An Amateur Coach’s Memoir from the Pro Spring Training Camp | FRIDAY DIGITAL

An Amateur Coach’s Memoir from the Pro Spring Training Camp

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

Participating in the spring training camp following the fall training camp, but an unexpected situation occurred.

Green River Continent, who was summoned as the catching coordinator for the SoftBank Hawks’ 2023 autumn camp. He gained the trust of players and coaches alike, leading to his invitation to the 2024 spring camp.

During the autumn camp, he experienced giving lectures to the battery coaching staff, whom he met for the first time, about the overview, significance, and practice methods of framing. Overcoming this, he expected less pressure during the spring camp. However, there was an unexpected request from the Hawks’ staff who invited Green River.

In Part 1, we introduced Green River’s struggles as an amateur coach facing professional coaching staff during the autumn camp. In Part 2, we will deliver the ordeal of the amateur coach who was tasked with the monumental mission of explaining the overview and intent of framing techniques to the NPB umpire corps during the spring camp.

Green River Hiroshi (Hiromu Midorikawa), born in 1991, is from Nagoya City. He played baseball at Okayama Kansai High School and Rissho University. Although he has no professional experience, he has a wide range of coaching experience, from amateur to professional players, in researching and instructing catcher technique called framing.

“I feel like my coaching of framing during Kaji’s voluntary training has been picked up by the media, and there’s this weird atmosphere where framing equals umpire versus catcher, which didn’t leave a good impression on the umpires either.


Because of this, the Hawks want to explain to the umpiring crew that ‘learning framing is an effort generally aimed at reducing the number of pitches called balls for pitches that are typically considered strikes, particularly those thrown low.'”


The reality is that framing has sparked a lot of debate, with many voices on both sides. Especially when it comes to pitches thrown low, the approach can sometimes appear as if the catcher is significantly moving the mitt, leading to criticism as so-called mitt manipulation or deception of the umpire.


On the other hand, MLB catchers have widely adopted this technique, and there are even statistics showing that framing has increased strikes called, leading to more players in Japan adopting it as well and being positively viewed by fans.


In this situation of conflicting views between framing and umpires, Midorikawa was entrusted with the important task of facilitating dialogue. How did he navigate what may seem like a tight spot from the perspective of baseball fans?


“At first, the schedule didn’t align well with the umpires, and it was supposed to be just a casual chat at the bullpen. However, when we got to the camp, the schedule was set, and we were going to have a formal presentation using a monitor in a meeting room.


It turned into quite a big deal, so the team was considerate and asked, ‘What do you want to do, Midorikawa-san? We can explain it ourselves.’ But since I had come this far and never had the opportunity to speak to NPB umpires like this before, I said, ‘Let me do it!’ (laughs).”


Alone in the bullpen, he complained to the umpires about his framing intentions.

It became a situation of going to pick up a chestnut from the fire, but once it reached this point, there was no choice but to brace oneself. With determination, Midorikawa prepared the materials and practiced his speaking just like when he presented to the coaching staff, and proceeded with the preparations for the discussion meeting. However, just like during the autumn camp, things didn’t go according to plan for Midorikawa during this camp.

“On the day of the discussion meeting, when I went to the bullpen to check on the catchers, I found all the umpires practicing strike calls behind the catchers.

Of course, I couldn’t just ignore them and had to go greet them. Mori (Kenjiro), the chief umpire, asked me, ‘I heard there’s a briefing today, what’s it about?’ So, I told him, ‘The media has been covering it in a somewhat unconventional way, and the topic has taken precedence, so I’m concerned that umpires might not have a good impression of framing and the Hawks’ efforts. I want to explain that we’re not doing this to deceive the umpires.’ Then he asked, ‘Oh, what do you mean?’ So right then and there, I ended up talking for about an hour and a half to Mori, Vice Chief Umpire Kasahara (Masaharu), and Supervisor Hirabayashi (Gaku) about the overview and intention of framing, as well as the actual initiatives we’re implementing.”

What stood out as a key point in the evaluation by the umpiring crew was Midorikawa’s perspective that when the mitt drops or flows upon catching, it makes it difficult to call a strike, even if it technically is one.

What stood out as a key point in the evaluation by the umpiring crew was Midorikawa’s perspective that when the mitt drops or flows upon catching, it makes it difficult to call a strike, even if it technically is one.

Coincidentally, as initially proposed, it turned out to be a one-on-one discussion at the bullpen, and moreover, Midorikawa ended up explaining it for a long time by himself. However, the response during the conversation was excellent, and the reaction from the umpiring crew was favorable, creating a very friendly atmosphere.

The key point of evaluation by the umpiring crew was Midorikawa’s perspective that when the mitt drops or flows upon catching, it makes it difficult to call a strike, even if it technically is one.


