By Jerry Anzalone
Coach Jerry Anzalone coached the Walpole National Little League team to the 1991 Massachusetts State Championship and has been heavily involved in coaching baseball at all levels since then. He currently runs RBI’s Head Start Program which is designed to teach the game’s youngest players the proper fundamentals.
I’ve been involved in the game of baseball, as a father of 2 boys, a coach, or an instructor, for about 90% of my life. Since 1997, the majority of my instruction has been with younger players just learning the basics of the game. One saying you hear around the game is that, “baseball is nothing but a game of catch.” How true it is. If a player can’t throw, and especially catch a baseball, they will end up not enjoying the game.
It is absolutely normal, for the majority of beginners, to be afraid of getting hit by a baseball when trying to catch one. When a beginner gets hit and injured trying to catch a ball, it can become very difficult for him, or her, to get over that fear in the near future . Here are some of the basic techniques I use with kids just starting to learn. If you watch a pro play catch, you’ll see the same techniques being used.
You can use a softer “incredi-ball”, tossed underhand, from about 8 to 10 feet away at first. This allows your throws to be more accurate and on a straight line to the player’s mit.
1) Stand with both feet, all 10 toes, facing the direction the ball is coming from.
2) Have their feet about shoulder width apart.
3) Make sure their knees are bent. This gives them better balance, and allows them to move to the ball if the throw is off mark. I usually tell kids (any age) to “catch the ball with their feet.” I’ll get strange looks from the younger ones, but the older players understand what I mean. Expect a bad throw and move to the baseball, using your feet, to make the catch.
4) Both throwing and catching hands should be held out in front of their chest, palms facing you, with all fingers of both hands pointing up to the sky. Tell them they have a camera in each hand. They have to take your picture of the ball as it is approaching them with both cameras. Explain to them that they must be able to see their glove, their throwing hand, and the baseball coming at them at the same time. This will let them adjust both hands left or right to line them up to catch the ball.
5) When the ball enters the pocket of the glove, fingers of both hands should still be pointing up. Their bare hand is used to cover the ball, and keep it from bouncing out of the glove. Use the term, “catch and cover,” as they are catching to reinforce the process.
After they get better, you can start tossing the ball overhand from a further distance. Always try to throw the ball on as straight a line as possible. You should toss the ball to the left and right of your player as they progress in ability.
Keep practicing perfectly. See you on the ball field.