Machine training is an essential part to developing elite level catchers. Machine training is currently the highest standard of catcher training used unanimously among all 30 MLB teams, as well as most colleges and high schools. Pitching machines are the only training resource that allows catchers to consistently get a realistic rep mimicking a game like pitch. Most catching coaches are not capable of throwing and mimicking a 80-90+mph fastball, or the nasty off speed pitches pitching staffs possess.
Pitching machines are easily able to accomplish these challenges giving catchers REAL game like reps. Some short work non-machine drills (beware of eye wash drills) are found to be effective for catchers... Especially at the younger ages to reinforce large key fundamental concepts. However, after a professional catching career and many years of developing catchers of all ages, I am a FIRM believer that the only thing that will FULLY prepare a catcher for receiving a 90+mph fastball or blocking 83mph slider, is ACTUALLY TRAINING OFF A 90+MPH FASTBALL OR 83MPH SLIDER.
I can train a catcher that has never caught 90+mph with all the short non-machine work in the world, but when I throw him behind the plate with a 90+mph he will find a whole new set of challenges that short work training never prepared him for. The widespread concept making practice harder so the game is easy is not possible for higher level catchers without machine training. C25 Baseballs are an essential component for the challenge.
With the importance of machine training established, now we can explore the sciences behind it. Training catchers off machines has been utilized all over the world for many years at the highest levels with a regulation 5oz baseball. This method has been effective right? Yes... but there is so much more there that is not being tapped into. Before C25 Catcher Training Baseballs, even machine training had its limitations.
Just like you lift heavy weights at the gym to get stronger, you should be machine training with heavier baseballs to get stronger. The term every player, parent, grandparent and friend knows, even if they don’t know a thing about catchers… “C’mon Johnny, STICK IT!!!” Overload receiving is an incredible way to build STRONG HANDS and MINIMIZE BLOWBACK. Ask any pitcher what their biggest pet peeve is in a catcher… There is a good chance it is a catcher who does not keep strikes strikes, and drags borderline pitches out of the zone. Drills training with overloaded baseballs will really challenge the hand strength of the catcher, and make a 5oz ball seem like a feather in a game.
The three different variations of C25 overload balls will also each provide different depths off speed breaks. Multi depth off speed breaking balls are a great way create some variability among the different types of breaking balls pitching staffs possess.
How does a pitching machine mimic a heavy fastball? It doesn’t… it will only change the velocity and reaction time. Every catcher knows not every pitcher throws the same weight fastball. Some pitcher’s fastballs feel like bowling balls hitting your glove, and some feel like a feather. Overload receiving will effectively help closely mimic and train to prepare you to catch that pitcher who throws a “heavy ball.“
Building off this heavy ball use, we can reinforce another great concept: using the baseball’s energy. We mainly utilize this concept in two aspects of catching. First aspect is when you are receiving the baseball. The best receivers in the world understand how to use the balls energy to close their glove. Catchers who utilize this concept make receiving seem effortless and smooth. Training overload receiving will provide the catcher with some extra energy behind the ball to help the catcher gain a better understanding that the balls energy can provide many benefits to becoming a much smoother receiver.
The second application for this energy use concept is used in the transfer. Oftentimes catchers who struggle to have a clean effective transfer, have two pieced transfers. A two pieced transfer is where the ball is not kept moving in one fluent motion up to the throwing slot. The ball is caught and stopped in front of the body, and then grabbed and yanked back to throw. Overload transfer drills will effectively help the catcher feel the baseball’s energy and stay fluent with their transfer.
Just how the overload baseballs reinforce strong hands, the underload baseballs reinforce, SOFT HANDS. Training with C25 3oz or 4oz balls will effectively keep the catcher aware of any stabbing, or being hard with their hands upon the impact of the ball hitting the glove. This will also challenge the catcher’s POCKET AWARENESS as balls are likely to pop out if they are not caught in the correct part of the pocket. The lighter the ball’s weight, the softer and more precise the catcher has to stay with their hand/glove positioning otherwise they are likely to drop.
The underload C25 Baseball’s also allow us to train at much HIGHER VELOCITIES, with a much less LOWER RISK OF INJURY. Pushing a catcher to train at a higher velocity off a machine can be a detrimental mistake, and result in injury if not done the right way. The underload can help adjust a catcher to a higher velocity, safely pushing them to train at speeds they would not normally be comfortable with.
Building off This concept, C25 underload baseballs can also help SAFELY acclimate young catchers to working off a machine, where they would otherwise be afraid they could not handle it.
In addition, the underload balls due to their weight will deliver MORE DRASTIC OFF-SPEED MOVEMENT due to very high spin rates out of a machine as compared to a 5oz ball. The 3oz balls are even capable of rising for top of the zone receiving work if the bottom wheels are set to a high enough setting. In general, the heavier the ball, the less movement you will get. If you’re looking to really push yourself and train off a Clayton Kershaw like curveball, underload train.
The two different variations of C25 underload balls will each provide different depths off speed breaks. Multi depth off speed breaking balls are a great way create some variability among the different types of breaking balls pitching staffs possess.
From a blocking perspective, every catcher knows blocking off a machine can HURT. Many catchers/coaches stay away from blocking at game speeds off a machine with a 5oz ball because whether the ball hits your cup, forearm, wrist, neck, shoulder it can definitely put you at risk for injury. If catcher/coaches choose to block off a machine, it is usually off a much softer off-speed pitch…Or, they put a pillow or towel under their chest protector which alleviates the chest forces, but still leaves the rest of your body exposed for injury. Machine blocking at game speeds becomes much safer with the 3oz and 4oz C25 Training Balls.
Another benefit to blocking underload C25 baseballs is they will challenge the catchers ability to control their block. Because they weigh much lighter, they are much more difficult to control. They like to bounce much further away if you are not soft with your chest. A catchers block is only as good as how well he controls the baseball. This is such an important concept forcing catchers to take the energy away from the baseball, and stay extra soft with their chest.
The last underload training benefit that is very unique to these balls is, they are capable of almost having a, “floating effect” out of a machine. Because they are so light, they are able to be shot at a lower speed, and carry for a longer time on a straight path. This is an incredible training capability that will reinforce another really important concept of, LETTING THE BALL TRAVEL. One of the largest widespread problems a catcher can have is being an anxious receiver. Anxious receivers tend to want to go get the ball and reach out for it, before it is even near home plate. Catchers need to understand the baseball doesn’t have a set of brakes on it… They need to stay relaxed, put their glove where they project the ball will be, and beat the ball to the spot. The underload balls and their, “floating effect” will really challenge the catcher to calm their mind, and let the ball travel.