Baseball Factory: It's Time To Put Catcher Pop Times In Their Place
We hear it from catchers after nearly every one of our Baseball Factory tryouts, “What was my pop time?” When meeting a catcher’s father for the first time, pop time usually comes out shortly after his name and the player’s name. I get it. We measure it. It goes on evaluations. Coaches often ask for it. But where does a pop time really fall on the priority list for catchers? In my opinion it’s pretty far down the list.
It certainly falls below catching the ball. You’re a catcher. It’s in the name of your position. It sounds simple, but it is alarming how many catchable pitches end up on the ground during an average high school game.
Going further, the ability to receive the ball cleanly—to “earn” strikes for your pitcher is a major priority.
Setup, stance, flexibility and hands all play a factor in becoming a quality receiver. Catchers should also be good on balls in the dirt. Saving runs and preventing baserunner advances by blocking balls in the dirt and pouncing on them quickly also holds more value than the catcher’s pop time on throws to second base, in my opinion. Being proficient in these skills instills an air of confidence in the catcher, his pitcher and the rest of his teammates.
Some intangibles also outrank the pop time.
At the top of the list is leadership. A catcher needs to be a field leader. They need to know the game, know the situation, communicate with their teammates and take charge. It’s the only position where the rest of the team is facing you on every pitch. A catcher’s energy level and confidence through his body language is contagious. That vantage point behind the plate also allows a catcher a tremendous perspective that allows them to see all of the action. A high baseball IQ coupled with vocal leadership can make a positive impact on team defense.
Additionally, catchers need to develop an individual relationship with every pitcher on their staff. They need to know their stuff, but also how to encourage and motivate them. A good catcher is, in some ways, a personal psychiatrist for each pitcher. Of course, catchers who are allowed to call their game also shoulder a huge responsibility. We don’t see it too much at the amateur level, but a backstop who prepares, knows the opposing hitters, knows their own pitcher, reads hitters in game, and puts down the right fingers is invaluable.
At Baseball Factory Player Development events we work with catchers on all phases of their game. The ultimate goal should be to catch a win, and that involves many things more important than a pop time.