diversion / needlessly painful baseball

stop me if you’ve heard this before
If you are a mild baseball fan you are aware that catchers take a lot of punishment; a more serious fan is aware that Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli suffered a broken hand last week when hit by a foul ball, just as the catcher watching that game from the Toronto dugout suffered the same injury, in the same manner, last season. Cervelli had surgery and is expected to be out at least 6 weeks; I believe Arencibia was out longer last year. You’d think a major league baseball team would take all reasonable steps to avoid avoidable injuries that could cost them a catcher for extended periods. I am here to tell you you’d be wrong.

Cerrvelli’s injury, like Arencibia’s, was completely avoidable. I have a particular friend with whom I watch baseball games long enough that we often talked about the defensive deficiencies of Jorge Posada. He has heard this rant many times since.  Posada started as an infielder and converted to catcher late, so he has a bit of an excuse. But on a team with Tony Pena as coach, with Yogi Berra a frequent presence, you’d think they would teach Proper Catcher Technique. Wrong! I was taught as a 12-year old the right way to protect your throwing hand.

It is a technique so simple, so obvious, and so effective that I am dumbfounded not to see it used by guys who, you know, get paid millions of dollars to stay on the field. With no one on base, your throwing hand is always tight behind your thigh when receiving a pitch. (You sometimes see this done, even by pros.) With a base runner, you receive the pitch with your throwing hand firmly against the back of your glove, with fist clenched around your thumb. You can get the ball into your throwing hand at least as quickly from here as from the usual hit-me-please position (hand dangling inside the thigh). You should never get hit by a foul tip in this position, unless you have to scramble for a pitch in the dirt.

I have never heard a discussion of this on a major league telecast (though I did not have the sound on for Friday’s game with Cervelli’s injury). Not by know-it-all Tim McCarver, not by Yankee announcer John Flaherty, not by Bob Uecker (all former catchers in the bigs). In addition to coach Tony Pena (who had the reputation as a great defensive catcher in his playing days), the Yankee manager Joe Girardi was a pretty good catcher back in the day. Both of them watch Francisco Cervelli jeopardize his career (and the team’s future) every day, while Cervelli leaves his throwing hand in hit-me-please position. Friday night, he got it (you’re welcome).

I can’t be the only one who was taught The Right Way To Play as a youngster. And we were just playing for fun. Personally, if had millions of dollars riding on my staying healthy, and avoiding unnecessary injury, I’d do everything I could.

Note to Self … watch to see if post-injury Arencibia still leaves his hand in hit-me-please position, or if he has learned to protect himself, his career, and his team. Another Note … watch to see if Mike Sciosia’s catchers protect themselves.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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