When catching off-speed pitches, if the catcher moves the mitt to follow the movement of the changing ball, even if it passes through the strike zone, the catch often ends up being in a significantly different position, causing the ball to also move further from the base. An illustrative example of this would be the incident in 2016 when then-Giants’ pitcher Mike Nikorak got angry when the catcher, Seiji Kobayashi, dropped the mitt upon catching.

To prevent this, in framing, the mitt is placed on the trajectory of the ball, and the approach is made opposite to the direction of the ball’s progress, preventing the mitt from flowing and ensuring a good catch. This also contributes to what is known as stopping the ball, a crucial aspect of catching.

“When I had the chance to speak with the umpires, I conveyed that ‘It’s better for the mitt to stay up rather than dropping, and it’s easier for judgment if it moves inward rather than outward,’ and they responded with ‘That makes sense.’

 For instance, in the scenario of a called third strike after two strikes, if the mitt drops or flows despite the ball passing through the strike zone, it can be uncomfortable for the umpire. So, if the mitt consistently catches sharply without dropping, whether it’s a strike or a ball, it would make it easier for the umpire to judge rhythmically.

However, I also explained that the approach of framing might involve large preparatory movements to place the mitt on the trajectory of the ball, which may appear as if the catcher is moving it significantly. Yet, it’s important to clarify that this is not done to turn borderline pitches or balls outside the zone into strikes.”



The preparatory movement referred to here is the action of lowering the mitt significantly when catching, a movement that has become more common among catchers in recent years. By directing the mitt from a lower position to the upper (center) position, it becomes easier to approach especially low pitches.


It’s easy to understand when watching the footage from the center camera during baseball broadcasts, but by lowering the mitt first, the movement to catch becomes more significant. As a result, there are instances where it appears that the mitt is being moved after the catch, or where it is actually moving after the catch.


“I tell the players that if the mitt moves after the catch, it’s considered a ‘catcher’s error.’ However, the reason it moves is because they’re trying to make the best approach to receive the pitch. I made sure to convey to the umpiring crew that it’s not done with the intention of deceiving the umpire.


When I instruct players, I emphasize the importance of not self-judging. Only framing on crucial pitches, borderline pitches, or critical moments can be interpreted as an attempt to deceive the umpire. 


What’s crucial for catchers is to have as many pitches as possible called strikes by the umpire. To achieve that, they need to make the best approach for every pitch. As a result, they should simply follow the umpire’s judgment on strikes and balls.”

”As a catcher, the important thing is to get the pitcher to call as many strikes as possible on the pitches he throws as hard as he can,” said Midorikawa.

The position of the mitt when catching the ball influences the judges.

The position of the mitt when catching the ball influences the judges.


As Green River engaged in various discussions and exchanges of opinions with the umpiring crew, it eventually became time for the scheduled briefing, and Green River headed towards the conference room where it was to be held.


“When I brought the umpires to the conference room where the analysts and team staff were waiting, they were like, ‘What were you guys up to?’ in a friendly manner. I just said, ‘Oh, we were just chatting away,’ with a laugh. I also thanked Mr. Mori, saying, ‘We had a very informative discussion, and I learned a lot.’ 


Then, I presented data from the analysts showing the number of instances where pitches that should have been strikes were called balls, and how the Hawks had fewer of those last season. I explained that reducing this discrepancy was the team’s goal, and that’s why I was brought in. I also explained this to Mr. Manabe, who wasn’t in the bullpen, and answered any questions he had. Finally, Mr. Manabe introduced me to everyone, saying, ‘Green River here is a junior from Kansai High School,’ which got everyone laughing.”


Framing is not a technique to deceive umpires but rather an approach to make umpiring easier. While there are indeed benefits to keeping the mitt steady for easier judgment, some argue that umpires only see balls passing through the zone, so catching should not affect judgment.


“In terms of the rules, that’s correct. However, umpires train their ‘tracking eyes’ to follow the ball with just their vision, without moving their heads.


In this context, it’s crucial to observe from release to catch, so the way the ball is caught can indeed influence judgment. I gained confirmation of this during the camp, and we also heard from umpires that ‘it’s difficult to call strikes if the mitt isn’t visible during the catch.'”


The umpiring crew expressed, “We now understand what framing is. There are people practicing with misconceptions out there. If it’s the correct approach, we want all 12 teams to adopt it, and we want Midorikawa-san to spread it further.”


If framing techniques improve and their principles become widely known, it could potentially resolve the catcher-umpire standoff. With fewer strikes being called as balls and both the catcher’s and umpire’s skills improving, Japanese baseball may be at the forefront of such a relationship. And it was initiated by one amateur coach leading the charge.

  • Interview and text by Diceke Takahashi

Photo Gallery3 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles