BY JERRY WEINSTEIN, Catching Coach for Colorado Rockies
Blocking requires a great deal of self discipline and mental and physical toughness because it has to be done right in all situations. It’s very easy to take the path of least resistance and ‘ole’ balls in the dirt with no one on base and less than a three ball or two strike counts on the hitter. Blocking is a conditioned response. Your natural response to a fast object coming at you is to dodge it and get out of the way. You have to retrain your natural instincts through countless repetitions. Once trained, you have to work to maintain that learned skill. Any time you break the chain you are less likely to retain the level of response that you need to have.
1. Blocking the ball in the dirt is more of a passive action than an aggressive attacking action.
It is best to absorb the ball with a soft body with the shoulders rolled forward and the chin tucked. If the ball is straight on, fold your knees straight down and cut the ball off as close to the point of impact as possible. The glove leads the knees to the ground. You are in a semi-upright position with your shoulders rounded, relaxed and tilted forward. If you drew a line straight down from the tips of your shoulders it would end up slightly in front of your glove. The elbows will hang loosely against your body in the hip area. You should avoid forcing the forearms too tightly together which tenses the body and reduces the blocking area on the chest protector.
2. Try to cut the ball off as close to the point of contact as possible.
That is where the ball is going the slowest and the path of the ball is most predictable. The best hop on a poor infield is the “short hop” because it doesn’t have time to become a bad hop. The same is true behind the plate. Short hop balls in the dirt with your body. As soon as you recognize the ball in the dirt get your glove down to cover up the “five hole” (the gap between your knees when you are on both knees in a blocking position).
3. Simultaneously move both feet to block the ball.
When moving side to side, make sure that the knee opposite the direction you are moving lands first. If you are moving to your right, your left knee will touch down first and if you are moving to your left, your right knee will touch the ground first. This enables you to have a wider base which ensures balance, a wider target and greater range.