Firm Foundation Catching with Danny Sheaffer
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development
Danny Shaffer – firmfoundationcatching.com – 18 year Professional Player Career & 19 Year Coaching Career.
On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayer sits down with Danny Sheaffer
Show Notes: In this conversation, Danny talks about:
- His catching career and how it prepared him for what he is doing now.
- Why catchers are a different breed.
- What is most misunderstood aspect of catching?
- Why his started his website firmfoundationcatching.com
- What is receiving and why is it important.
- The mindset one must have when it comes to receiving.
- His thoughts on the robo umpires.
- The importance of game management as a catcher.
- What is pitch calling and how does one develop the skills.
- What is blocking and whats important to understand.
- The importance of footwork and throwing.
- The mindset it comes when it comes to throwing.
- What is play at the plate and what must we understand?
- Fielding bunts and everything that goes into it.
- and much more.
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Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:00 On today’s show. I sit down with Danny Schafer and we’re talking catching and his eight major areas of focus.
Intro: 00:00:11 Welcome to another episode of the baseball awakening podcast where we dive into the raw unfiltered unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Geoff Rottmayer
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:35 [inaudible]. Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, I am Geoff Rottmayer. Today I am sitting down with Danny Schafer. Danny began his career with the Boston red Sox after being selected in the first round of the 1981 major league baseball draft. During his 18 year playing career, he spent eight sleeves in the major league with the red Sox, Indian Brockie and the Cardinals. Since then, he has spent the last 19 years that a manager or a catching coordinator in the Cardinals at throat and rays organization. Danny had managed every level of the minor league baseball and created a developmental catching program for the st Louis Cardinal and the Houston Afros during hit you as in player development. He had won many awards in each of the organization that he’d been a part of. Very excited to have him here. Danny, how are you sir?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:01:35 I’m doing well, Jeff.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:01:37 Awesome. Well look, I really appreciate you coming on. So Danny, sir, you have been 18 years in professional baseball, eight of what you spent in the big leagues. So, and I want to talk today about about catching but let, but can you kind of take us through your playing career and thumb, nothing that you’ve learned along the way that had helped you do what you’re doing now and that coaching catchers?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:02:05 Well, I started out, um, obviously I’m not going to go through the little little league and all that stuff, but I actually took it as a dare from a kid on the playground and, and went home and told my dad I wanted to play ball and he said, go in the backyard and play with your brothers. And I said, no, I want to play real baseball. So he took me down and signed me up for five bucks and a couple of kids got hurt. The first practice, I didn’t even own a glove and they put me behind the plate. And next thing I know, two years later we’re playing for a burst in the little league world series and, and moved on to Clemson university. Um, played there for season under coach bill Wilhelm and um, personality conflicts back then. We were all young and dumb the one time and, and uh, I ended up getting ready to move on to Oklahoma state, but before I did, I sat out for about a year and, and um, ended up being a first round draft pick with the Boston red Sox and that in 18 year playing career, which is at this year, spring training will be year number 40.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:03:05 Nice. You know, so you’re, you’re, you are a catching guy. The let, let’s talk and catching, you know, themes like whenever I talk to catchers may seem to be a different, a different breed. You know, these guys have so much fun in store. My passion or the cadre position, what is it about that position that makes it so fun?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:03:30 Well, that’s all I ever did until I got to the big legs. When I got to the big leagues, you know, I ended up moving around the field a little bit, but, but primarily 14, 15, 1600 games behind the plate. Um, it was a, it becomes a, an obsession because it, you’re involved in every play. Um, it becomes one position that you can take ownership of that. You know, when you, when you really, really, really feel like you’ve had a part of it. But unfortunately when you lose, you feel like you were all the responsibility. That’s why you lost. And so I kinda like the feast or famine mode and you’re correct guys that, that, uh, are behind the plate, not just for a year or two, but for, for decades. Um, they’re, they’re a breed apart and, and, um, there, there are a lot of fun to be around and talk to.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:04:26 Yeah. What, what would be something in regard to catching, what would be something that seems to be misunderstood?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:04:36 Well, again, it depends on who you talk to, but, um, with the, the analytical changes in the game and with, uh, all of that, I would have to say that, that, you know, I think the general public really thinks, and actually some coaches really think this as well, that we can actually make a ball a strike. And you know, although it may seem like that at times from Statcast and looking on television and, but when you get with really good on pyres, these guys are really, really good and, and, and they’re not fold. Um, you know, we, we, we kind of take pride into stealing pitches into, into manipulating the game and, and all of that. But when you really look at the game, uh, from reverse and you look at it from the standpoint, the games over, go back and replay it. These empires don’t miss too many pitches and, and I think we take more balls out of the strike zone and we actually bring back into the strike zone.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:05:32 Hmm. Interesting. You have a website called berm foundation, kaching.com and you elaborate on eight major focus and I’m not sure if you listed those by priority, but the first one you have on there it receiving. So what is it about receiving that we must understand and why is it important for catchier to really understand this?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:05:58 Well, first I’d like to say why I did the DVD. It’s a digital download or a, or a regular hard copy. I did that because I got really frustrated in the game, uh, from not just, um, at the pro level, but at the amateur level too. Just a MIS misunderstood, uh, responsibilities of a catcher and actually teaching the skill. My responsibility in, in professional baseball for years has been to develop majorly catchers. And, and having seen the demise of the, the receiver over the years, I decided to, to, to put the actual program that I wrote for the Houston Astros and I wrote for the st Louis Cardinals in digital form, so, so everybody could see it. And, and, um, and when I did that, I prioritize what I feel are the, the highlights of the position and obviously number one was receiving. And that leads to your question. I mean, look, if we’re catching any game, whether it’s a seven, any amateur game or whether it’s a nine, any professional game you’re looking at, well over a hundred pitches in and each one of those pitches have to be received or, or attempted to be received. And so to work on any other skill as a priority is really, really missing the boat.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:07:14 Yeah, I agree. So what, what about a mindset, you know, mindset, everything in this game. So what, what is the mindset the one month have about receiving [inaudible]
