Should Battery Call Own Game
Coach Smiley has been coaching baseball and softball for over 40 years. Smiley has coached each sport from youth leagues through high school. He has also worked with college and minor league players. His baseball and softball camps have covered all aspects of the game, including pitching, hitting, defense and the mental part of the game. He is an assistant coach for a 12U travel softball team, Manager of a 12U Major Little League team, instructs winter clinics for Softball Rocks, KIC Baseball and Softball and gives private hitting lessons.
I recommend that the coach should consider teaching their battery (Pitcher and catcher) to call pitches at a young age even prior to their first year of competition. I believe it is important for the pitching coach to begin a dialog with the pitchers and catchers to teach them the key indicators in selecting various pitches to throw to a particular batter. It is important that the battery begin to understand the game of pitching and pitch selection at an early age. Many coaches believe that they take the pressure off their pitchers and catchers and allow them to focus on their pitching skills. The downside of this belief is that it does not teach them the game of pitching and it does not give them the opportunity to take ownership of their choices, and their performance. In many cases, coaches calling the pitches give them an excuse for doing poorly.
Over the years, I have worked with pitchers and catchers during practice and games. I highly recommend that you have a coach dedicated to work with pitchers and catchers. This must be a constant to enable a smooth and continuous application of pitching and catching skills. This coach will be able to evaluate how well the battery is doing from game to game and practice to practice, while at the same time working on adjustments. Allowing the battery to call their own game will also allow them to build confidence in their decisions and learn that various situations must be handled differently.
In working with the catcher, the coach must first teach the catcher to be aware of how well the pitcher performed while loosening up. Are her pitches working? Is she hitting her spots, or close to them? Is she consistent with her pitches? Is the change up working? Other areas of consideration are how many games she has thrown, does she appear tired and how many more games are left to play in the tournament. Answering these questions will enable the battery to best know which pitches to throw for a strike when it is needed, or a ball when you want to, a set up pitch, or an out pitch.
If you previously played the team, reviewing the scorebook will help the battery know who the good batters were. It will also help remember who the bunters and slappers were and where the power hitters hit the ball.
It is important to teach the catcher to look at where batters stand in the box – do they crowd the plate, or stand away from it. For example: batters standing in back of box – throw more change ups or drop balls. Standing in front of box – throw “high inside fastball” to see if she has a fast bat and can catch up with the pitch. If the batter is crowding the plate it’s an indication she likes to hit the outside pitch, so jam her, or throw her a screwball that starts outside and comes in on her. In the case of a lefty, throw her a curve call which starts outside and comes in on her hands. On the other hand, standing away from the plate indicates she wants to hit an inside pitch, so throw pitches that will hit the outside corner: either an outside fast ball, or curve ball that breaks to the outside corner. In a bunting situation consider throwing drop balls, or a drop curve because they are difficult to bunt (Note: When throwing the drop ball, or drop curve, the catcher must be ready to block and come up throwing.). Depending on your bunt coverage you may want to pitch so batters hit down the 1B or 3B lines into your coverage. So, throw the ball to the plate side corner to achieve the result you want.
Understand, teaching your battery to throw their game takes patience and an accumulation of information covering many different situations. The younger you start teaching your battery to call their own pitches the easier it will be because young batters will be learning how to hit at the same time.
Finally, teaching the battery to call the game illustrates to other coaches that you have confidence in your battery. Side benefits are that it will speed up the game, provide better tempo for the pitcher, and eliminate stealing of pitch signs given by the coach to the catcher.