How to Handle Foul Pops
I have long felt that one of the toughest plays on the field was one that so many people think is a simple routine play, the foul pop behind the catcher. I believe this is probably one of the most common lost outs in youth baseball. This is caused by 2 major factors whose impact can be reduced by using proper technique.
- The main reason youth catcher’s struggle making this play is they have no clue where the ball is. Many times they are not even aware the ball is high enough for them to even take a shot at catching it. This factor can easily be reduced with some help from their pitcher. I’ll explain the catcher’s technique in a moment but first let me explain the pitcher's responsibility.
As soon as the pitcher sees that the ball has been fouled up behind the catcher he must IMMEDIATELY point to the ball, yell..UP!! UP!! And walk in the direction of the ball continuing to point and yelling UP! This set of signals will be used by the catcher to guide his search for the ball.
- The 2nd problem kids have making this play is not being able to handle the backspin on the ball. The backspin changes the flight path of the ball. Young players don’t account for this. The backspin also makes it tough to keep in the glove with a one handed catch.
As soon as the ball leaves the bat and the catcher realizes it is behind him, and he hears the pitcher yelling UP, he begins to take steps forward to get in front of home plate. As he moves forward he looks to the pitcher to see what direction the pitcher is pointing. As soon a he is 2 feet past home plate he turns the direction the pitcher is pointing and faces the backstop. The whole time he has been setting up in front of the plate she has been in the process of removing her mask. he holds onto the mask at this point.
I want the catcher in front of the plate so he can see the batter, the ump, the dropped bat, and the entire backstop area. As soon as he picks up the ball in flight he begins to approach it to make the catch. Mask still in hand. I instruct the players to remember the ball will come back toward them like a curveball so not to get directly under the ball. As they get their feet set to make the catch it is at this time that they discard the mask in the opposite direction. They reach up with both hands to make the catch. The throwing hand is held just to the out side of the pocket waiting to trap the ball in. When the ball hits the glove the catcher squeezes the glove together from the front not the back. I see many catchers put the throwing hand behind the glove to help squeeze the mitt, only to help it pop out more.
As soon as they make the catch they should remove the ball, turn and face the field, get into a ready position to throw, in case any base runners have been sloppy in getting back to their bag.
The key to this play is the pitcher; he must let the catcher know where the ball is, or at least what side it is on. If the catcher sees the pitcher pointing straight back over the catchers head then the ball is directly behind the catcher and he can turn either direction.
Dave Weaver founded The New England Catching Camp in 1994 after realizing that instruction for the toughest position on the diamond was generally unavailable. Weaver teaches at numerous facilities throughout New England and conducts group clinics, team workshops, coaches clinics, and private sessions with catchers of all ages. Dave has coached athletes in a variety of sports for over 30 years, and has been a coach for catchers from youth through professional levels.
Copyright 2005 David A Weaver