Here's the proper set-up:

  1. Stand behind home plate
  2. Spread your feet about shoulder-width apart (photo 1)
  3. Move your left foot three to five inches in front of your right one
  4. Square up your shoulders with the front of home plate and sit down
  5. Rock your weight slightly forward to the balls of your feet.
    Your heels should be OFF the ground. (photos 2 and 3)

Stand behind home plate. Make minor adjustments to get comfortable (and I mean MINOR). Relax and give your target. Now you should be ready to receive, block the ball in the dirt or throw. I know this is going to be hard at first because you need to build up the strength in your ankles and legs to be able to balance yourself for long periods of time. Working with pitchers in the bullpen is still the most grueling but practical way to build your leg strength.

With no one on base and less than two strikes on the hitter, you can drop your heels flat on the ground to release the stress on the lower back and toes. You may even want to experiment catching on one knee. This will enable you to give a lower target and make it easier for the umpire to see the pitch. Remember, do this ONLY with no one on base and less than two strikes. Any time runners are on base, you must be on the balls of your feet in order to move quickly enough to block a pitch and to throw a runner out.

Rick's next article will be on Giving the Target.

  1. Proper Set-up for Catchers:
  2. Stand behind home plate
  3. Spread your feet about shoulder-width apart
  4. Move your left foot three to five inches in front of your right one
  5. Square up your shoulders with the front of home plate and sit down
  6. Rock your weight slightly forward to the balls of your feet
      Your heels should be OFF the ground
      Drop your heels to release stress on your back and toes only if needed
  7. Relax and give your target (mitt up and ready)

  • More tips:
  • Adjust to get comfortable
  • Build up strength in your ankles and legs
  • Practice throws to bases
  • Have a system for taking equipment off and putting equipment on

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