Updated: Jan 30
The number one blocking drill for catchers is called catcher blocking ground balls. Not only is it my personal favorite catching drill but it's also a fantastic drill for catchers of all ages. The youth athletes that I work with love it and the high performance athletes get super competitive with it.
The catcher blocking ground ball drill is designed to develop athletic catchers who are quick, fearless, and have the mindset to block any ball that bounces. In order to become a game-changing catcher, you need to have excellent footwork, strike stealing receiving skills, and split second throwing ability. Plus you need to be able to execute those skills while under pressure in a game.
Be sure to watch the video because I will compete in a catcher blocking ground ball challenge where if I fail I stand in front of a pitching machine, crank up the speed, and take 3 balls to the gut.
To perform the catcher blocking ground ball drill you will need 2 cones, a soccer net, or mark off a territory for the catcher to patrol as a goalie. The “net” that the catcher guards should start at a size of about 5 walking paces wide and should increase as the players begins to get more comfortable with blocking. In front of the net at a distance of about 20 walking paces is where a coach, parent, or partner will stand with 6 balls. The drill starts with the catcher just in front and in the middle of the net and the coach, parent, or partner rolling, throwing, or hitting the six ground balls at the net. The catcher’s job is to run to wherever the ball is hit (thrown or rolled), block the ball from going in the net, quickly pop up, and immediately throw the ball to a target. The coach should roll, throw, or hit the ball at the net about every 3 second so the catcher has to move around quickly. After the six reps, tally up how many balls entered the net, take a break, and try to block more balls the next round.
There are six key teaching points for the proper execution of the catcher blocking ground ball drill:
1) Be an athletic catcher by reacting to the incoming ball, blocking it, and making an immediate strong accurate throw.
2) Have the mindset to block every ball that bounces at all costs. Anticipate you're going to have to block the ball and anticipate the worst throw possible coming from the pitcher.
3) Use your imagination to get energy, effort, and enthusiasm out of your players when catching and blocking. Imagine being a goalie in the Stanley Cup finals or FIFA world cup. It’s overtime, a shootout, and sudden death! Imagine that the catcher's gear is a knight's armor and you're a medieval warrior. Every time that you block that ball and you get a bruise it's like a battle scar.
4) Understand a proper catching stance and proper blocking stance. For a proper catching stance, when you crouch down, you want your butt up (like you’re sitting in a chair), your back flat (as if you could put a glass of water on it and it wouldn’t spill), your glove should give a target at your knees, and you need to be balanced, stable, mobile, and ready to react to the incoming ball (similar to a defensive linemen in football who is ready to bust through the offensive line and sack the quarterback). For a proper blocking stance the glove goes down first (your body will follow the glove), replace your knees with your feet, round your shoulders with your chin tucked down to create a concave angle so when the ball hits your chest protector it goes back into the field, and then get up, grab the ball, and fire a bullet to a base.
5) Compete in practices! Compete versus yourself or versus an opponent to see how many balls you block in a row, how many times can you hit a target out of a certain number of throws, or how many balls can you block in a certain amount of time. Can you block more balls than an opponent? Can you hit the target more often than them? You have to compete every single rep. This might mean less reps and more rest but when it’s your turn you need to compete. Quality over quantity.
6) Use soft squishy balls and tennis balls with younger players to eliminate fear.