Maybe the title is a little click bait, but we need views!
But in all seriousness, I get asked this question often by many of my younger catchers; "when do I take my mask off?"
There is an order of operations when it comes to taking your mask off and it can vary by situation. Here's a list of situations your catcher might find themselves in and what they should do with their catcher's mask.
Plays At The Plate
This is an easy one, keep it on! There are too many things happening on a play at the plate to risk getting blasted in the face by a bad hop or a bad runner who doesn't know how to slide. Not sliding is actually a reality in youth baseball as some players won't out of laziness or won't because they don't really know how to. Keeping your mask on will protect you from injury while dealing with plays at the plate. If you aren't able to see through your mask for a play at the plate, you probably can't see well enough to catch a pitch coming from the mound either. It is not worth the risk of taking off your mask, learn to see with it on.
check out this article we wrote on plays at the plate: Plays at the plate
2. Pop Ups
Catcher pop ups or pop ups down the 3rd or 1st base line has an order of operations. You don't want to complicate this or your catcher will be too focused on follow the steps instead of reacting.
- First, look! If you can see the ball straight away that's the key to being able to make a decision on whether or not you can make a play and where that play needs to be made.
- Once you find it, if there's time, you want to take your mask off and toss it to the side of where the play will be made. This is where time is lost for younger catchers. If your first reaction is to take your mask off, you've already lost 1-2 seconds and probably won't make the play. If there isn't time to take your mask off, run to make the play.
- Practice catcher pop ups so your catcher will know when they have time to take their mask off or when they need to just hurry and make a play
3. Passed Balls
This one is pretty much the same as pop ups so I won't go through it too much. If the ball gets passed you, look for it, find it, and go get it. If you can't find it, the mask comes off so you can see a little better. Again, if your first reaction is to take the mask off you will lose time in recovering the ball. If we don't have to take the mask off, don't waste the time.
4. Block Recovery
Same as passed balls, the end!
The biggest issue with young players is that they need to get used to wearing their catchers mask. If they have a hard time seeing through it try a different brand of mask, but if they complain about every mask... they either need more time in it or they just might not like catching. If possible we want to leave our gear on, it saves time and teeth. We'll only take it off if we have time on pop ups, passed balls, and block recovery.
Please let me know if there are other situations your catchers has questions about. Whether it's more mask on/off situations or others, I love talking catching.
Keep it simple!
Owner Catching IQ