This post is primarily designed for the highly competitive level of high school varsity and beyond.
Your position on the field, as catcher, provides a unique view of the pitcher and his presence. Your observations, your perceptions and impressions of his every action - or failure, hesitations and so forth, should start a mental process that kicks into gear. Your experience in this regard, in detail, will not come overnight, but will develop and be groomed over a long career of thinking through who and what your have to work with.
Here’s the finer points of what I’m trying to get across:
- Every pitcher has a certain demeanor, an attitude that is his base. Some guys are as sober as a judge and this leaves little room for dealing with anything that goes wrong. Even the slightest thing will usually set these guys off and you’ll find yourself eating dish-dirt, inning after inning. Some guys are jokers, plain and simple. These jokers don’t take anything serious and that will include you.
- Every pitcher has a certain personal chemistry to them. Your chemistry and his may be very friendly off the field, and even a joking atmosphere in the locker room. In the dugout and on the field may be a complete turnaround. Kind of like a Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing.
- Every pitcher reaches a point on the mound where he’s in one of three worlds:
- he’s cruising, sailing along, in the grove.
- he’s in and out of trouble - don’t know why, but he just is.
- he’s DOA - period, either right out of the bullpen or fresh out of the dugout.
In all cases there’s a certain tempo of a action - or not, that can tip you off to dealing with (1) through (3). Don’t expect your dugout to notice this first, they won’t. Why? Because you have a much better vantage point of seeing everything right there in front of you.
If your pitcher is one that usually takes his sweet time pitch after pitch, or works quickly, or even steps to the back of the mound and removes his hat and wipes his forehead, then that’s the tempo(s) that he feels is his comfort zone. Once he breaks his normal tempo, routine, he’s out of step with his comfort zone and you’re in for a busy day or night at the park.
Your best bet is to find out what’s what with your guy. Don’t get too personal or involved, just ask him what’s the best pitch, or pitches, that he feels are doable that day/night. Just be mindful that the dugout may not share the same pitch selection that your guy wants to deal with. In that case, your ability to MANAGE your guy out there boils down to the trust in you from your coaching staff. No trust means your now going to be dealing with two problems - your guy dishing trouble and a second helping of trouble coming from the dugout.
In any event - if your guy is sending you pitch after pitching that doesn’t even come close to what you’re signaling for, there should be a gesture to your bench that the pitcher has completely lost it. This gesture should be subtle and in confidence to only one coach in the dugout. There’s no sense in letting your pitcher, or anyone else for that matter, aware of the gesture.