For those of you that consistently read our articles, thanks for your patience in waiting for more content. We have been busy setting up our new facility here in Northern Colorado.
But on to the good stuff! I know many of us have been taught a particular way to block baseball laterally. I was always taught to block everything back to home plate and it is still taught like that by most every catching coach out there. I understand the reasons behind it. It helps catchers to adjust the angle of the incoming pitch and teaches them to get around the baseball so they aren't deflecting it away from them. My issue with this idea is the goal of blocking baseball back to home plate. One thing I consistently try and ask myself is, what is most efficient. If it isn't the most efficient I don't want to be teaching it.
The goal I teach all of my catchers is to block the ball and keep it in front of us. The same goes for lateral blocking! I don't want our guys blocking the ball back to home plate because I don't gain anything from doing that.
Our ultimate goal with blocking is to control runners; the best way to do that is by keeping the ball close to me, not home plate. Runners don't care that you blocked the ball on top of home plate, the only thing that matters to them is if the ball was controlled and if you recovered it quickly.
The best way to recover the ball quickly is to block the ball in front of you. So how does this change our approach to lateral blocking?
Lessen the angle of approach to the ball. The red line in the photo is the typical angle taught for lateral blocking, a "C" shape. Blocking a ball to our right side is particularly disadvantageous with this angle because we now have to work back around to the left to recover the baseball and set our feet for a throw to 2nd or 1st base.
The green line represents the angle that I teach our catchers to take for lateral blocks. We are still creating a slight angle back into our body so we can control the baseball and keep it in front of us. The difference is that take less of an angle will keep us in a better position to recover and set our feet to throw. There are two other big advantages to taking a shallower angle:
1 - We will have more time to get into our blocking position because we aren't gaining too much ground
2 - When we get into our blocking position we will have more surface area to contact the ball because our upper body is still mostly facing forward and not over turning back into home plate.
Laterally blocking is what separates good blockers from great blockers. A lot of catchers can block the ball in front of them, the best catchers are solid blockers, left and right. By taking less of angle to your lateral blocks, you're going to find you'll increase your range and get to more lateral blocks in a better position.
Good luck out there and get ready, the season is almost upon us!