Angels Catchers

Due to storms in the Peoria area, tonight’s game was cancelled.  We are making up the game as part of a doubleheader that will begin at 5pm CT.  The team is not crazy about the start time; we would have preferred it to be earlier since we have to travel home after the games tomorrow night to play a 2pm home game on Sunday due to a scheduling quirk.  Rainouts and their subsequent makeup doubleheaders are appreciated by players due to their favorable format of two seven-inning games, which results in four less innings played over the two-day format than the 18 originally scheduled.  However, it is preferred that rainouts occur in the middle of a long stretch, not toward the beginning like this one (we just had an off day Tuesday.)  But, with there being only 12 scheduled off days for the entire season, any rainouts are helpful for making it through a long grind.

These next two days are going to be a grind due to unfortunate scheduling, so I am going to use it as an opportunity to do another timeline as I did in my May 2 post.  Based on comments I received, that post was well liked, so look for that in the next few days.  In addition, I recorded a radio interview today discussing the blog and it will air at 4:40pm CT prior to tomorrow night’s game.  The link for the broadcast can be found here: http://www.kernels.com/radio.html.

A reader asked me to discuss what it is like being a catcher in the Angels organization, an organization that prides itself so highly on its catchers.  This is not surprising since the Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, was a Major League catcher, and the catcher development in the system definitely reflects his passion for the position. 

Other organizations often ask what the Angels are doing with their catchers to develop the quality in the position that they have become known for possessing.  For starters, one reason has to be that we work harder than any other catchers do in baseball.  From the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training, anytime we took the field, we were always doing something to improve and always paid attention to the smallest detail.  The drills we work on are receiving, transfers and throwing, blocking, plays at the plate, bunts, and pop-ups.

While we take our time to go through these drills to make sure we are doing them correctly, they are done with high intensity at game speed, and we are always running from drill to drill.  Our work is designed to both improve our skills as well as our conditioning.  We pounded these skills during spring training and we continue to work on these skills several times a week during the season.  We get refreshers when our catching rover visits, but we do them on our own throughout the season.

During games, our play is heavily scrutinized, with the number of balls we block and drop being kept track of in addition to the passed balls and wild pitches that show up in the box score.  Contrary to some thinking, we are not actually “taught” how to call a game.  That is a skill developed over time by learning and understanding pitchers, as well as through guidance from managers and coaches and trial and error.

If there is a common thread throughout all of the teachings throughout the organization as it pertains to catchers, it is the strong emphasis on the pitcher and catcher relationship. When a pitcher is comfortable with his catcher, he is confident and will perform at his highest level.  For this reason, fostering and maintaining these relationships is crucial for a catcher’s success in the Angels organization.  These working relationships are so strongly valued that they are viewed at the same level of any other stats kept track of by the organization and can be enough reason to keep a mediocre performing offensive catcher around for several years.

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