Danny Sheaffer: 00:07:26 well, obviously if we catch, if we ha if we call a game and there’s 125 pitches, we have to catch 125 pitches. The mindset has to be that you’re going to catch every pitch that your going to present every pitch as a strike, uh, potentially block every pitch that has the potential for being in the dirt and, uh, and go from there.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:07:51 Nice. You elaborate on this a little bit. When we were discussing the misunderstood aspect of catching, you know, Dale’s guy had Dale Scott on the show. He, they a, a former MLB empire and I had them on this show and he talked about how the whole framing the ball with actually kinda hurting guys more than it with helping. So, so when it comes to the framing concept, what would be a rule of thumb or is there one [inaudible]
Danny Sheaffer: 00:08:22 yeah, I mean Dale’s right, it has hurt. Um, it has hurt this game more than it has helped this game really. And I’ve talked to a lot of major league umpires too, and their, their mindset is this, they’re gonna make up their mind as the pitch is crossing home plate or even before. And so the ability of the catcher to change their mind, I think it shows the, um, the inability of an empire to, to really hone on his skill. And, um, when we think that we can take the ball four inches off the plate or three inches down and manipulate an umpire, then we’re not really giving credit to that guy behind the plate. And quite frankly, I don’t think any catcher would want that pitch called on him. So, um, we’re at a turning point in the game where receiving is, is, is, uh, um, being abused, I believe by gurus and gadgets and gimmicks and, and things like that where, uh, eventually this game is a cyclical game. It will come back and circle. It may not come back to where it used to be, but it’s going to be the guys that have the softest and quietest hands that are going to be able to Excel in this game.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:09:34 Okay. That, that was going to bring me to my next question was, you know, what, what was the alternative man? You said, you know, the stop hands, you know, though, you know, the, for the people that are listening, can you kind of explain that a little bit more? The, the, the thought pans?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:09:51 Yeah. Um, well, most of the, most of the movement on the pitchers are within the, the, the last 10 to eight feet home plate and, and, um, and so if, if your hands are prepared for that movement, um, and not preset or not getting, you don’t get your hands arm extended that much and you’re able to receive the ball as if I use the, I use the term an egg, an egg or a water balloon or something like that, that if you, that if you grab something or if you snatch at it or if you stick it, uh, those things are going to break. And, and, and so the baseball’s no different. Um, there are certain pitches that you need to get to and get to extension, but not, not most of them. And, um, and so when you’re playing catch and the balls come in at you, anywhere from 80 to two 95 miles an hour or even faster, if we add to that velocity by pushing the ball instead of letting it come to us and just, we’re creating an environment that’s not gonna work very well.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:10:54 Nice. So just like everything out. No, let, let the ball come to you. They’ll let, let’s say a pit like a slider, you know, a, a pit that breaks a lot. What, what the profit there?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:11:10 Well, I think it has a whole lot to do with who’s on the mound and the situation. I think it has to do a lot with the account. I think it has to do a lot with the area, with the conditions of the field. And there’s so many things that go into it and we’ll talk about that in game management later. But I, but I really believe that, that, that, um, if we know the ability of our pitcher and, and we know what he’s capable of doing, that’s how we set up. Um, we can’t expect a guy, if he’s got, he’s got a pitch that he’s, you know, 50% on as far as execution and we’re setting on the outside inch and a half or two inches of the plate. We’re asking for trouble.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:11:49 Hm. Interesting. So I want to get into the game management part, but, but one last thing before about receiving before we do, um, what are your thoughts on the, the robo umpires and what would that do to the art of receiving? That’s it. What impact will it have?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:12:11 I think the guys that had had the softest and quietest hands are going to come back to the forefront. I really do. I think all the, if you can watch Twitter all day long and you can see Gracie stuff behind the plate and, and to me it’s just, to me it’s snake oil. It’s not going to last. And if, and when we go to robo lumps, which we may because they’re already at that in the, in the Arizona fall league and independent ball has already seen it. Um, I’m not sure I’m a big fan. I love the human element of the game. But also I like the fact that that uh, those that are trying to manipulate the game behind the plate, um, their, their, their actual skillset will diminish, uh, as the game comes back into, to full circle when a strike is a strike. And I really don’t think anybody wants the plate to be wider than 17 inches.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:13:02 I mean, think of any other sport. Do we ever want the basketball rim to be bigger? Do we ever want the goalpost to be bigger or something like that or the hockey goal? I mean, there’s games based on, on, on some things that are unchanging. And so yes, we have the human element, but, um, you know, the human element can change. I mean, and I’m probably, I don’t know if he misses a bitch and, and believe it or not, whether they want to admit it or not, they’re gonna try to make that up later on in a situation that’s not that critical. But they’re there. We like the human element because that whole relationship with the umpire, um, um, I would much rather be behind the plate with Roger Clemens on the mound or Lee Smith on the mound, uh, or Dennis Eckersley on the mound than a rookie out there on the mountain with better stuff because Clemons is going to get the strike. And so Zachary Lee, because they’re respected by the umpire, where you run into problems is when we got Eckersley or Clemens on the mound and you have Tony Glenn or kangaroo jr at the plate. Then what do you do? It, it becomes fun.