Good advice by all. Spending most of my last 10 years as a community volunteer coach (summer & fall) for a local high school, I took the kids that wanted to catch (and a few the HS coach wanted made into catchers) and taught and monitored the following skills with them all season long.
There is no doubt that the catcher with a rocket arm is going to have a chance to play pro ball before the ones who don’t. But eventually, even the professional catcher, will have to learn to instinctively perform each of the following skills in order to compete. That’s why I teach them to every catcher I have the pleasure of working with.
Hope this checklist helps some players and coaches here.
1. Hide signs from third base coach with open mitt and first base coach with closed right knee.
2. Automatically change signs with pitcher when a runner reaches second base.
3. Set up late (as pitcher begins motion so batter can’t “peek”).
4. Set up as close to the batter as possible without him being able to hit your mitt with his bat.
5. Use ankle sway to frame or “stick” all borderline strikes. Catch the outside of the ball with a straight but not stiff front arm. Hold it there for one full second making sure the ump saw it and throwing it back to the pitcher before you show him up.
6. Bare hand behind leg with nobody on base.
7. Bare hand behind mitt with runners on base.
8. Block all balls in the dirt with runners on base. Drop to knees, mitt between legs and bare hand behind mitt (V), forward, upper body lean to absorb the ball, then pounce to your feet and get it.
9. Trail runner to first base with nobody on. Angle is toward fence beside 1b, not straight down the base line.
10. “Sweep” up all moving bunts and dropped 3rd strikes with open mitt and bare hand.
11. Shuffle out and throw “inside” or “outside” the line to first base. Do not throw over runner.
12. “Pop time” technique has 3 parts.
A. Remain square as you catch the ball (do not turn body and cheat too “open” as it will often restrict the catch and mess up the timing of the glove to hand transfer). If there is a 3b runner, glance at him after the catch and before the throw to 2b.
B. Close off front side by flipping ball from mitt to throwing hand (turn under) WHILE you stride toward second base. Spin ball gaining a 4 seem grip on the way up/back. Step short or beside home plate when possible (not on top of it).
C. Get 90% of weight over front foot, pull back (trunk twist) and throw to second base (mask on).
13. Throwing to third base. Do not throw over RH batter. On pitches to the first base side, step to ball with right foot first. On pitches to the third base side, place right foot behind left foot first.
14. Pitch outs. Don’t commit too early. Catch the ball from “inside out”, shuffle feet, close off front side and throw.
15. Intentional walks. Stay in the catchers box until the pitcher begins his motion, then shuffle out.
16. Always slide on your “left” side to field passed balls.
17. Verbally remind your pitcher to “get over there” on all ground balls hit to the right of second base.
18. Line up your first and third baseman as cut off men on throws from the outfield (only if they are way out of line). Yell “cut or cut-1,2,3 or 4” and say nothing when you want the throw left alone (mask on).
19. While the ball is arriving from a fielder, block the plate with your left foot (one to two steps up the third base line and one step foul). If time allows, block with knee and entire body as well. Ump cannot blow the call if the runner never reaches home plate (mask on).
20. On bang-bang plays, delay blocking the plate with left foot (one to two steps up the 3b line and one step foul). Plant foot and make a quick one-handed tag. Raise the mitt high immediately after the tag so the ump won’t have to look for the ball (mask on).
21. Decoying scoring runner. When the throw is approaching, wait as long as possible before setting your left foot, body and raising your mitt to catch the ball.
22. (Short hops) Forehand picks on short hopped thrown balls (“scoops” like a first baseman). Bend knees (squat) to get fanny as low as possible, wristy motion attacking of the ball on the short hop from the ground up and out (like a pro bowler-palm up to palm down).
23. (Short hops) Backhand picks on short hopped thrown balls (“scoops” like first baseman). Bend knees (squat) to get fanny as low as possible, lock wrist and attack the short hop from the ground up and slightly out.
24. (Between or mid hops) Block with mid section (do not catch).
25. Wet grass caused by dew or light rain will cause hard throws to skip or skim much faster and farther than dry grass.
26. Home to first base double plays. Like a first baseman, both feet on the edge of the plate, step to the throw with your glove foot, shuffle out inside or outside (depending on their throw). Do not throw over the runner.
27. Pop ups. Remember the ball always spins violently toward the field. (like drawing a lower case, cursive “L” backwards). Find ball, sprint to where it will likely land, toss mask so you don’t trip over it later. Try to catch the ball with your back facing the field.
28. 1st and 3rd situations. Get signs from the dugout, stand in front of the plate and give a series of signs to the infield. The first two plays are “reads” by the middle infielders at the college and professional level but “called plays” at the youth level. The first play is “cut by middle infielder” between 2b and the mound (catcher does not glance at 3b runner). The second play is the exact same throw only the first middle infielder fakes a catch and continues his momentum toward 3b while the other one takes the throw at the bag (catcher glances at 3b runner after the catch and before this throw). The last play is a “straight throw to 3b” (right foot behind left if RH batter, square shoulders and throw).
29. Befriend the umpire. Don’t talk or chatter during the game. Don’t turn and look at him for or after a call. Don’t hold the pitch longer than one second (anything more is considered showing him up). Don’t answer your coach when he asks “where was that pitch, Johnny”? Quietly do your job. Show respect and use your manners when talking to him. If he likes you he will like your team. He also talks to a lot of scouts and college coaches about “the best catcher’s he has seen”. If he gets hit with a foul tip, ask for time and go to the mound to talk to the pitcher until he has recovered.
30. Appealing check swings. Politely turn and ask him if he will ask for help. Do not point to the field ump without asking the home plate ump first!
31. Diving catches are faster. Land on hands with elbows out to eliminate jarring.
32. Sliding catches to avoid collisions with teammates, dugout and fences. Catch ball on the way down, then slide and plant lead foot to stop.
33. Rundowns: Once a runner is hung up, chase him with ball in bare hand to get him going full speed. Throw the ball to the closing fielder and keep going toward 3b but get well out of the base line (do not stop and circle back to home). A perfect rundown takes zero to one throw.
34. Yell “room-room” or “no play-no play” to your corner infielders and outfielders that are chasing foul balls near a fence. Always err on the side of safety or you will lose your credibility as a leader.
35. Free visit. When you see that your pitcher is struggling, save your coach an official visit and ask for time out yourself to go speak to him. This will also allow a relief pitcher more time to warm up in the bullpen. Many batteries do this when they change the signs as a runner reaches 2nd base.