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Who's on deck?
December 5, 2012

Throughout my time as a player, coach, & spectator, I heard the question "Who's on deck?" I'm sure if you are reading this, you have also heard that question come from the bench. No big deal, right? Or is it?

I'm sure we have all been guilty of being the person who is supposed to be on deck, but aren't. There are a variety of reasons why a player is not on deck when they are supposed to be- getting a drink, waving to a friend in the crowd, grabbing their batting gloves or helmet, joking around with a teammate, or talking about a situation that took place in the last half inning. A few of the previously listed reasons are at least understandable as to why the player would be running late getting to the on deck circle, others not so much. However, all of them will have a negative effect when you get up to the plate.

One of the most important aspects of being a great hitter is being prepared! This means your at-bat doesn't start when you are walking up to the plate, nor does it even start when you are in the on deck circle. Your at-bat- if you want to be a great hitter- actually starts when you are in the hole or when the person you are hitting behind is in the on deck circle.

When I work with hitters, I try to get them to understand the importance of being prepared for their at-bat. If they are in the hole, I want them to have a bat in their hands, possibly find a spot in the dugout where they can actually get into their stance, and begin to sync the beginning part of their swing with the pitchers wind-up. On the way to the on deck circle, I want them to look at situation at hand and begin to think about what situation they could be hitting in. Once they are in the on deck circle, I want them to get their timing mechanism established, take a few swings so they can be loose and fully prepared for the at-bat, and to clear their mind before they step in.

The next time you go to bat, go up there ready physically & mentally! Be prepared for the situation and have fun.

Written by: Jeremiah Knackstedt

Tools of Ignorance?
November 3, 2012

When Bill Dickey or Muddy Ruel coined the term Tools of Ignorance, it most certainly must have been after an extra inning game that took place in the middle of a hot August day. This term that has long been associated with the catching position couldn't be further from the truth! Catchers are constantly thinking and can never take a play off.

The catching position is the single most important position on the diamond. Some people will argue that the pitcher is the most important and if you look at all the athletes taking private pitching lessons, it would be hard to disagree. I DISAGREE though. While pitching is a very important position and the private lessons are needed, the position does not come close to the importance of the catching position.

A pitcher takes lessons with the ultimate goal in mind of throwing strikes. Those strikes become meaningless when the catcher drops the ball or has to chase a ball that gets passed them. In which case, the backstop would have been just as effective as having a catcher. Unfortunately, most of the time catchers are taken for granted. Coaches assume that because they are in the bullpen catching pitchers, they are getting better. This is not the case and often times catchers can actually become worse from their time in the bullpen. Bad habits develop when the catcher becomes physically tired and mentally out of place. In turn this will also have a negative effect upon the pitching staff. When the catcher becomes "out of it" physically or mentally, they are not allowing the pitcher to pitch with confidence or ease. The pitcher feels as though they need to be perfect and they can't throw their "best" stuff on the 3-2 count with the man at third base, because every time he/she throws that pitch in the bullpen, it ends up at the screen.

At Back-2-Back, we are changing the way the catching position is viewed. We challenge each and every catcher to focus on those small details that will pay big dividends in the end. We no longer want a catcher to be viewed as the worst athlete on the team or to be known as wearing the Tools of Ignorance. Our goal is to get each and every catcher to understand the leadership they provide to the entire team, physically and mentally. We want them to know why the way they set up is so important, how using the proper mechanics while blocking and throwing is a skill set that needs to be worked on daily, and the true importance of being a mentally tough catcher that has goals for each bullpen session as well as every game.

We are transforming the next wave of catchers from wearing the Tools of Ignorance to wearing the Tools of Intelligence! This new wave of catchers will understand the value they bring to the park each and every day and how their play alone can impact the entire team.

Written by: Jeremiah Knackstedt