Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Youth Baseball: How to Block the Plate to Avoid Injury

Some say that the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. I say it's a close play at the plate. Last night during my son's youth baseball game, there were three plays at the plate. Each resulted in a crucial out.

As a parent of a youth baseball catcher these types of plays are both exciting and a bit scary. Even though the runner is required to slide in youth baseball, plays at the plate are often rough.

In the pros, the catcher is allowed to block the plate without the ball and the runner is allowed to knock the catcher over. Super Star catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants knows this all to well. He was recently involved in a nasty collision at home plate and broke his leg. In youth baseball, the runner is required to slide or he / she will be called out automatically. If the runner knocks the catcher over the player will be called out and may be suspended for a game.

How to block the plate

My son, Nic, demonstrates an almost text book execution of how to block the plate without getting hurt in the following 5 pictures.

Hot grounder down the line. Runner moving on contact. Nic moved up the first base line slightly to give the 3rd baseman a direct line to throw the ball pass the runner. The ball was thrown in the dirt. Nic was able to pick up a tough hop because he was waiting for the throw in an athletic position (like a SS would await a ground ball).

Nic covered the ball with his bare hand. He then slide over to block the front of the plate with left heel on corner of the plate showing the runner the back of the plate. You want the runner to slide toward the back of the plate - it's farther way than the front of the plate which gives you more time to make the catch and tag. This also entices the runner to slide away and not into the catcher. (My son's position is good in this picture not great - a better position would be if the left heel were on the front corner (3rd base side) of the plate. (if the throw were not up the line, he may have covered more of the plate.) Notice how his left leg stays up with shin guard ready to protect him. (It would be perfect if his foot were pointing directly toward the runner) Also notice how his right leg starts to collapse.

He applied the tag with both hands and back of glove. This protects the ball from popping out of the glove on contact. He rotated with the runner as the runner slid into contact to minimize the impact after the tag is applied.

Two hand tags are key. There is nothing worse than taking a beating to block the plate only to give up a run because of a dropped ball.

He then showed the umpire the ball to get the call, then turned to see the runner on base.

The opposing catcher was good.
Too good. #2 out at home trying to score tying run - Game over.
The Main Point

There is no play in baseball more exciting than a play at the plate. A youth catcher should watch this video on How to Block the Plate and practice it. It just may save the team a run and the catcher a major injury. The key to my son's success as a catcher is great coaching and practice.


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