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:14:07 Yeah. You tucked on the, the game management in that really the, the second thing on of you’re, you’re a major focus that on the firm foundation, catching.com. What, what is game management?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:14:23 Well, I mean there’s a giant umbrella there. And I had this question asked by a major league general manager one time and, and, and um, you know, I think my answer actually was very satisfactory to him, but you know, it encompasses, you know, all of pitch calling the umpire catcher relationship, the manager of catcher, relationship pitcher, catcher relationship, how you control the tempo, the game, your leadership quality abilities, you know, accountability, uh, behind the plate preparation, um, all of that stuff. And uh, you know, ultimately to, to reach your final goal of, of managing the game correctly. You’re shaking hands with the, the wing pitcher at the end of the game.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:15:08 Nice. Well, let’s get into the pitch calling. This is an area that coach, you know, especially at the younger level, this is an area that had been turned over to the coaches and the kids are not really learning so well, what did pitch calling in and how does warn kinda, you know, start developing and start processing the skill?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:15:33 Well, you know, in a nutshell, um, if I’m just looking at a garden variety answer, um, and we can go into detail if you’d like, but when, when calling any certain pitch, there’s, there’s, there’s basically four criteria that need to be met. Some are real simple. Um, but, uh, really the, the number one thing is the ability or inability of the pitcher to locate that pitch. And quite simply, if a, if, if, if a guy can’t hit a slider at the plate and the pitcher can’t throw a slider for a strike or anywhere close to the strike zone, we can that. And that’s not any good. But, um, if the pitcher’s ability is to be able to locate pitch a, then that’s the one you call. And, um, but there are some things that go into that, you know, and, and I think one of the last things to be considered is the hitter at the plate, unless his name is Barry bonds.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:16:27 But, um, when you, when you look at a pitcher’s ability to throw a strike, that’s the one you call and you gotta look at the scoreboard. I mean, as the score seven to nothing in the eighth inning, I wouldn’t mess around with pitchers third or fourth best pitch in any situation. I’d go right in the hitter. The count plays in big time when you’re calling a ballgame. I think the catcher really needs to know what the statistics are throughout baseball in certain counts because it really does matter. Um, you know, for example, if the counts, Oh, it’s counts. Oh and two or one and two on any given hitter. You know, the major league batting average is somewhere around one 60 and, and, and maybe a little bit less now, but especially with all the strikeouts, you know, but, but it’s account. But as accounts two and over three and one the major league batting average is three 50 or three 60 I mean, quite frankly, that’s because they know what’s coming in.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:17:18 And so you really got to dictate, you know what the count is behind the plate in your pitch calling. Because when you get to a one one count, throwing the ball on that, on that, on that count versus throwing a strike on that count. And that’s clearly done by the pitcher’s ability or inability to throw the strike. The batting average changes 170 points from a two one, two, a one, two, yeah. So you gotta throw a strike. And so then you look at this conditions, the situation, you know the wind, I mean if you’re in Wrigley and the winds blowing in, throw the ball down the middle. I’m not gonna hit it out. But if you’re in course field and the wind’s blown out, better keep the ball down. And so just situations like that also with a man on second base and nobody out, you know, I know the shifts come into play now, but hitters trying to get the runner over and if he gets him, he gets a right hand or gets a pitch out over the plate and given it to him, you know, you gotta make sure you pound him in or keep it down so he can try to pull the ball.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:18:18 But those are the criteria that goes into going into pitch calling.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:18:22 Nice. So, so a lot of paying attention and understanding. So what would a pregame conversation between a pitcher and a catcher, what would the pregame conversation, what, what gets discussed during this time?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:18:38 Well, um, I’ll just tell you how it’s been done in the past. I think I had some of the past, some of the best with Dave Dunkin in st Louis and Tony, the roosters were, who was the most prepared manager I’ve ever played for in my life. Um, we made sure that, that we picked out a guy or two in the lineup that we did not want to beat us that night. And so, and usually in the big leagues everybody can beat you. But um, in general, there’s, there’s two or three guys that you don’t want to beat you. I mean, when you’re facing the Astros’ now, good luck, um, more than nationals, but usually you just make sure that you don’t pitch around those guys. You just make sure that, that you don’t give in to those guys. And, um, there’s, um, there’s the aspect of turning the ball over to the bullpen and you know, who’s going to match up with who, what left-hander is going to match up with this left-hander and vice versa. But it’s really a, a blueprint on how to succeed that day with a couple of amendments. If this happens, we do this, if this happens, we do that to where there’s never a situation you’re in on the field and you don’t know what to do.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:19:49 Yeah. Well, what about today in today’s game with all the analytics and the numbers, does that have help or that just stop?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:20:01 No, it, it, it does help. And anybody that says it doesn’t really hardheaded and all of that, look it, this, everything has changed. This game has changed big time and, and more information is better, but it’s also not the end all. And, and so when it can, can be combined with the human element and with the, with the knowledge of the past, I think it’s a win win situation. But I think if you take it as an either or instead of a both Andrew and trouble.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:20:31 Yeah. You had mentioned um, leadership, uh, yeah. Leadership quality for captured, which is super important. Can you talk a little bit about why the important bit catchy to take that leadership role?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:20:46 Well, someone to be accountable,
