While blocking seems to be stuffed in the basement of major league baseball, youth coaches know how important it is at the lower levels to have a catcher that can block! Finding a youth catcher that blocks is tough, building one is even more difficult.
Having worked with many youth catchers we've found that there are many common mistakes and mental tendencies with youth catchers. Here's a few tips on how to help your young catcher become an elite level blocker!
This is how most dads look when their kid doesn't block... :P
Patience goes a long way!
Blocking is an unnatural act for anyone, it isn't normal to sit there and let something hit you, it's another thing to actually move into the way of something to get hit on purpose. So when you're young catcher is starting to learn how to block, have patience with them not wanting to get hit. Your initial drills should help them gain some confidence in blocking, this means using tennis balls or foam balls to start and working at speeds they can be successful. If they are successful less than 50% of the time, the drill is too difficult. I like to pace drills out so that kids can succeed more than half the time. This will help with building confidence in their abilities. Now, this doesn't mean we let them be soft and coddle them. You have to be tough to be a catcher, and that means you are going to get beat up behind the dish. That's just part of the gig, if your catcher can't handle having to be tough, they probably aren't cut out to catch. Many catchers can get right into blocking real baseballs right away, even their first day blocking. Make it successful for them and help them gain confidence and your catcher will be more inclined to want to block instead of feeling like they have to block.
2. Repetition, repetition, repetition
The only way they get comfortable with blocking is by doing it consistently. It's not enough to go to a camp or one private lesson and expect your kid to be a better blocker. That only gives them good information, but taking that good information and putting it into practice over and over is what makes the difference. Don't do 10 different drills to get better at blocking, stick to 2 or 3 that you like and master those. Random drills produce random results, consistent drills produce consistent results. There are no shortcuts. If you don't know of any decent drills you can check out our YouTube video below to get you started.
3. Always anticipating the block
Part of being a good blocker is simply being ready to block and expecting that you may need to block any pitch. Anticipation is key to being able to get down on time for our blocks, if we're expecting a good pitch and get one in the dirt there is high percent chance we're going to try to pick the ball instead of block because we aren't able to react quick enough to get our body in the way.
When we are in blocking situations, which is runners on base or 2 strikes on the hitter, we should absolutely be expecting to block! Especially at the youth level, you can't count on a pitcher throwing fastballs for strikes. You might get on 0-0 fastball thrown behind the hitter and then an 1-0 fastball right down the middle. This is one of the reasons catching is so difficult and so fun, we can't take any pitches off. No day dreaming like our outfielders are doing, no relaxing until the ball gets hit to us. We have to be ready, every pitch, for multiple situations. Teaching your catcher to expect to block every pitch in those blocking situations will help them anticipate and be quicker to get to the pitch in the dirt.
Here's one of our first YouTube videos on blocking, the biggest change I would make to this video is that you want the ball to hit in the belly button area. A little lower than I describe in the video.
A lot of the issues with youth catchers and blocking is on the mental side; most of them have the physical ability to block but getting their mind set in the right place goes a long way in getting their bodies in the right place.
Our facility started primarily working with catchers and we have provided some of the best catching instruction in the world, if you've had trouble with your catcher blocking, throwing, or receiving we'd love to get them into our facility and have them start getting the tools they need to succeed behind the plate.
Thanks for reading, feel free to share and comment. And if you'd like to train with us in person please email us at email@example.com
Keep it simple!
Owner & Lead Coach
Catching IQ Sports Performance