By: Coach McCreary
Provided by: Baseball By The Yard
We've all seen it a thousand times...the catcher yells "Comin' down!" before the last warm-up pitch by the pitcher. At the higher levels, the catcher just puts his throwing arm out to the side and doesn't yell anything. The extended arm alerts the middle-infielder to be at the bag after the next warm-up pitch. Regardless of how it is communicated, many pitchers come set and lob the last pitch to home plate. The typical catcher receives it, casually stands up, and lobs a throw to second base. The ball is returned to the pitcher and the inning starts.
...and my blood boils every time.
There are a thousand things a team can do to set themselves apart from other teams they play. Most of these little things go unnoticed by just about everyone on or close to the field. Properly handling this last warm-up pitch before the inning is one of them.
Here are three MUSTS in order to get it right.
Throw a hard fastball. A pitcher should NEVER just casually lob a pitch to the catcher on his last warm-up pitch before the inning. Give your catcher a chance to work on a pitch that replicates a real pitch he will have to deal with during a game-like steal attempt by the other team. A firm fastball thrown down the middle does that. A ball that is lobbed in no way helps the catcher do what he needs to do to get himself ready for the inning. Every pitcher wants his catcher to throw out a stealing runner at second base. Help him do that by giving him a good, last pitch to practice with.
Make a realistic throw. Now it's the catcher's turn to take things seriously. Once you get that good, firm throw on the last warm-up pitch, make a realistic throw to second base. Have a fast transition from catching to throwing. Use the same footwork needed on a real steal. And most importantly, throw a STRIKE to second base thigh high right on the bag. Every time! Do it right every time on your practice throws and you are more likely to do it right when it counts. It also helps with recruiting. When a college coach or pro scout is at the game and is watching you behind the plate and nobody tries to steal during the game, how does he ever get the chance to see your receiving, footwork, transition, arm strength, and accuracy? If you don't take your pre-inning throw to second base seriously, the answer is he doesn't. Take that procedure seriously and he/they will get 7-9 chances to see what you can do.
On another note, should the last warm-up pitch be a bad one that gets back to the backstop, DO NOT walk back to the ball, pick it up, and launch a throw from the backstop all the way to second base. You will almost never do that in a game so don't do it prior to the inning. If the ball gets past you, run back to get it, pick it up, jog back to your spot behind the plate, squat down with the ball in your glove, and then pop-up to make a good, realistic throw to second base. And after the inning, remind your pitcher to give you a good pitch on his last warm-up throw.