Catching a ball is one of the most fundamental skills in baseball. Probably half of all plays depends on somebody catching a ball. If you want to be a great baseball player, you’ll need to know exactly how to catch the ball with perfect technique.
While most pro baseball players catch with one hand, you’ll have to learn the basics before you’re able to safely catch with one hand. So you’re likely going to have to start with a two-handed catch.
Why Use the Two-Handed Catch?
If you’re just learning to play baseball, catching the ball will be tricky. You’ll need to practice and develop hand-eye coordination and learn how to track and catch the ball.
It helps quite a lot to start catching the ball with both hands because you’ll be able to catch the ball more reliably and prevent fumbling. This also builds confidence and muscle memory.
Tips to Improve Your Two-Handed Catch
A huge part of actually catching baseballs is having the right glove. You need to have a glove that is just the right fit for your hand. This helps the motion feel more natural. Your glove should ideally be made of good leather and should be able to flex easily.
If you get a brand new glove, you are going to have to go through the process of breaking it in. New gloves are usually not very flexible out of the box, so it will be harder to catch balls with them. In order to break your glove in, try to flex them in order to stretch the leather and make it more pliable.
2. Eyes on the Ball
People usually say “eyes on the ball” as advice to batters for when they’re supposed to hit the ball. However, this piece of advice is incredibly useful for catching as well.
Your hand position when catching depends entirely on where you think the ball is going to be. In order to predict a ball’s flight properly, you’ll need to keep track of the ball when it’s hit or thrown to you. With time and practice, you’ll be able to tell where the ball is going to go based on its speed and height, and you’ll be able to catch it there. This is training your hand-eye coordination.
3. Body Positioning
If you’re a pro baseball player, you can basically catch from any position, as long as you can tell where the ball is going to be. When you’re starting out, though, it’s not that simple.
When you first start catching, you’ll need to focus on positioning your body to catch the ball. Positioning your body on the field in order to catch the ball may require some running and adjusting your position, you’ll need to make sure your body is loose and limber and ready to move.
Focus on the batter or the person throwing the ball to you. Stand facing them and keep your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. You may need to crouch down or jump depending on where the ball goes.
4. Hand Positioning
Positioning your hands may take some practice to get used to, but try to catch balls by positioning your gloved hand directly on top of your free hand when catching fly balls, and positioning your free hand on top of your catching glove for ground balls.
One important thing is to always have the palm of your glove pointing to the ball. This is to reduce the chance of fumbling. This is also where your hand-eye coordination comes in. When the ball is near and it’s going fast, you’ll need to make some quick decisions, whether to raise your hands because the ball is coming right at you, or to squat down to catch a low-flyer.
After you’ve caught the ball, you’ll need to throw it again. When you’re catching with both hands, it’s much easier to transition from catching to throwing very quickly, because the ball will already be right next to your throwing hand.
Once you’ve caught the ball, you can easily drop it from your gloved hand into your throwing hand, making for speedy throws. If you’ve caught a ground ball with your free hand, you can instantaneously start a throw.
6. Keeping the Ball Caught
When you catch the ball in your glove (check the best softball gloves here), you’ll need to keep the glove closed so that you don’t fumble the ball. This is easier said than done when a baseball is going straight into your gloved hand at 40 miles an hour.
If you find that you have difficulty keeping your glove closed, try to cover the ball with your free hand as soon as it touches your glove. This drastically reduces your chances of fumbling the ball, and you can quickly transition into a throw.
7. Visualize the Catch
Some people find that tracking the ball with their eyes and then visualizing where and how they catch it helps them to catch better.
When you’re on the field, try to visualize a few seconds into the future. This helps with committing to a course of action and eliminating that hesitation that you may feel when you’re supposed to catch a ball. Over time and practice, this gets a lot easier, and you’ll be able to eliminate the guesswork from your catching.
8. Practice, Practice, Practice
The most important part of being able to catch balls—whether two-handed or with a single hand—is muscle memory. If you consistently practice the basics of baseball, you’ll be able to train your body to repeat the same movements for successful catches.
No matter how many tips you read, the best way to actually improve your catch rate is to go out there and practice.