Plays at the Plate are some of the most exciting plays in baseball. They are also the most dangerous. Thankfully, the MLB has made running over the catcher (which was the most ridiculous play in all of sports!) illegal now, but that does not mean that collisions don’t still happen. The technique a catcher uses in plays at the plate is vitally important to stay safe and injury free, while also accomplishing the critical task of tagging the runner out and preventing a run from scoring.
Here are the keys to the proper technique for plays at the plate:
As the catcher catches the ball and executes the tag, the catcher should sweep the hands and knee into the position diagrammed below with force and authority, expecting an impact from the runner.
This position allows the catcher to absorb the impact of a runner without injury in two ways:
When practicing plays at the plate you have lots of options. It’s always important to start with good throws - either in the air or long hops - to ensure that the catcher drills the proper tagging technique.
Once the catcher begins to master the core technique of the play at the plate, the coach/drill partner can begin to vary the throws - good, bad, long hop, short hop, and varying locations/angles. For an extra challenge, the coach/drill partner can hit fungos to the catcher to force the catcher to read the ball quickly and react to a variety of different angles, heights, and hops from the simulated “throw” off the fungo bat.
To help the catcher prepare for the impact of the runner it can be helpful to use an exercise ball like in the video above. This will help the catcher feel an impact as they are tagging and also helps the catcher to learn to tag/block the plate with the ball with authority and force. The runner will be running full speed and sliding hard so its important that the catcher is aggressive with the tag.