Watching the Signs: Communication from the Catcher

Baseball is a secretive game full of signs and signals between the coach, the catcher, and the players on the team. The catcher tends to be the play caller on the field and an extremely important player. Crouching behind home plate, the catcher is able to see the field and the players can see the catcher, too. The catcher needs to understand all of the signs coming from the manager and be able to relay them to the pitcher and other defensive players on the team.

Keep the Signs Secretive

When catchers are giving their signs, it is important that they make sure the signs are hidden. The offensive players are always looking for the signs from the catcher so they can feed them to the batters. The catcher needs to keep the signs hidden from the batter, which is why the signs are quickly given between the legs. Each sign stands for a type of pitch and the location of the pitch.

Defense Needs to Watch the Signs

The catcher’s signs are not just for pitches. Many catchers also send signs to the first and third basemen. They will signal when they expect a bunt and when they want to give other defensive plays - like the throw to second. Catchers always need to get a play from the coach, but in many cases, the catcher will make his own decision about what pitch he wants thrown. If a catcher needs to give defensive signals, the catcher will usually step out of the crouch and give the signs to the players on base. The signs are supposed to confuse the offense, so some teams have several different signs for the same plays. If the offense expects a defensive play, then they might try to execute an offensive play to get past the defense.

Early Signs in Young Baseball Teams

When children start playing baseball or softball, they might have a handful of signs that the coach will give to the batters. As kids learn more about defense and pitchers develop more than one pitch, the coach will start to give pitching calls to the catcher. In Little League play, many of the signs are the same, so opposing teams often know when a child is taking a pitch, bunting, or making a throwdown to second. As kids move into more advanced levels of play, like travel ball, the signs will get more complex. Most coaches have an indicator sign so the other team does not know when the actual call is being made. These complicated calls are designed to confuse the other team.

Complicated Signs as the Game Gets More Intense

As play gets more complex and intense, catchers give more than just pitch calls. They often give pitchers the calls to pick off a runner. Since runners are looking for foot movement from the pitcher to time their runs, the sign from the catcher is vitally important to catch the runner off guard. Some signs are obvious, like the pitch calls between the legs, but there could be subtle signs like touching the dirt a certain way or stepping into the crouch with different leg movements. The pitcher and defensive players need to very aware of what the catcher is doing at all times.

Pacing the Game and Coordinating with the Pitcher

Along with giving signs and controlling the field, the catcher can also be in control of the pace of the game. Pitchers are more effective when they can throw as few pitches as possible and in younger teams, pitch count is watched closely. The pitcher and catcher should talk about the desired pace of the game, especially if the pitcher likes to take his time. The catcher can make the calls slowly, unless the pitcher is in the zone and is pitching well. The catcher needs to be aware of the pace of the game and make sure the calls keep the game moving at the desired pace. Catchers also need to know when the pitcher needs a break, which is the perfect time for the catcher to step out to the mound and have a quick chat with the pitcher. If the game is getting out of control for the pitcher, this is the perfect time for the catcher to visit the mound and give a pep talk to the pitcher.

The catcher might be the most challenging position on the field. If you are in need of top notch catcher’s gear, check out our selection of catchers gear and catchers mitts. You can also find pitchers gloves.

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