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:20:48 someone needs to be, someone needs to, to, to, to wear it and when it, when it goes bad and, and someone needs to give credit to someone else when it goes good. So, I mean a catcher that that is quick to point blame, will have a very short career and is not going to be well liked at all. A catcher that’s willing to take responsibility, a catcher, this, that, uh, um, will more than willing to, to go the extra mile to put the work in, to, to, to encourage his teammates to, to Edify as teammates and so forth. And, and to be able to be, to be able to take the blame when it’s not his fault, um, is, is, is really, really important. Cause that’s where the buck really stops. Um, you know, it’s uh, you know, for example, coming back to the, dug out a pitch, he gets hit in the gap and to run score. And, um, why did you call that pitch? Well, because the pitcher shook me off that, that doesn’t work. And so, um, be able to just take owners. So does, um, you know, I talked to a couple pitchers and they said if they’re on the same page as the catcher, um, then eventually the Kachin node what they want to throw. But the pitcher is in complete control of, of the pitch calling. Is that, is that right?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:22:16 Yeah. Yeah, pretty much. Um, now it changes a little bit with all the analytics that we know and the shifts and all of that stuff. But in general, um, if, if the buck stops on the mound, uh, obviously that, that, that the catcher can reach swings, that pitcher can read swings and, and all that stuff. So we may change midstream based on something we’re seeing that day that really isn’t in the notes, but just kind of a gut feel. But yeah, I mean, you’re always [inaudible], you’re gonna find catchers that are catchers and pitchers, especially pitchers that say, yeah, we were on the same page. Everything was clicking. Yeah. You never hear that. When they lose the only one, they win. And so, um, that’s why this game is so wonderful. It’s the human element is huge, you know, and you can do everything right and still get pounded too, or you can, you can throw a hang and breaking ball and pop it up. So it’s, it’s, it’s cool.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:23:11 Yeah. So that brings me to that catcher pitcher relationship. You know, how, how important is that for a catcher to take that extra step? You know, maybe they don’t like the guy, but it got a work together did, did to get guys out. So how important is that relationship?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:23:32 Well, the team is obviously more important than itself. And, and, and I can be honest with the ICAD guys that I would go, I’d take a bullet for, and I caught guys that I wouldn’t throw a bucket of water on if they’re on site. Um, but having said that, uh, for that two to three hour period, you know, we are on the same team and, and, uh, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to shake hands at the end of the wall in anything we can to, to, to help that that’s wrong because it’s not as on Island, literally by himself. And he gets the w and L behind his name or the save and, and, and so they’re all temperament or they’re all, they’re, they’re, they’re all very, very fragile on the mound. It doesn’t matter how tough they look. Um, and, um, you know, it, everybody’s watching them.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:24:28 They’re the ones with the ball. And, um, you know, I think when Tom Brady goes back for a pass, nobody looks at the guard always looking at him. And so it’s the same way on the mountain. So we need to understand that, that uh, you know, we’re out there every day, these guys are out there every five days and, and they have to live with success or failure for four out of those five until they get a chance to redeem themselves or prove themselves again. So it’s really, really important for them to know that we have their back.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:25:00 We talked a little bit about the preparation part. Um, you know, the whole having a game plan and looking at, you know, whatever information you have at the available, the number, the analytic, whatever, all of a sudden you have water, some of the other preparation. What, what are the preparation routine looks like for a catcher?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:25:23 Well, we’re really routine oriented. Um, every day is Groundhog day for us. Uh, obviously we have to do work in a bullpen before the game and catch sides. And do all of that stuff. And, um, but as far as just normal preparation for a catcher, it doesn’t change from, from shortstops to catch her. It’s all the same. But you know, Patrick goes through his daily routine, the bullpen. Um, a lot of it quite frankly is I wash, you know, because you can’t practice this game at game speed, but you need to do some kind of reps to, to keep your mind going and keep your body going and, and, and um, it’s a really difficult position, really difficult position to practice because you never ever, ever do it again. Speed. So you’ve got to figure out a way to speed yourself up and drills so you can actually have some quick fire muscle memory and, and all of that. So it’s a tough question to answer. And, and you know, in general it’s, it’s really hard to prepare for games. Feet.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:26:29 Yeah. So what, what about when you got a guy, um, when, when you were, let’s go back when you were in the, the player developer in the minor league, you get a young kid and he’s still trying to figure out, you know, who he is and whether he belonged and he needs to come up with a routine, you know, and everyone’s routine different. So how do you help her guy develop a routine? Do you make suggestions or how does that work?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:26:57 Well, guys who don’t have one or know what it is, they’re easy, but guys don’t like to do what they liked to do. It’s it, it pays dividends to listen to them and to let them do what they think they need to do to prepare. But also make slight suggestions one at a time to where after, you know, six or eight weeks, you know, the routine looks more defined and refined the way we want it instead of the way they want it. But they don’t even know what happened. We keep some of their ideas and so forth and you know, to, to have a my way or the highway mentality or once you fits all, uh, it is really not helpful at all. So look at the aid and just encourage them. And some of the stuff they do is not helpful at all, but they think it is. So if they think it’s helpful, I’m not going to take it from them.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:27:56 Yeah. Yeah. So can you give an example of that? You know, like what, what would be something that may be a waste of time but they think it’s helpful?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:28:06 Well, I look at a lot of robotic drills that aren’t, that don’t transition into games and that can be done with anything hitting, fielding. It doesn’t matter. Um, you know, the, the, the, the, the stuff out there that you know, is just so regimented. The throwing programs, um, you know, catchers, um, uh, catching with, um, Oh, I don’t know, real, real small gloves or something like that. And although that has some benefit to it, um, look, I, I’ve never seen any other sport and I’m not old school. I’m, I’m re, I’m a realist. Yeah. Okay. You know, you look at bowling, I mean the guys that are going out there and bowling the professional bowlers, you know, say they have a 15 pound ball with their finger holes in it, did theirs, that they pride they play with and they compete with, they’re not going to go out with a six pound ball that don’t fit their hand and try and practice. Right. And so w I think that anything that we do in this game that creates muscle memory that doesn’t transition into the game is a deterrent for the athlete.