NVTBL is launching a new EDU blog with weekly messages every Monday focusing on educating coaches, parents and players on various baseball topics.
This week’s “Monday Message” comes from Jason Troilo, former professional catcher with the New York Yankees and member of NVTBL’s EDU Pro Advisory Committee. Troilo works with youth catchers on calling pitches, fundamentals, communication and the mental side of catching. He believes catchers can greatly impact a game by using their perspective to call pitches and direct their defense.
Troilo: “I like to teach high school catchers how much they can impact a game by calling the right pitches. That is way easier said than done of course, but can be taught by understanding some key points.”
Here are those key points Troilo teaches his catchers to think about before each pitch:
1) Reading swings: What is the batter’s timing? Are they early or late? Do they pull breaking pitches? Do you see any weaknesses in the batter’s swing? What is the umpire’s zone and can we get calls outside of the zone?
2) Understanding your pitcher: What are they most comfortable throwing? What is their best pitch? Never get beat with third or fourth best pitch. Can they get through the lineup one time with fastball and changeup or working in and out - then introduce breaking pitch second time through?
3) Defensive positioning: Are my infielders reading signs and adjusting accordingly? Are my outfielders watching my infielders adjustments? Are they aware of the situation?
4) The situation in the game: What is the score, inning, how many outs? Does one bad pitch cost us the game? Do we trade a run for an out? Can we be aggressive with our arm? Do we have relievers left to come in after this pitcher? Do we have a better chance to get out of the inning attacking the on-deck batter?
Now, this is a lot of material for a young catcher to think about each pitch, but should offer framework for coaches to start turning over pitch calling responsibilities to their players. Coaches should progress slowly when teaching this framework, however should feel confident that with some time and practice, their catchers can quickly execute the steps and properly call pitches.
When a catcher gets into a routine and thinks about these key factors when calling pitches they can take control of the game on the defensive side. Executing these factors can save your team a run or two and be the difference in a game for a decision or action that never shows up in the box score and is often unrecognized. The non-statistical impact of calling the right pitch as often as possible is something catchers should pride themselves in.
Having catchers call their own games will also help them develop into better overall leaders and ball players. Forcing players to think about different situations and adjust on their own is a skill they will need to have to be successful at higher levels and in life.