We all know that catchers do the most challenging work on the diamond. In fact, some might say it’s the hardest position in baseball. Squatting down, pitch-after-pitcher, getting nicked and bruised along the way. But one responsibility of a catcher’s game that can go unnoticed by a casual fan is the task of calling the game. Both the pitcher and catcher must be on the same page regarding both pitch type and location. Failure to communicate correctly can result in cross-ups, extra bases when runners are on, and even additional runs for your opponent. But it’s not like a catcher can yell out the upcoming pitch, so how do they do it? Through a series of signals and signs. Let’s take a deeper look at what goes into this non-verbal communication between pitchers, catchers, and even positional players.
Signs and Signals for Catchers
How To Give Catcher’s Signs
Catchers, you need to keep things smooth when giving a pitcher signs for an upcoming pitch. Your job is to keep your pitcher in a rhythm. The more they think about your signs, the worse the outcome will be. So if there aren’t any runners on base, get your pitch, put the fingers down, and tap your inner thigh to denote the pitch’s location. The simpler you can make this, the more confidence you’ll give your pitcher.
Why Do Catchers Give Signs?
The fundamental importance of a catcher giving signs comes into play when runners reach a base. At this point, catchers need to conceal the upcoming pitches to keep baserunners from stealing the signs. With a runner on third and/or first, a catcher can keep the same signs but should work on hiding them deeper in the squat. The reason catchers don’t have to be overly careful in these situations is that neither baserunner has a quality sightline to peek in on the signs.
The real danger for an opponent stealing your signs comes with a runner on second base. They have a direct view to see the catcher’s signs. Teams will typically change their signals and signs once a player reaches second base. This often includes giving multiple signs, with one being the indicator, meaning that the number following the indicator will be the pitch.
For example, 2 is the indicator.
The catcher flashes 3, 2, 1, 3, 4. This means that fastball is the pitch because 1 is the number following the indicator.
The indicator system is a simple measure to keep opponents from stealing signs. As you advance to higher levels of baseball and softball, this process tends to become more and more complicated. This is critical to make sure both the catcher and the pitcher are on the same page, which is why you will often see catchers go out for a quick chat with their pitcher when a baserunner makes it to second base. Keep an eye out for it the next time you watch a game.
How To Tell If A Team Is Stealing Signs
It’s hard to determine if your opponent is stealing your signs, but there are a couple of things to keep your eye on:
Is the runner on second acting abnormally?
Study the runner(s) at second base. Are they looking in a particular direction frequently? What are they doing with their arms? If you pick up on repeatable actions by different baserunners, there is a decent chance that they are either stealing signs and/or location.
How do hitters react to off-speed pitches?
The idea behind off-speed pitches like changeups and curveballs is to hinder the hitter’s timing. If you notice hitters “sitting” in off-speed pitches when a runner reaches second base it’s probably a good idea to mix up your signs.
Do the opposing coaches verbalize something before the pitch?
Coaches stealing signs is often overlooked but highly prevalent at the youth level. Third base or first base coaches will steal signs in one of two ways. They will typically steal the signals when they are relayed from the opposing coaches to the catcher. Occasionally, they can peek in and steal the catcher's signs. Either way, you have to keep your guard up at all times and avoid being too relaxed during the process.
Why Do Catchers Paint Their Fingernails?
Catchers will paint their fingernails bright colors to communicate their signs to the pitcher more easily. An alternative option is to wrap your fingertips in white athletic tape.
The Best Catcher’s Mitts
If you are going to be the best catcher you can be, you’ll need your equipment to be up for the challenge. This typically means finding a leather catcher’s mitt with both padding and comfort built into the design. We have taken the time to break down a list of some of the most popular catcher’s mitts chosen by players and coaches. Here's a quick snippet from that breakdown.
“This is our highest-reviewed catcher’s mitt, and it’s easy to see why. Built from Japanese Tanned U.S. Steerhide leather, the Pro Elite offers a faster break-in time with a longer lifespan compared to market competition.”
Read more about the game's best catcher's mitts.
Only a select few catchers will make the Majors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear the best mitt. If you still need help finding a new catcher’s mitt, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact our Glove Experts via phone (866-321-4568), email (email@example.com), or click here to live chat. We’re JustGloves, and we’re with you from Click to Catch!