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:29:17 Yeah, I agree. You know, there, there’s a lot of crazy stuff out there, so, um, but yeah. Um, we’re, we’re talking a little bit about game management and I would love to talk more about [inaudible] and maybe I can get you on again and we can go and a little more in depth, but just the kind of get into some other topics. The next thing that you have listed on your website, it’s going to be blocking the, what were the blocking and what is misunderstood about it?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:29:50 Well, I’m probably gonna get disagreements on this, but look, I think if we block a fastball, uh, it’s [inaudible] more luck than anything else. And I mean you’ve got four tenths of a second when it releases his hand to let his home plate. And so you’ve gotta be some kind of athlete, you know, to be on time and to look good walking fast balls. And I’m not saying you don’t have to block fastballs. I’m not saying that, but I think the technique is one thing. I think his technique is geared toward the, the player. I think it all changes sometimes when guys are, are really good, umm, kickback guys like Mike Masini was, some guys are, are really good straight down guys like Yachty is and, and uh, and sometimes even on one knee, but I’m not a big fan of that. But that happens. But ultimately the, the, the, the, what you gotta do is keep the guys from advancing 90 feet and, uh, and, or advancing from home to first on strike three. So how it’s done is, is relative to who’s doing it. There is no one way to build this mousetrap, but what you have to do, it doesn’t matter what level, it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to be prepared and anticipate the ball and dirt. If you don’t anticipate it, you’re going to be late. That’s obvious. But the other, the other word that plays into it is if you don’t anticipate it, you’re lazy and we can’t fix that.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:31:17 Right. So what about different pitches with different spin? What’s a understood about that?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:31:24 Yeah. Well, yeah, you know, there, I listened to a lot of people who talk, catching and talk about a breaking ball when it hits, it bounces back the other way. Um, I’ve never caught a pitch that bounce the other way I’ve caught, I mean, it’s coming in from, from right to left, like right into breaking ball and it’ll hit, it might straighten up a little bit, but it’s not gonna bounce the other way. You know, the person with that kind of curve ball doesn’t really exist anymore. Um, but, um, you know, yeah. You gotta you really gotta know, obviously obviously different, different textures, different weather, different, you know, mud. Um, all of that kind of stuff comes into play. But, um, you know, if a ball bounces four feet in front of the catcher, you know, it’s, it’s an act of God if you’re going to block it or not, it’s almost impossible. But most of these pitches as you get to a higher level, you know, we know when they’re going to be in the dirt. You know, we, we actually, we actually, you know, engineer that pitch to be in the dirt, you know, we know that we know for properly.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:32:37 Yeah. So you’ve mentioned a couple of times and you know, weather can effect a Pitt baseball. So can you talk a little bit about the, the weather factors that catches me to be aware of in terms of how the ball moves and stuff?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:32:56 No. Yeah. Big time. I mean, first of all, if you’ve got a guy with a good change up or do you got to go with a good breaking ball now there’s a couple things. You got gravity that comes into effect. You got dragged, but now you’ve got wind facing. So the winds blowing in a pitcher’s face, that brick and ball’s gonna snap a whole lot more and it’s not gonna, it’s not going to be easy to control the change. Ups going to act like it hits a wall. It’s going to have the force of the wind going against it. Um, and vice versa. The altitude in course field and, and, and also actually in Atlanta, which is the second highest elevated ballpark in the nation and in the big leagues, um, you know, the, the road, the weather is gonna really dictate how the ball breaks and you’re not going to see a bunch of free agent pitchers signed to go there to Colorado Rocky, that’s for sure. But, um, you know, with the wind blowing in. Yeah. And, and like I said, like he used to in candlestick or, or even in Wrigley, uh, now, uh, it really determines how you call a game. Um, but it, you know, there’s a lot of foul territory in, in Oakland, you know, and challenge hitters big time there because of how much foul territories there as opposed to Wrigley field that you can shake the hand of the guy in the first row.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:34:12 Yeah. So, so with that, what would be a pitcher and a catcher? What would be the dream weather?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:34:20 Yes. From a cashew standpoint, nighttime in the middle of the summer and died or state and the bowl ties doesn’t go anywhere. Uh, yeah. But as a hitter you don’t want to hit there. But, um, I mean I would, I would just like it humid hot day where it takes pretty much the weather out of it, where you gotta hit it to go and, and, uh, um, you know, I’d like, I liked the tall grass that vaguely used to have were ground balls can get eaten up. I’m not a big fan of AstroTurf, but I know what’s out there.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:34:59 Yeah. So the for, for the people that are listening, you can start to see all the example, that thing that they’ve got to pay attention to, you know, to do. You do their advantage to get guys out though. It’s pretty cool stuff when you start to look at the details. All right, Dan, let, let’s jump to, uh, feet work and throwing. That is a, another aspect that you have on your, what your website though. Can you talk a little bit about that and what, let’s start with the, with the foot work.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:35:33 Yeah. Well, uh, again, there’s, there’s a garden variety way of looking at it. Um, some guys, some guys just pivot on their right foot and throw like a Gerardi used to. Um, there’s some guys that, uh, that, that actually gain a little bit of ground, um, but with the right foot. Um, but in general, when you look at it, when you’re looking at footwork and exchanges, our goal is to get the bone airborne as quick as possible. And, and what that means, what that means is by the time it hits your, dwells until he’s time, it leaves your right finger. Um, to me that is the critical part of exchanges and that can all be manipulated by understanding that the quicker you get your right foot down, um, the quicker you get the ball airborne. And we’re looking at a half a 10th of a second.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:36:28 I mean we’re, we’re trying to manipulate guys that are 0.65 and air exchanges to get them to be a 0.58 or 0.55. Some of the better ones in the major leagues are right at 0.5. Oh and some of the slower ones are 0.7. Oh and then you look at the end of adding two tenths of a second onto your change time. That’s the difference between one nine and two 10. And so, you know, there’s, we’ve got to get the ball airborne. We all control, all catchers can throw. I mean, I’m not talking about your 12 year old little leaguer who’s just getting onto the big field that has to have the rainbow get to second base talking about when guys get their man bodies and they start to grow up. We all can throw and there’s, there’s some out there that are better than others, but there’s very, very few that are throwing like I’m seeing on Twitter that that person doesn’t exist. Right. The guy that jumped halfway.