8-year olds are at the very end of their early childhood and beginning to look beyond needing immediate gratification, becoming able to take an interest outside of themselves. They can now be trained by incorporating more challenging catcher’s drills. We’ve gathered here 5 Baseball Catching drills designed specifically for kids at this level. At the age of 8, much of what they begin to learn now, catcher’s stance, and baseball blocking and throwing will be carried into their high school playing.
The drills outlined here are geared toward introducing and improving the fundamentals of the catcher’s position. 8-year-olds are just starting to show unique abilities that set them apart from other players on the team such as better growing, fielding and batting skills. Some are starting to run faster than other players. Some show an aptitude for the position of catcher, unique because of the greater demands inherent in being a catcher.
Outlined here are the essentials of the catcher’s position. Over time, the coach observes improvement and begins to make the drills more challenging. The catcher will need mostly to react quickly to prevent players from stealing and scoring. As he masters his stance behind the plate, his blocking and throwing skills will improve. These drills are merely the starting point and coaches can build upon them to challenge his player.
Catcher’s Stance Drill
Playing catcher is one of the most challenging positions on the team. Not only does it require the player to wear several pieces of catcher’s gear that other players don’t have to, but he also needs to be able to play well while wearing the gear.
This drill is performed by the catcher alone. Wearing his equipment, he practices his relaxed stance and his ready stance. The coach makes suggestions to improve his posture behind the plate.
Once he becomes comfortable in his mask, helmet, chest and knee guards, he’ll need to assume the proper position behind the plate so he can be the best at blocking pitched baseballs. He’ll need to stay alert and know everything that’s happening on the field.
In many ways, a catcher is the team’s captain because based on his view of the field and how he’s tracking base runners, he will often need to direct plays. He does all this while calling pitches based on his knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each batter.
The catcher’s gear includes the following:
Headgear: There are two types of headgear, a traditional and a hockey style. Some player organizations have rules about which style is acceptable, so it’s important to find out before making purchases.
- A helmet that has good, thick but comfortable padding. It should also be breathable, so on those hot summer days when the sun is shining down, the catcher is wearing gear from his head to his toes, and the heat rises in his body and is expelled through his head. If the young catcher stays cool he’ll have more energy throughout the game and won’t fatigue as quickly.
- The mask should have good visibility and the cross piece shouldn’t interfere with the player’s line of sight.
Chest Protector: Some chest protectors have a groin protector piece that you may want to consider. There is also the regular chest protector that serves to protect the chest and abdomen and covers these areas only. Thick padding is important to absorb the batter’s foul tips. Some even come with shoulder pads. It’s best to consult with the coach, who has experience managing 8-year old squads. He can advise best if groin and shoulder protectors should be included with the chest protector.
Leg Guards: This piece of equipment looks similar on the outside, but the important differences are behind the cover. You’ll want the player to have extra padding, especially behind the knees. He will mostly be blocking balls in the dirt, and his knees will contract and expand throughout the game. He’ll even be wearing the gear in team practice between games, so the objective is to try and avoid discomfort.
Some recommendations for gear manufacturers with links will appear at the bottom of the article.
Throws to Catcher in ready Stance Drill
Baseball catchers assume two stances behind the plate, the relaxed stance, and the ready stance. The pitcher will make throws to the catcher in his stance behind the plate.
Relaxed Stance: Catchers get into a relaxed stance when there are no runners on base and when the batter has less than two strikes against him.
In the relaxed stance, coaches need to closely observe the catcher assuming the following positions:
- The player’s left foot is in front by about one to two inches.
- The catcher is in a low and comfortable position.
- His glove is also low, so the pitcher has a good target.
- The catcher’s feet are shoulder width apart. This gives him great balance and also allows him the react quickly on a play.
- His hips and shoulders are square with the pitcher.
- His catcher’s mitt palm is pointed at the pitcher.
- Finally, his throwing hand (right hand for righties, left hand for lefties) is behind his back or behind his shoe.
Catchers should stay clear of home plate, not blocking it. He will interact with the umpire, who relies on the position of the catcher’s mitt to call a ball or a strike. That’s why it’s important that the catcher learns at this age to keep his glove as still as possible after he catches the ball from the pitcher.
8-year olds love watching baseball games. Now, the experience can also be instructional for him. Some television sets have zoom functions, so during a game, a parent can zoom from time to time during a baseball game to allow the player to observe the catcher’s ready position, and especially how steady professional catchers hold their catcher’s mitt with the baseball inside the webbing of the mitt. Pitchers toss about 100 pitches in the course of a game so the budding catcher can have it reinforced in his mind the importance of keeping his glove steady. It can mean the difference between umpires calling a ball or a strike even if the ball was pitched in the strike zone.
Ready Stance: When there are runners on base or if the batter has two strikes called, the catcher needs to shift into a ready position. He may need to block a wild pitch or throw out a base runner.
In a ready stance, the catcher squats higher up and most of his weight is pressed down onto the balls of his feet.
- The catching arm with the glove is relaxed and pointing at the pitcher.
- The glove is low and a good target or the pitcher to throw to.
- Keep the throwing hand in a fist behind the catcher’s mitt.
- The hips and shoulders are square to the pitcher like they are in the relaxed stance.
- The catcher squats higher so he can stand and throw quickly to a base.
These skills are unique among the team players. When a player is 8 years old, it’s a great time to start instilling these skills. The body remembers and if the child can practice these positions and spend time wearing catching gear, he will become comfortable in it over time and will no longer be an issue.
