The Enigmatic Catcher
This post started as a response to the Yankees signing Gary Sanchez for another year, which I think is good, but turned into something else completely. Therefore, I decided to start a series on the position of Catcher. This post turned into an exploration of my own obsession with the position, but if you are hoping for more analysis/Yankees history/etc., rest assured that those posts are coming.
I don’t exactly remember when I switched to catcher, but it was early in my Little League years. Despite being short and scrawny, even for an elementary school girl, somehow I became the main backstop for Westbrook Pharmacy softball. My best friend at the time was our pitcher, and we made up our own signs that generally meant nothing. We had one “secret play” where I would fumble the ball and then get it to her just in time to get the player at home, it worked more than you might expect. We thought we were so smart and so cool. Thus began my obsession with the position.
By the time I reached high school, I only rarely caught, spending most of my time in the outfield (except for one season at third base that I have blacked out of my memory). That didn’t stop me from always jumping at a chance to throw on all the gear. Playing catcher lead me to my true athletic purpose as a field hockey goalie. When my high school team needed a goalie my response was, I’m used to throwing on weird, clunky equipment and throwing myself in front of a ball. I never played in the field again after that day. Playing goal wasn’t far different from catcher – you were the one who saw the whole field, you are the one barking out orders when things are close, and you will throw any part of your body in front of the ball to keep it in front of you.
In college, my catching days were over and softball was secondary to field hockey, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I still would have loved to spend a few innings behind the plate. To this day, I’m still in love with the position of catcher, though a couple of shoulder surgeries have effectively ended my ability to throw a ball that well.
As I was playing catcher, my dad made sure I knew about players like Johnny Bench and Thurman Munson. Yogi Berra always makes me smile, not just because of all the Yogisms, but because he was also short for a catcher. Growing up in the 90s, I was lucky enough to what as a young Jorge Posada took over for Joe Girardi.
When I first started writing for IIATMS in 2009, Posada’s career was winding down. My duties shifted to the minors and it was fun to watch the excitement grow over “sure-thing” Jesus Montero. The Yankees’ neverending cache of catching potential has been fascinating to watch over the last decade, both in their successes and failures. Personally, watching Kyle Higashioka get regular time this year and end up hitting three homers in one game made me just as happy as watching Jeter finally hit that elusive grand slam. I’d been watching him toil through the minors with all these big names ahead of him for over a decade.
So, that’s an explanation of my catcher obsession. Something that has always been at the back of my mind and apparently needed to get out now. My plan is to delve deeper into the Yankees’ catchers, both past and present, over the coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.