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:37:30 Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s not good. I mean, if I was to do, if I was trying to, to make a club now or try doing a showcase, I could cheat behind the plate where I don’t think the guy running the watch would even understand. Um, but they’re looking at the pitchers throwing the ball. They’re, they’re, they’re clicking the watch when it hits their glove and they’re stopping the watch when it hit second base and they’re not really worried about, you know, how you’re cheating behind the plate, the ground, your gain and you can’t do in a game and, and, and all of that stuff. But I’m throwing is real, real important. But it’s, but it’s a small aspect of the game. Yeah. I think it takes on too much importance because we only throw two to three times a game max. And your, your average thrower in the major leagues throws out about 30% of his runners. And so you fail 70% of the time stolen bases. I’ve been way down as far as the attempts because everybody’s trying to hit the ball in the air, all the ballpark. And Vince Coleman doesn’t exist anymore and Ricky Henderson’s not running anymore. So it’s a small part of the game, but it’s what attracts people. So as far as Scouts and, and coaches, they want to know what your pop time is. I really don’t care. Yeah. We all can throw, I just want to have quickly get rid of the ball.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:38:49 Yeah. So, so with the B work, you know, you start mentioning though though time, the, the 0.58 the point by five point by zero, you know, that can make up, or the guy who doesn’t have the, the strongest arm and that’s where it becomes more important, right?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:39:08 Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you’re talking to one to my head, average on Stearns and, and, but I understood that from finally when I got to the major leagues and, and, and talk to somebody that, that, that knew a little bit more than I did. I understood that I’m in control of the ball by the time it hits my glove until the time it leaves my fingers. And if I can Quicken that up cause I’m in control of that, then the end result is going to be better. I really don’t care how hard somebody throws or how good their arm is. I hear this all the time that this guy is a catch and throw guy. He’s a catch and throw guy. We still throws out 30% of his runners. And so what’s what makes him such a catch and throw guy that’s just the term for he can’t hit. Um, but I mean I’m more, I’m a real, I’m more of a realist when it comes to throwing because if the pitcher does his job and delivers the ball to home plate at 1.3 or under, they’re not running anyway.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:40:03 So what are your thoughts on the block duty program for catchers?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:40:10 Yeah, I think if you, anytime you increase velocity it’s a good thing. Um, I also think when you try to increase the velocity, you slow down tempo, you slow down exchanges and I, I’d much rather work on quick feet and a quick exchange then then then you know, all we are is behind the plate is we’re second basements or shortstops turn into double play. They’re not, they don’t care about the velocity of, they care about getting rid of the ball at second base. And so we’re trying to get rid of the ball behind the plate.
Speaker 7: 00:40:37 [inaudible]
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:40:37 so, so for the people that are listening that maybe have a young son that catches and he’s on social media and he’s saying, gee, you know, all the deans, the only thing we focused on, it seems to be the pop time. And so what’s your thing that is going to come with the field work and that,
Danny Sheaffer: 00:41:00 yeah, you’re right. I mean, I would, I would encourage the guy when you’re in Rome, do what the Romans do. I mean, I would encourage him to really work on his exchanges and pop time to, to please the masses. But when I’m doing my individual work and I’m really honing in on what’s important, I’m really nailing, receiving and game management.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:41:19 Awesome. So, so the next thing that you have listed is the play that the plate. What is that and why is it important to understand the, how to play, how to handle play?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:41:34 Well, things have changed big time since the Buster Posey rule came into effect. And you know, uh, I’m not, look, I wasn’t on the other end of that with Posey. I was on the other end before when Willie McGee ran me over and, and, and Dante Bouchet and Bo Jackson and people like that. But, um, the rules have changed. And, and so to answer your question is we’ve got to make sure of two or three things. We’ve got to make sure we catch the ball. You can’t tag a guy until you catch the ball. We become infielders at the plate. So you’ve got to work from the bottom up. Um, I’m a big fan of leaving the mask off, take it off at the place, at the plate. Now at younger levels, leave it on. Dental bills get expensive. Um, but, uh, I can see a whole lot better, uh, honorable on a low pitch or a one hopper with the ball in the dirt than I can with a mask off than I can on.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:42:27 Um, I would make sure that I give the, the runner, uh, part of the plate to slide at. And when I get the ball, I take it away from him. I would use my gear as a weapon, um, and understand that, um, uh, the guards hurt to slide into, um, I would not shy away from that. I would, uh, I would also understand that, uh, the scoreboard I would look at, I would look, I would know beforehand and I encourage every catcher to know this beforehand, how important that run is. If that runs not going to beat you, um, or tie you and you have an opportunity to,
Speaker 6: 00:43:06 uh,
Danny Sheaffer: 00:43:07 make a play where you go get the ball. If the plays, if it’s a bang, bang play at the plate and you’re not sure you’re going to get him in it run, can’t beat you to stop the batter runner or someone else on the bases from advancing another 90 feet. So you gotta be aware of that situation too. But very few. Very few runners now. Yes, no, I would say no. Runners now try to run over catchers. It just doesn’t happen. And if it does, boy they’re chastised in a hurry. The way the rules have changed. So I would, the fear, the fear of being run over at the plate is nonexistent. We’ve politically corrected this position to where it’s almost like for them.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:43:45 Oh, so with the play at the plate, let’s say we got a throw coming from the outfield, do you guide you guide rather have a long calm or throw that goes all the way through.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:44:02 if there’s not a better runner or like a sacrifice fly or another guy going from first to third, potentially I want the ball in the air.