It’s great to have a young player practice throwing to bases while behind home plate. Little League establishes the distance between home plate and first base
The distance between home plate and the pitcher’s mound is 46 feet instead of the regulation 60 feet. The distance from home plate to first base is 60 feet, 30 feet less than the 90 feet distance he’ll be playing when he’s 12 or 13 years old.
Blocking Baseballs in the Dirt Practice Drill
Blocking baseballs that are either tipped off the baseball bat or are wild pitches is an essential skill for the catcher to know how to perform. Proper blocking prevents runners from stealing bases. The opposing team will usually take note of a catcher who lets balls go past him or is not very good at blocking. They’ll design plays that will exploit the catcher’s weakness, so it’s important for the challenging team to know that nothing gets past the catcher.
Being able to block well instills confidence in the pitcher. If he knows his catcher will have great ball control won’t be afraid to attempt throwing curves and breaking balls to fool the batter. The key to learning how to be a great blocker is practicing and moving when balls are hit. Repetition is key, so the more blacking drills are repeated, the better the catcher will be.
For this drill, the catcher wears hi full gear. The pitcher will baseballs to the catcher on one bounce. The coach observes the catcher and instructs the proper way to black the baseball. This drill can last for about 10 minutes, or about 25 throws from the pitcher to the catcher.
Catchers block baseballs when they are in their ready stance. They should be in this stance already since there are likely to be runners on base.
Make sure the hips and shoulders are square to the pitcher. Now let’s assume a baseball is throwing in the dirt.
- The catcher quickly thrusts his knees to the ground while his body remains square to the pitcher.
- Keep the feet out of the way by moving them to the sides.
- The toes should also be pointed away from the catcher’s body.
- The knees land where the feet were before moving them, and be spread a little wider apart than shoulder width.
If the catcher clears away his feet and gets his knees there as quickly as possible, he will always block baseballs in the dirt. Catchers should avoid simply moving their upper body forward, because it takes too much time and the ball will usually go to the left, right or behind the catcher.
- The catcher’s mitt should always remain in the center of the catcher’s body and facing the pitcher.
- The throwing hand, as mentioned before, should be behind the glove.
- The web of the glove is pressed on the ground.
- The arms are sung with the body, rather than away from the chest and torso. Staying in compact form allows the catcher to remain in control and make faster movements. Keeping the arms snug also prevents the ball from going between the catcher’s legs. This area is known as the “5 Hole.”
- Round the shoulders and bend at the waist making the upper body lean forward to both thighs.
- This position creates a down angle and a smaller area in which the ball gets caught so it stays directly in front.
- Most importantly, the catcher must tuck his chin in to avoid injury to his throat.
Catcher Throwing to Second Base Drill
As the player develops his blocking skills he will be relied upon more and more to have a good throw to second base. By the time he’s in his teen years, his throw should be well developed and be fast and accurate to the second base bag.
Much of what makes a good throw to catch the runner stealing is in the way the catcher sets up before throwing the baseball. From the ready stance position, he will remove his mask, stand, position and throw. These body movements must be compact and he must move quickly to throw out a base stealer.
When throwing the baseball, the catcher grips the ball at the seams as if, like a pitcher, he were about to throw a fastball. Ideally, every throw out to the infield should be a four-seam fastball.
For this drill, coaches will need a base runner leading off the first base bag, a player covering the second base bag, the pitcher, and a baseball.
- From the pitcher’s mound, the pitcher throws and makes the ball bounce in front of the catcher.
- The runner heads to second but does not slide.
- The catcher retrieves the ball, removes his mask and stands.
- He throws to second and tries to get the throw to the second baseman before the runner.
- Second baseman tags out the runner.
The coach can have his team line out in the foul area at first base. After the first player runs to second, the play can be repeated as the next runner tries to steal. This will allow the catcher to repeat the play to improve his throw.
Catcher Throwing to Third Base Drill
Most hitters are right-handed, and when they over into the batter’s box, they block third base in front of the catcher. As a result, the catcher’s throw to third base is more challenging for this reason. The catcher must be able to throw around the batter and make an accurate throw to beat the runner at third base.
For this drill, coaches will place a right-handed hitter in the batter’s box, the pitcher at the pitcher’s mound, a third baseman to field the catcher’s throws, and a runner leading off second base. In this drill, pitchers will be making different kinds of throws to the catcher so the catcher can lean the position of these pitches and position himself properly to catch them and then move around the hitter and make his throw to third base.
Pitch away from right-handed hitter: The pitcher makes throws an outside pitch away from the batter. The catcher steps forward with his right leg in the direction of the second baseman. Make the throw to third from the field side.
Catchers should not make sidearm throws to third to get around the batter. A step forward towards the second baseman will move his body around the stationary batter enough for him to make a clean throw. A catcher has much less control when he makes sidearm throws, and they are not accurate. It could result in the ball getting beyond the third baseman, allowing the runner to round third and score at home.
Pitch down the middle or on the inside: The coach instructs his pitcher to first throw the ball to the catcher down the middle. In this case, the catcher will move behind the batter to field. He moves just as he catches the ball and then shuffles with his feet until he can make a clear throw to third from behind the batter to the left of his body.
Next, the coach instructs the pitcher to make an inside throw. The catcher repeats his catch and shuffling motion and makes the throw to third base.
At the start of the drill, have the catcher simply practice his movements for inside pitches. He will catch the ball, stand, then remove his mask and throw to the third baseman from behind a stationary player in the batter’s box.
After about five throws, the coach has a base runner at second base and instructs him to begin his run as soon as the pitch is thrown. The coach should have about 5 team players in a line at second base and ready to run when the pitch is thrown, one after the other.