Catcher is a position played in baseball. The catcher crouches behind home plate and receives the ball from the pitcher. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the catcher is assigned the number 2 (see baseball scorekeeping). The role of the catcher is similar to that of the wicket-keeper in cricket.
Catching is arguably the most difficult and important task in baseball. Positioned behind home plate, the catcher can see the whole field, and therefore is in the best position to direct and lead the other players in a play. The catcher typically calls the pitches by means of hand signals, and therefore requires awareness of both the pitcher's mechanics and strengths and the batter's weaknesses. In addition, because the catcher's job is to catch pitches which often come in at speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour, the catcher wears protective equipment including a mask, chest protector, knee pads, and an extra-thick glove (see photo). Because the position necessarily involves a comprehensive understanding of the game's strategic elements, the pool of catchers yields a disproportionate number of major-league managers, including such prominent examples as Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre.
Catchers virtually always throw with their right hand. Since most hitters are right-handed and thus stand on the left side of the plate, a catcher who throws left-handed would often have to avoid these right-handed hitters for most of his throws from behind the plate. Thus players who throw left-handed almost never play catcher (external link to article on left-handed catchers). Lefty catchers have only caught 11 big-league games since 1901. However, some observers, including the famed statistician Bill James, have suggested that the real reason that there are no left-handed catchers is because lefties with a strong throwing arm are almost always turned into pitchers at an early age.
Despite being heavily padded, catchers routinely suffer the worst physical abuse in baseball. The catcher has the physically risky job of blocking the plate from runners. Catchers are also constantly getting bruised and battered by pitches, and have a long history of knee ailments stemming from the awkward crouched stance they assume. Because of this, catchers have a reputation as being slow baserunners; even if they have speed at the beginning of their careers, the eventual toll taken on their knees slows them down. Some players who begin their career as catchers may be moved to other positions to preserve their running speed; recent prominent examples of this include B.J. Surhoff and Dale Murphy.
Catchers also have an increased risk of circulatory abnormalities in the catching hand. A study of minor-league ballplayers showed that, of 36 players in various positions, all 9 of the catchers had hand pain during a game and several had chronic pain in the catching hand. Ultrasound and blood pressure tests showed altered blood flow in the glove hand of five of the catchers, a higher proportion than the other baseball positions in the study. (Ginn, et al., 2005)
Catchers in baseball use the following equipment to help prevent injury while behind the plate:
- Mask - To protect their head
- Glove - Catchers use a special thick glove to lower the impact of the ball on their hand
- Shin Guards - Also called spike protectors, used to prevent injury from base runners advancing home with "spikes up"
- Chest Protector - Similar to a policeman's bullet proof vest, this piece of equipment protects the catcher's body from the impact of the pitch if he fails to catch it or stop it.
- Protective Cup - protects the groin from pitches that might be missed.
Given the physical punishment often suffered by catchers, the equipment associated with the position is often referred to as "the tools of ignorance".
- Johnny Bench
- Yogi Berra
- Roger Bresnahan
- Roy Campanella
- Gary Carter
- Mickey Cochrane
- Bill Dickey
- Buck Ewing
- Rick Ferrell
- Carlton Fisk
- Josh Gibson
- Gabby Hartnett
- Ernie Lombardi
- Biz Mackey
- Ray Schalk
|Outfielders:||Left field | Center field | Right field|
|Infielders:||3rd base | Shortstop | 2nd base | 1st base|
Pitcher | Catcher
- Mike Piazza holds the record for most career home runs as a catcher. He passed Carlton Fisk, the previous record holder, on May 5, 2004 with his 352nd career home run as a catcher.
- In some parts of the United States, particularly the South, catchers are referred to as "hindcatchers". It is not clear where this term originated.
- By rule , the catcher is the only player who is allowed to be in foul territory when a pitch is thrown.