One of the conversations I am constantly having with parents is whether their player should be doing things that they see big league catchers doing on TV, or that they have a club or high school coach asking them to do something different than they have ever heard of before. The biggest talking point has been whether they should have their catcher in a one knee stance and when?
Over the years I have gotten questions about receiving, blocking, footwork, back-picks… everything really. And regardless of the topic of the question, my response to parents, and to you if you are reading this and thinking about a question specific to you or your player is this: “Understand why your coach is asking you to do something, understand the costs and benefits, and make sure you consider what is the most important thing at your age and talent level.”
Let’s look at the specific question of the one-knee stance and run through the answers to my three questions to come up with an answer for you:
(1) Understand why you would have your player do that. The “why” of catching in a one-knee stance is to receive the low pitch better. That is the main driver. Other reasons for catching in a one-knee stance can be: keeping a catcher’s legs fresh for later in the game/season and giving a lower target to the pitcher. If you are considering having your catcher catch from a one-knee stance, make sure that your reasons line up with the reasons a catcher would do that. If they are being asked to do it for another reason, this may be something to consider.
(2) What are the costs and benefits of catching on one-knee? The benefits are very similar to the “why.” Receive the low pitch better, save the legs, give a lower target. But the costs are something to consider too. When in a one-knee stance you are sacrificing the athleticism of being on two feet. Lateral movement is restricted for receiving pitches that miss to the left and right of the target. High pitches are harder to receive. If there is a situation when the catcher needs to block or throw, those skills are going to be limited and probably harder to perform. If you are considering having your catcher catch in a one-knee stance, do a cost benefit consideration of if the benefits are worth the costs.
(3) What is most important at your age or skill level? Understand that MLB catchers are on a knee for most of the game because for them receiving is the most important skill they perform. Stealing the low pitch is how catchers are rated and how insider analysts have decided they can affect the game in the biggest way! In the MLB runners steal less frequently, and pitchers also throw less balls in the dirt so there are less balls to block.
For youth players, how many times have we all seen a catcher who can’t keep the ball in front of them? Or runners stealing on every pitch like a merry-go-round? I would say in youth baseball, blocking is the most important. So, in youth baseball, I rarely think a one-knee stance is appropriate. In high school and college baseball, most catchers can block reasonable pitches, but runners start to steal more. With that being said, throwing out runners becomes the best way to stand out and add positive contributions to your team defensively.
So, whether you are considering catching on one-knee or having your catcher catch on one-knee, or anything else, ask questions! When I am coaching a player, if I cannot answer all these questions for you, I will NOT ask you to make a change. Your coaches should appreciate that you want to understand and be a part of your own development.