I am looking for a way to communicate with my catchers, so that we can can attempt pick-offs at 1st and 3rd while getting the defense ready, without tipping off the offense....we call the pitches. 14uB
I`d like also to get my #4 and #6 involved in attempts as well as my corners. Mix it up if you will.
What have you used...
We use the shoulders for a pick off. Left shoulder pick at 3rd, right shoulder pick at 1st. For the 1st & 3rd situations we use the knees. Left knee throw goes to F6, right knee throw goes to F4.
To mix it up a bit, we can do 1st, 2nd or 3rd sign. If runners get on, our catcher calls out the outs, and gives the signs, if there isn't a play she wipes her chest protector calling off the play. Once the catchers get used to doing it, it doesn't take much time between pitches.
I coached at that age and level and had pretty good success with just calling out the pick off fielders first name. "Let's go Julia!" can sound like random encouragement and you don't have to worry if the sign got seen.
One of my favorites was to yell out "play it half way Julia" with bases loaded and have F3 move up a step. The catcher then does what looks like a pick off to 1B to try bait the runner at 3B to go. F3 comes towards the ball and throws right back to catcher without trying to tag at 1B. Pitching on that team wasn't great so we had more pick offs than K's it was great for my two catcher's, but eventually teams would figure out they just had to be patient and not lead off much or steal. I can remember one game where we threw out the first 6 baserunners to get out of the first two innings. I was starting to wonder if the opposing coach was ever going to learn. At 14B I think most coaches are assuming the catcher/SS combo can only pull off a reasonable throw/tag to 2B about 25% of the time. If you really work throwdowns in practice it can make a huge impact on the game at that level.
The next year we played 14UA and it got boring for the catcher's because the opposite was true. Everyone gave the catcher's so much respect that there was little stealing going on.
we always have some balls laying around the bucket the coach is sitting on. If the coach picks up a ball in the right hand , its a pick at first & the left for third. this can be done pretty discretely.
If you have fielders with the same names it's a problem. And if you are playing in a league (seeing the same teams over and over) you can't use it too often - but you'd be surprised at how little recognition there is because it sounds like you are just telling a player to be aware of a ball hit in their direction.
We practice this play to perfection ... or close to it :~) The pitcher is to throw outside and up to allow the catcher to pop up quickly. The 1B and/or 3B are to play up a little to entice the runner to take a bigger lead on delivery. The SS or 2B breaks to the bag on delivery, hopefully beating the runner to the base.
I've found this to be very effective - and save it for second and third or bases loaded situations ... and I love doing this at 3B with 2 outs - the runner is usually trying to get a good break so she can score if the ball gets by the catcher. We use our aggressive defense to take advantage of the opponent's aggressive baserunning.
I hold up either a fist (first base) or a thumb (third base). My catcher then stands up to get the infield's attention and flashes the same signal.
Have your catcher call out numbers when there are baserunners on. Like 32. Have a predetermined number, say 8. When the catcher calls out 2 numbers that add up to 8, that is the pickoff play. We use one where the catcher will call 35 (8) with a girl on 3rd. 3B knows the play and plays way up like defending a bunt. She may even yell "watch bunt". Runner on third sees this and many times her coach tells her to go down the line as far as the 3B goes. At release SS runs to third, pitcher pitches out and catcher immediately fires to the SS at 3rd. This play has worked very well. Just make sure you call out numbers when no play is on. We add the numbers to make the actual call number so it's hard for the opponent to pick it up. If the target number is 8 the catcher can call 35,53,44,17 etc. You can use the numbering system for pick off plays at other bases with different call #'s. The girls picked this up pretty quick.
We let our catcher make the decision on making the pick off. If she thinks she can get her she has the green light at all times. The first and third base person knows to be ready on every play as well as the out field for back up. Of course you need to have a smart catcher with a confidence that you trust.