Speaker 6: 00:44:12 Hello with the ball in a one hop.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:44:13 If, if, if, if the ball, if the batter runner is as a chance to advance, I want the ball in the air so I can make the determination to go get it or not.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:44:22 Okay. So let’s, uh, let’s jump over to building bonds. This is where like, like you mentioned, this is where you become almost an emperor because of the different angle you got to throw and the different feet work to let you start with a well. What myth understood about building bond?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:44:43 Well, I don’t know if it’s misunderstood but, but I think you have to do again, the, the scoreboard in the situation comes into play. Uh, you got to know the speed of the runner. That’s the first thing. And, and uh, you know, the speed would run or dictates, you know, if you go ahead and clear yourself a lane to where you don’t throw the ball into his back, um, if you circle the ball down the third baseline, uh, from right to left or if you go from left to right. Um, but probably the most important thing to do on, on fielding of bun is making sure your, your, your foot work is, is, is set prior to releasing the ball. The last thing you want to do is throw a ball down the right field line and create something that, that, that is unstoppable. But, um, I think this is a skill that’s not practiced at all.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:45:32 And um, because the, the, the art of the bunk, uh, is, is slowly becoming extinct before it gets resurrected again. Um, but I would, I would really recommend catchers to, to, to, to field with two hands to use the glove as a dust pan and the hand is a broom to try to, to try to make sure you gather the ball instead of, instead of getting it with one hand the right hand, if you have to get it with the right hand, that tells me that the runners really fast and it’s going to be a bang, bang, play. Never ever, ever grabbed the ball just with your glove.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:46:11 What, what about arm slot? You know, do you, do you recommend guide, practice meeting the different throat in a different arm slots?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:46:19 Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. I would, I would practice throwing from down under, I would practice setting my feet and making a routine throw. I would practice sliding and getting a button and practicing. And I, I would think that anything that could happen in a game situation needs to be practiced from any position at any level.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:46:41 Yeah. So, so if I’m listening to this and I have no idea how hard this position is, how maybe, you know, tell it how hard is this position and the amount of work that goes into being good at it.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:47:00 We only get noticed when we mess up. Yeah. You can catch a hundred pitches and block 15 a game, which is a lot. And if you miss one ball and a guy advances 90 feet, there goes to finger-pointing. Um, I understand that there’s accountability for other positions as well, but I want to catch your, has a pass ball or a wild pitch doesn’t get blocked and a guy goes 90 feet. Um, that sticks out. And so it’s, it’s a position to where you can do everything right and no one notices.
Speaker 6: 00:47:37 Okay,
Danny Sheaffer: 00:47:39 but you do one thing wrong and everybody notices you do everything right at shortstop. You do everything right at third, he made it, made some nice plays at third and nice. You know, even good range at shortstop, everybody that’s fine, but catch your blocks of ball and it’s like, am I supposed to do that? And so it’s a, it’s a thankless position but it’s a lot of fun.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:48:02 So, so talk about the, the mental part of that. The, the, the emotional part. You know, that there I, I made a play or more like I didn’t make a play and everybody noticed it, you know, so what the conversation like they get to get a guy to get back to being present and just letting that go.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:48:26 Well, not only catching the baseball in general, but you know, especially, gotcha. This is a game where you have to have an extremely short memory. Um, you can’t focus one second on what happened one second earlier. You can’t change it. Um, you really can’t look down the line saying, you know, I’m setting up this guy for this pitch later on, or I’m looking to winnings ahead that we might face this guy later. This is a position to where it’s here and now, because if you let the here and now slip the future changes big time. And so you have to make sure that everything, 100% of your energy is on the task at hand. And when that task fails or succeeds, it’s over. And then you move on to what’s next. And so short memory, real short memory and, and uh, but also a memory that you’re able to learn from your mistakes and, and um, and there’s no, there’s no playbook for this stuff. Um, it, it’s just so hard to do this and, and uh, but again, the risk versus rewards. Great.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:49:41 Yeah. Have you had a catcher in the minor league, a guy who to trying to figure things out and he just could not get over apply? You know, I, I’m not sure you’d love to, I’m not sure if you heard the analogy, the red light, yellow light, green light content, but green line mean everything going good, yellow, the game speeding up and then red lightning do to kind of checked out. So have you ever had a guide just get so pissed off on a play that he checks the out and what does that do for the rest of the game?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:50:17 Uh, I’ve had hundreds. Um, the ones that I haven’t had like that are the ones that eventually made it to the major leagues. Now there are some that make it to the major leagues that, that can’t control, you know, a runaway truck today, they, but their ability is so great that they actually make it, but for the most part that the player that’s mentally tough that has major league talent is the one that excels. Now that’s, that’s easy to say, but there’s a bunch of players that have the talent that never get there because they’re mentally weak.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:50:56 The last part you have it pop up. Can, can you talk about that a little bit? You know, it’s a, it’s a, a much tougher play. Their looks though. Can you explain why so tough?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:51:09 Sure, sure. It’s, you know, it’s a, it’s a boring play. I mean, you know, we practices, it’s fun to practice it once in awhile, but, um, you rarely see a major league or drop a popup. You will once in a while. But you know, there are certain things that go into play. Obviously the weather conditions big time again, the sudden comes into play. The wind, the foul territory comes into play. But most importantly, the, the understanding of, of, uh, priorities when it comes to popups, um, you know, it’s, it’s really universal throughout baseball. It doesn’t matter what level you play at. Um, the, the catcher, it, you know, he’s, he’s going to get the balls behind home plate, but you know, the third baseman has priority over the catcher. The first baseman has priority the catcher. So if they call you off, let them have it.