Catchers must also react quickly to the bunt. The way that a catcher goes after a bunted ball has a lot to do with the runner being safe or out, or, as in the case of the New York Mets in the 1973 World Series, can have a direct bearing on the outcome of the game. In that Series, on a ball bunted on the third-base side in front of home plate, the catcher fielded the ball incorrectly. As a result, he threw it past first base, allowing several runners to advance and contributing to the Mets’ demise.
On all bunted balls, the catcher should scoop the ball by bringing his mitt and his hand together on the ball in much the same way that an earth-moving shovel used in construction scoops soil. As catchers develop this skill, they may then be able to flick the ball into the throwing hand with the mitt and quicken the process, but this technique is not recommended for beginning catchers. After scooping the ball, the catcher makes a quick right-left with his
feet as discussed in “Catcher Throwing” on page 82 and throws to the base.
On balls bunted on the first-base side in front of the plate, the catcher should take his first few steps directly toward the pitcher’s mound and then turn his shoulders to first base and field the ball (see figure 4.29). This path gets his body parallel to the foul line and in good position to make the throw. On balls directly in front of the plate, the catcher should move quickly to the ball and turn his body as he is scooping the ball. Then all he needs to do is the prescribed footwork and throw.
Balls to the third-base side require another technique. On these plays, the catcher should first move directly to the left of the plate in foul territory and take an arced route to the ball (see figure 4.30). This path gets the shoulders lined up with first base, allows the catcher to gather the ball, and makes an accurate throw possible. Some catchers like to take a direct route to the ball in this situation, but the problem with this path is that when the catcher scoops the ball, his back will be facing first base. He then has to spin around to his left side and pick up his target while doing so. On a “bang, bang” play, the catcher will have to hurry his throw, increasing the chances for an error.