Blocking is one of the most difficult things for a catcher to learn. It is also a very difficult thing to teach, and if taught wrong can do the opposite of teaching a catcher to block and teach them to shy away and be scared. So a catcher needs to learn catching the right way because if not it will only make it more difficult to teach the catcher in the long run.
In this guide, we will be going over,
- Having the Correct Mindset To Block
- Perfecting Your Blocking Form
- Things to avoid doing when blocking
- Blocking from a set position with knees already down
- Blocking from a secondary stance
- Single-Knee blocks
- How to get a good recovery
- Blocking balls to left/right
Let's get into it!
Lesson #1 Mindset
Having the correct mindset when you start catching is a very important thing to work on.
The mindset for blocking as a catcher is similar to the mindset taught in defensive driving courses. Always assume that something is about to happen. In driving, you assume that the other drivers are reckless and you're ready to react. In baseball, as a catcher, you should always assume a ball could be spiked into the dirt. Being prepared mentally is half of the battle.
Catchers are the toughest people on a baseball field ten out of ten times, so you can’t block while being scared of the ball.
You need to have the mindset of I want to block this ball, and not I hope this ball isn’t spiked so that I have to block it.
A normal reaction for a lot of catchers is to get to a good stance but then flinch away from the ball and start to lean back or turn to the left or right. It is much more dangerous for someone scared to block than for someone excited to block. When you flinch away you are making it much more dangerous for yourself as you expose your arms and ribs which are very painful spots to get hit at. You need to think when catching that flinching is the most dangerous thing that you can do and to just get into a good position to block and just let the ball hit the places where you have padding and to not flinch which exposes unprotected places.
As a catcher your gear and equipment are very important. You need to have a nice chest protector that fits tight to your chest and covers your collarbone. If you have good enough gear then there is nothing to worry about when blocking. The gear protects the most important parts of your body and keeps you 100 percent safe so there is no reason to worry. If you have the problem of getting hit in the arms or wrist then you can just wear some sort of wrist tape or padding that will protect you from getting hit there
Lesson #2 Correct Form
Now that we have gone over the correct mindset for blocking, we can start working on the correct blocking stance. Let’s break the stance down starting with your feet. You want to have your legs spread out to your left and right far enough that your but almost touches the ground when you sit on your calves. Next, you want to try and do your best as you can to not point your feet out to the left or right because when that happens it creates an area under your butt for the ball to roll through. It is not a big problem and you should not prioritize keeping your feet from pointing out but it is something to work on if you are having the problem of the ball rolling under you.
Before we continue, we need to talk about introducing new information the correct way. When you are teaching someone how to block or if you are learning yourself, you have to introduce information very slowly until your catcher or you have mastered the thing that you are working on. So if you go and teach your catcher to spread their feet, keep their feet pointed in, cave their hips, and tilt their chin all at the same time you won’t get anywhere in blocking. So it is crucial to introduce new material to them slowly at a speed where they can master each thing before moving on to the next.
The next step to proper blocking form is your arms and elbows. The most important part of the arms when blocking is the elbows. You want your elbows to kind of rest on your hips or side of your body. IF you have your elbows too far in then you have a much higher chance of getting hit and if they are too far out then there will be space for the ball to skip right through. With your throwing hand you want to make a fist around your thumb and squeeze it. Then take your hand and put it directly behind your glove. With your glove, you want to just place it on the ground right in between your legs at an angle similar to the one that your body is in so that it doesn’t act as a ramp that rockets the ball into your face and chest.
The most important part of having good form is your hips. The most common mistake that catchers make is they have their hips way too high which makes them make an L position with their body and legs. Your hips should be just above your knees. If you need to move your chest try to do it without moving your hips if possible.
Your chest is also very important and you need to make sure that you have the correct form and mindset with your chest. The goal when blocking is to make the ball hit you right on the belly button but it’s very hard to do so you need to have room for error. You don’t want to have your chest too high because that will expose your thighs and make it very hard to block as the ball will have to have a big hop to hit your chest. Your chest should be able to move to a height to block a pitch that is going to take a big bounce but in your normal blocking stance you should have your chest at a slight angle. If you have your chest too low then you will have less surface area to block. So it's important to leave some room for error with your chest.
With your face and neck, they are already pretty protected but they are still the most vulnerable and vital areas to protect. The only thing that you need to do with your neck is just tuck your chin to a point where it touches your collarbone.
Lesson #3 Things to Avoid
When blocking it is important to keep your chest and hips separate, to not fuse them as one. Some catchers will move their hips to move their chest or move their chest to move their hips. You need to keep them separate and make sure that you are mobile and are not getting out of sync.
