Catching is arguably the hardest job in baseball. That’s because catchers need to crouch for nine (or more) innings each game, properly receive fastballs and off-speed pitches, block balls in the dirt, and throw out baserunners trying to steal on them. And that’s only the defensive part of the game.
Catchers also need to be one of the smartest players on the field, effective communicators, and contribute offensively at the plate, as well. So, when the off-season rolls around, there’s a lot that catchers have to work on in order to take their game to the next level.
Benefits Of Working Out During Baseball Off-Season
At the college level, catching is all about defense. So, if you want to become a student athlete and play baseball in college, you need to be strong defensively. By making the most of your off-season baseball workouts, you’ll be able to stand out on the field come tryouts.
In order to become a stronger defensive catcher, your off-season workouts should focus on the agility and determination required to block balls in the dirt, the arm strength, quickness, and footwork needed to throw runners out, and the ability to think the game at a high level and communicate effectively with your teammates.
Top Off-Season Exercises & Drills For Baseball Catchers
Since defense is the name of the game for catchers planning on playing college baseball, we’ve highlighted some of the top exercises and drills for baseball catchers. You can do these weight training exercises and drills with your teammates or on your own.
Before you start working out, make sure to do dynamic stretches as part of your warm up and then do static stretches as part of your cool down routine at the end of your exercise session.
Effective Off-Season Baseball Strength Training Exercises For Catchers
Squats should be included in most catchers’ strength training programs since this exercise is important for overall lower body strength and power. Squats mimic the movement pattern into and out of a catcher’s stance and can be performed with no weight, a barbell on your upper back, or with dumbbells at your side.
To perform a squat, start with your feet about shoulder-width apart and bend your legs until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Then use the back of your legs to push back up to the starting position. Younger catchers should start by using only their own bodyweight, while more experienced catchers can perform squats with low weight and lots of reps, as well as heavy weight squats with low reps in order to increase their power, size, strength, and endurance.
Catchers need to be functionally mobile while deep in a squat position. By improving the range of motion in your hips, ankles, and thoracic spine, you’ll be able to enhance your mobility. The Cable Pull-Through is a lower body exercise that develops the muscles on the backside of your body such as your glutes and hamstrings, while reducing the stress on your spine.
The Cable Pull-Through involves pulling a cable rope attachment (or resistance band) through your legs instead of holding a barbell or a dumbbell. To do a cable pull-through, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your back to a cable. Hold the rope attachment in front of your hips with the cable traveling through your legs. Bend at your waist and sit your hips back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle. Then explosively extend your hips to stand up to the starting position.
Band External Rotation
Your shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in your body. It has a greater range of motion than any other joint, and this greater range of motion increases the chances of injury and places an extreme amount of stress on your shoulder joint and connecting tissues. Since your rotator cuff muscles (a collection of muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder) are weaker and smaller than other muscles in your arm, they must be strengthened to prevent injury.
One of the best shoulder exercises for all baseball players is the Band External Rotation since the band external rotation is great for the deceleration muscles of your rotator cuff. Keeping your throwing arm healthy is all about having balanced musculature in your shoulders, and having strong decelerators helps balance out your power accelerators.
To do band external rotations, attach a resistance band to a fixed object. Then stand to the side of the object and grab the band with your hand that’s farthest from the object, while keeping your elbow bent 90-degrees and close to your ribs. Rest your forearm across your body and then move your hand directly across your body and toward the outside of your shoulder, while keeping your elbow stationary. Pause when you can go no further, and then return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Top Training Drills For Catchers
One of the best parts about the Grip Drill is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, even while you’re watching a baseball game on TV.
To do the Grip Drill, get on the ground and set up some baseballs in front of you and to each side of you. Then, from your knees, practice picking up the baseballs, while working on getting a strong 4-seam grip. Doing this grip drill for a few minutes every day will help you gain the proper grip on the baseball quickly, making for a faster, more accurate throw when you have to throw out runners trying to steal a base on you.
Ladder Block Drill For Catchers
As a catcher, you need to be able to properly block a pitch in the dirt and then recover in time to make a quick throw to a base, if necessary. One of the ways that you can enhance this important skill is to do this Ladder Block Drill For Catchers. This drill will improve your blocking technique, reflexes, footwork, balance, agility, and will also allow you to quickly pop up from the ground to make a throw, or pop up to run down a ball that may get away from you.
To do this drill, set up an agility ladder on grass (or create your own makeshift agility ladder using tape). Then start on one side of the ladder, get down into your blocking position, and have a friend or teammate throw a ball in your direction so you can block it. If you’re doing this drill on your own, pretend that you’re blocking a ball that’s thrown at you. Next, quickly do side-steps across the agility ladder, making sure to get both of your feet inside each box of the ladder before moving on to the next box. Once you’re at the end of the ladder, get down into blocking position again, block the ball that your teammate throws your way (or imagine yourself blocking a ball), and then pop up again and side-step across the agility ladder in the opposite direction. Repeat this drill three to five times in a row while wearing full catcher’s gear.
Knee Throws Catching Drill
When a pitch is thrown low or in the dirt, sometimes the only option that catchers have is to throw from their knees. The Knee Throws Catching Drill will help catchers get comfortable throwing to all three bases from their knees.
It’s best to do this drill at your local baseball field with a couple of teammates. You’ll need one teammate to pitch the ball to you and then another to catch your throws at first base. After you throw the ball from your knees to first base three to five times, have your teammate in the field move to second base and then third base. When doing the Knee Throws Catching Drill, it’s important to throw using your body, and not just your arm. So, when throwing from your knees, push hard off your back leg so your weight transfers into your front leg, creating momentum into your throw. During this drill, focus on doing a good job transferring the ball from your glove to your throwing hand and following through with your body from your knees.