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Softball Excellence DUGOUT

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Softball Excellence - Insider Article 0144 - 4 Systems for Signaling Pitches from the Dugout

4 Systems for Signaling Pitches from the Dugout

By: Cindy Bristow

Are you using the right system to signal in pitches to your catcher? Do you know the 4 systems you could be using to make sure your catchers are getting the right information as fast as possible?

Fastpitch Softball Systems for Signaling Pitches from the Dugout coaching tips and tricks

If youre a coach that calls pitches for your catchers then the signal system that you use is very important! Your system needs to be simple enough for your catchers to understand and yet not so simple your opponents can pick it up. See if you should be using one of these 4 signal systems.

Whatever signal system you use should apply to each pitcher on your staff, be the easiest method for whoever is calling pitches and the fastest one to relay information. In addition, your signal system must not only indicate which pitch is to be thrown but the specific location as well.

Fastpitch Softball Diagram 1 the 4 main corners of the strike zone

Before we look at the 4 main signal systems lets quickly talk about pitch locations. The diagram on the left shows the 4 main corners of the strike zone that a pitcher will focus on; Low-Inside, Low-Outside, High-Inside, High-Outside. In addition, as your pitchers control increases you will want to want to create signals to have the pitcher throw the ball 1 ball off of each of these 4 locations  either 1 ball away from the location (shown in Diagram 1 by a F following that locations number for a flash of that location number), or 1 ball above or below the location (shown in Diagram 1 by a W for a wiggle of that number). The other dotted circle on Diagram 1 indicates a pitch off the plate for a 1-2 or 0-2 count by a signal of emphasis. The number for the pitch location is given (1-4) and then some type of emphasis like a pounding (P) of the glove or clipboard or leg.

OK, with that said, lets check out 4 different signal systems for calling pitches from the dugout!

  • Number System: In this system you create a number for every pitch. Keep in mind if none of your pitchers have one of the following pitches then you dont need a signal for it. So for instance, your pitch numbering system might be 1 = fastball, 2 = dropball, 3 = riseball, 4 = curveball, 5 = screwball, and a 1-wiggle = changeup. All of your pitchers might not have all of these pitches, but your numbering system should include all the pitches that any of your pitchers have.

    You would also have a number for each of the 4 parts of the strike zone that we previously talked about and the quantity of off-pitches you want as well (pitches off of each of these 4 locations).

    If you use the number system youll flash the numbers for both the pitch and the pitch location with your fingers. Youll first signal in the pitch, followed by the location. To help keep your opponents from picking up your system youll place a dummy signal either before the pitch, or after the location. You can switch this up for each game as long as your catcher knows what your single order is for that game.
  • Face System: The face system designates a certain part of your face for each pitch and a certain part of your face for each location. You would also create a key place on your face - like maybe your nose - so that all parts of your face don't count until you touch the key - your nose - and then the first place you touch after the key is the pitch and the 2nd place you touch is the location.

    This system can be tough for catchers when you first start using it, so go slow at first until your catchers really get the hang of it. This is a really common pitch signaling system among college teams since the face is always visible from the dugout no matter what type of dugout you might be in.
  • Wrist Band System: This system has all the different pitches and location listed on a card that's placed in a quarterback wristband that's worn by both the person calling the pitches as well as the catcher. The person calling the pitch simply looks on the wristband, finds the pitch and the location they want - and then signals in that particular number. The catcher then finds that number on her wristband and calls the corresponding pitch and location. This system is fast and pretty fool-proof since the catcher has all the pitches and locations listed on her wrist band. In addition, the numbers for pitches and locations can be changed each game by simply creating a new card to slip into the wristband.
  • Location System: The final system gives the catcher more flexibility in learning to call her own pitches. The coach signals in - using any method preferred - the location for the pitch and the catcher then figures out which pitch this particular pitcher has to call in that particular location. So, if the coach wants a Low-Inside pitch she would simply signal that particular location to the catcher who would then decide which pitch to actually call for that location.

    Once your catcher gets pretty good with this system you might want to give your catcher more freedom to call her own game by signaling in the NO location  thats the location in the strike zone you DO NOT want the catcher to call, but she would be free to call any of the other 3 zone locations.

I hope this helps you. For more information on calling pitches you might want to check out the following:

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