A common mistake that catchers make is they are too bouncy. This means that they are acting like a wall when the ball hits them when you really wanna act like a pillow and just kill the ball's momentum. If you act for a while then the ball will tend to shoot away rather than sitting in front of you.
Another common mistake is catchers who get caught on their knees. Getting caught on your knees is when your hips go on the same plane or over your knees even. When you get caught on your knees it makes lateral blocks (balls to the left or right) much more difficult and sometimes you can even get stuck on your knees and you might fall over so you want to avoid popping up.
Lesson #4 Drills To Perfect Your Form
A good drill to work on is to just get into your perfect blocking position (you can take your time with this to get it perfect) Then just block a ball from someone in front of you. You want to make sure that you move your body to still get a good block don’t just rely on a good throw for your block, you need to go and get a good block. You want to focus on just getting into a good form to block the ball and also moving your hips and chest to make the ball hit your belly button.
The next progression of this is to just practice all of your blocking forms and moves by placing balls to your sides and in front of you and then work on getting in front of them and in a good position to do so.
Lesson #5 Blocking From Secondary Stance
Most blocks are done from a secondary stance which is a stance that catchers get in with runners on base so that they are in a better position to throw them out so it is important to practice a good amount of your blocks from this stance. The perfect secondary stance should be a very strong position with your butt on level with your knees.
When you block from the secondary stance you can either block by bringing your knees forward or by replacing your feet with your knees. In my opinion, blocking by bringing your knees forward is a better way to block as you are in more control of the ball and you can get a better hop than when you replace your feet. Replacing your feet is when you just drop straight down to the ground as opposed to knees forward when you slide forward. It is important to practice both forms because if you get a small hop then you need to be able to drop straight down.
Lesson #6 Single Knee Blocks
Although there is still debate about whether the single knee block is appropriate in high school and lower levels, many more catchers are starting to adopt the single knee stance and are even starting to implement it even with runners on base when most old-fashioned catchers would be in the secondary stance.
The reason for this is to protect the catcher's knees and because there are not many more advantages in pro levels for the secondary stance. But if you are a catcher who is in little league or even a little older or younger, the secondary stance is by far the most important stance to learn and work on. When you block from a single knee stance it is surprisingly the easiest way to block because there is no right way to do it. If the ball is straight at you then you just drop your glove in the dirt and take it to the chest. If the ball is to your left or right it is pretty much up to you on how you block the ball.
Lesson #7 Recovery (After Blocking)
Circling back to the wall/pillow talk. The original block is very important but the way that the ball bounces off of your chest is the most critical part of the block. If there are runners on base and you rocket the ball down first base then that is the same as if you just missed the ball entirely if not worse. You need to be soft as a catcher and absorb the impact and speed of the ball and just kill its momentum. You should be able to block the ball so that it lands in a position where you can lean down and touch your mask to the ball every time.
Once you get a good block the next step is having a good recovery. After you block the ball you need to be able to pick the ball up and get into a throwing position as fast as possible. Now there are two ways to pick up the ball and get into a throwing position. The first one is just using your hands and standing up and just picking up the ball. The second is probably the faster way (If done correctly) and it is without using your hands to stand up with just your legs, you don’t want to jump up just gradually stand up, and then pick up the ball and get into throwing position. A tip for this method is to use your momentum to elevate you. Rather than blocking the ball sitting in your stance for a second and then standing up. You want to act like a roller coaster, your momentum should make it much easier for you to pop up.
Lesson #8 Blocking Balls To Left and Right
Lateral blocks are much more difficult as you have about half the time to get into a good stance and a good position because you have to get to the ball before you actually can block it so you have way less time for error. When you are blocking balls to the left and right you want to keep a large surface area but you also want to turn ever so slightly so that you chest is slightly pointed towards home in order to get a good smooth recovery and just keep the ball in front. You want to make sure that you are able to still gently block the ball and keep it close to you but the most important part is just getting in front of the ball.
When you block laterally you need to be able to slide and cover a very good amount of ground. On a ball to your left you want to dig your right heel into the ground and push yourself over to the ball. You can also just drop your legs essentially over to the left or right. But you need to make sure that your glove goes first always especially on lateral blocks. It is still important to get into a good stance to block so you want to fuse both moves into one. As you slide to the left and right you need to also be getting into a good stance and position.
Blocking is one of the hardest things to do as a catcher and it will take months and months of practice until you build up the confidence to block. It is important to remember that you will not be perfect at first and no one is. It will take much longer than you would expect so you need to stay hopeful and positive and remember that slow progress is better than no progress.