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Catcher. Shortstop. Who Is Softball's True Field General?

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(Photo by UCLA Athletics)

Every team has its General. Some may rally behind a seasoned senior, others around underclassmen stars. But the majority of the time, it is either the catcher or shortstop who takes the lead on a softball field. Either position can prove to be an extremely important and powerful leader on the field, but which might be arguably a better choice in controlling the defense? Well, let’s take a look and find out.

Take Sis Bates, for example. During her time at Washington, she proved to be not only a generational superstar, but also a formidable leader for her team both on and off the field. Having a strong middle infield to help support the battery and take pressure off of the catcher when it comes to running the game is an invaluable asset to a team. With Bates’ knowledge of the game and skill, it wasn’t hard to see that she was a clear leader for the Huskies.

On the other hand, Alyssa Garcia provided a stalwart defense behind the plate for UCLA during the 2021 season. Just as a strong middle infield can help take pressure off of a catcher, a strong catcher can help take pressure off of the middle infield. Shutting down baserunners, maintaining good communication with teammates and possessing the ability to run the game are all crucial aspects of what separates a good catcher from a great catcher, and consequently help to identify standout leaders of a team.

Now, there are multiple arguments for who would be a better option to lead the defense. However, with the right amount of team chemistry and skill, there really is no wrong option. In the end, it all comes down to how the team is run, and how each player works with each other. In order to identify these players, however, we may look at several baseline rules.

First, it is imperative, if not most important, that they possess knowledge of all aspects of the game. Take catchers, for example. If a catcher has the ability to control the game completely from behind the plate, call pitches and instruct fielders on situational strategy, it relieves pressure from the entire team as a whole.

A strong shortstop may possess each of these qualities, as well. But they simply cannot see the entire field like catchers can. When the ball is in play, they will always have their backs turned to at least one aspect of the play, while catchers have the entirety of the field in their line of sight.

This is where good, strong communication comes into play. Some teams have catchers line up their middle infielders for relays, while others may do it themselves. Regardless, there needs to be seamless communication and chemistry in a relay in order to execute a play, especially at the high levels of college softball.

Lastly, it is crucial that the defensive leader possesses the ability to maintain their composure, especially in high-stakes situations. Without a calm, level head in the middle of a storm, the entire foundation of the team risks collapse. This is, sometimes, a natural quality that cannot always be taught or honed. But for those players who do have it, it should never be underestimated.

Now, again, the best leader on the field of course is subjective to how each team is run. Some may have a strong shortstop, while others may have a knockout catcher. For those that have both, I’ll let you do the math.

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