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:51:57 Um, our myths are designed not to catch balls like that above our heads, but, but we do it, but we do it. And, and, um, if you just understand who’s got priority along with what the conditions are, uh, then that’s gonna make it a lot easier. I’m going to fall down and the dog out come into play. The on deck circle comes into play. If you, you know, if a balls hit between home and third over by the dugout and the catcher calls it and he’s camped underneath it, [inaudible] going to let him have it. But if the catcher’s drifting, it’s the third basements ball. I mean it’s, you got to understand that people have priority over you. And the other thing that comes into play, and it’s at any level is, and, uh, you know, universal, the ball when it’s hit because of the spin, the ball is going to drift back towards the NGO. So you want to make sure that you keep, that, you turn your back to the Enfield. If you can, um, make sure the ball’s coming down in front of you and not right at your head, just coming down right at your head and it’s 40 feet in the air, you’re gonna miss it. Yeah, that’s about it. Those are easy place. Those are plays that are fun to practice, but they need to be taken seriously.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:53:07 Okay, cool. Cool. So Danny a, I mean, again, I really appreciate this conversation and I’ve got a couple more questions that I’d like to end up on. Let’s talk about a common myth or common myth about catching that you can or want to debunk.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:53:27 Well, it’s a real one because you know, the changes evolve in this game, but I believe, um, that I said it earlier. Um, I give on fires credits. I don’t think that we can even, I’m going to be disagreed on by a ton of people here and that’s okay. I’ll stick to my guns on this because I believe that, that, that most people think that by having such a manipulation behind the plate and being a represent balls in such a special way, I’m being a little sarcastic that you can actually fool an empire. I don’t believe that. I think you can fool a bad one. I don’t think you can follow the full a good one. Um, I think they’re really, really good. And if anybody wants to really wants to be honest with themselves, when I’m watching baseball games and a catcher moves a ball three or four inches or five or six inches and there and the announcers are talking how he framed that or how good he presented that ball. If they look and see where the ball hit on Statcast it is, it’s a strike anyway. He just moving it forward months before and she’s supposed to look like. Um, and so, you know, I think that the younger level, maybe the minor league level, I think you can, you can manipulate the game a little bit once you get to the elite levels. I think the myth that you can actually make a ball a strike is I think that’s going to be debunked. I don’t, I’ll believe that.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:54:57 Yeah. You know, when I talked to Dale Scott, um, I learned a lot and I really got a different perspective on the umpire viewpoint and stuff. So it would interesting listening and uh, so, so yeah, I agree with you. So what advice do you have for a young catcher that is listening? Maybe, maybe even a young coach or dad that wants to be a good catcher or a good captain coach
Danny Sheaffer: 00:55:27 and I would really placed in, I’m repeating, really placed importance on the priority of the skill needed. I don’t think you can spend too much time receiving, um, to, to try to, um, identify how soft your hands can be and in limit pre-pitch movement and catching every pitch. Um, I would, I would spend the time where it’s needed. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t spend, I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on, on blocking, on popups, on fouls, on foul balls. I would, I would really focus on, on receiving, receiving, receiving. You could be really good at every other skill, but if you can’t catch the ball, you’re going to play first base or third. So we’re left field. I would really focus on, on balls thrown from the pitcher.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:56:17 Nah. Then what about some of the best resources that you’ve encountered that kind of helped you along the,
Danny Sheaffer: 00:56:23 well,
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:56:24 I’m a little different than guys now cause I’m a little older, but we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have social media. Thank goodness. Um, and, and all of that I learned a long time ago. No matter what I want to do in life, that if I find somebody that’s succeeded at it, I would pick their brain until they were tired of talking to me. And it doesn’t matter what position, I mean, if I want to be in, I want to be a financial advisor, I’m going to go find somebody that works with Edward Jones that have, has had success and figured out how he did it and try to emulate it when I want. I want to find it. I want to build a house. I’m going to go find the guys that built million dollar houses and figure out how to do it. Just like a baseball player.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:57:05 Right? I sat under people going through the minor leagues that it succeeded at the highest level. And I sat there and listened to them and talked to them. And, uh, some of the greatest conversations I’ve ever had were with Johnny pesky Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, red shadings, Bob feller, and, and, um, guys like that, uh, George Kissell. Um, and just sat there and listened in and soaked it all in and kind of put my own twist on things. But, um, if I was a young player right now, I would really stay clear of gadgets, gimmicks and gurus and snake oil that’s all over the internet. And I would really search for some PE, some people that have succeeded at the highest level and figure out how they did it and try to repeat it. Yeah, yeah, I agree. You know, that that part of the reason why I started that podcast though, that I can learn from people, you know, guys like you, you know, who’ve been there and can bring, you know, some light into what’s going on.
Danny Sheaffer: 00:58:10 Well, when you have enough information to be dangerous, that’s not good. I mean, I don’t, I don’t, and I know that the internet is a great thing and it really is, there’s a lot of stuff out there. I mean my websites out there and it’s something good to go to and my YouTube channel and all of that for people to, to look at all my drills and, and, and all of that stuff. And all of them segway into a game. They transition right into a game. But you know, web MD is a great resource, but you’re not going to go to web MD for everything. You know, you’re going to go to a real doctor. And I’m not saying we have the market, us being professional baseball players or retired or whatever, have the market on this stuff. There are some wonderful, wonderful amateur coaches out there. They really are. I had one at Clemson, but, but the fact of the matter is, um, if I want to learn, I want to learn how to fix a car, I’m gonna go to a mechanic. I’m not going to Google it.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:59:07 Yeah, yeah, yeah, yup. Yup. So let, let, just a last question here. If you were a, me and you were sitting here interviewing yourself right now, what question would you asked yourself that I didn’t ask?
Danny Sheaffer: 00:59:24 Well, I think we already touched on some of it on why I did the website and why I created from foundation catching.com. But, um, I did it to, to share what I’ve learned from other people to help younger players. But, um, I guess if you’re asking something personal, I mean, it’s why I do what I do and, and it’s not for, for glory for me. It’s not for, for me to receive accolades, it’s to help the next generation of baseball players, uh, not only to become leaders on the field, but off the field as well. Because we can only play this game for a short amount of time, but we’re going to have an impact on future generations, not only in our own children, but our own community. And when we understand that, uh, all we are is, is a Baton passers to the next generation. Um, uh, not only baseball speaking, but also also social, socially and, and, and, and, and everything else. Then that’s, you know, that’s, that’s the crux of it. You know, it’s, it’s, I’m not doing it for the dollar. I’m not doing it for notoriety. I’m doing it to see the next kid reached the highest level.