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BC Catcher

Catcher Tony Sanchez taking the signal from the Boston College bench

I have noticed a trend of coaches relaying pitch signals to catchers. I’ve seen it at many high school games. And, I’ve seen it at almost all college games I’ve attended. While watching a Boston College game this season, I noticed BC catcher Tony Sanchez wearing something on his forearm resembling a quarterback wrist coach. Sanchez receives the sign from the bench, consults the paper taped to his arm, and then relays the sign to the pitcher. The system works for being competitive in a given game, but I wonder what sort of an effect this has on the catcher over the long term.

One of the major responsibilities of the catcher is to call the game. Know the pitcher’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Know the scouting report on the opposing hitters. Take that knowledge and orchestrate a perfect combination of pitches and locations over the course of the game that will keep the hitters off balance. This is no easy task, and one of the reasons why the catching position is the 2nd toughest on the diamond. I can see how college coaches would want to take control of this responsibility. Winning is king and their livelihood might be on the line. But…high school? Are we taking too much away from these kids?

Clemson catcher

Allowing high school catchers to call the games could accomplish three things:

1. Keep them in the game. When you’re calling a game, you constantly have to be thinking and on your toes. When you are relaying signs, you could fall into a less focused mode.

2. Teach them to think for themselves. Do we want to be sending these kids out into the real world with this notion of taking orders and being fed all the answers? I know…it’s deep. Think about it.

3. Prepare them for the next level. Maybe if catchers were allowed to call the game at the high school level they would be better catchers at the college and professional levels.

What do you think about this trend? Is it good for baseball? Is it good for the kids? Does it have anything to do with the shortage of good catchers in major league baseball? I would love to hear from some current or former high school/college catchers on this.

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There were many scenes like this one at the BC-Clemson game, but the Eagles didn't take their big lead for granted.

There were many scenes like this one at the BC-Clemson game, but the Eagles didn't take their big lead for granted.

It is rare that you see a team sacrificing with an 8-run lead, but that is exactly what the Boston College Eagles did on Friday in their game against Clemson (ranked #20 in the country).  In fact, they attempted to do it on two occasions. In the bottom of the 4th up 8-0, DH Matt Hamlet advanced Robbie Anston to 2nd base with a sacrifice bunt.  With the same score in the bottom of the 6th inning, the Eagles tried it again (this time with a runner on 2nd base with 0 outs).  Was this unconventional? Was it a sign of respect for the Clemson Tigers? Should teams with big leads take this approach more often?

boston-college-vs-clemson-012

In this game, I think we had a case of a coach understanding that a team like Clemson could put up a lot of runs in a hurry. By bunting, BC Coach Mik Aoki sent a message to his kids that there was a lot of game left to be played and they still needed to fight for every run. It was even more important to send the message in this game seeing that 7 of their 8 runs had been scored on homeruns and the fact that it was the first game of a three game set. Losing a lead like that in game 1  could have been a devastating momentum shift. Rest assured Eagles fans…BC extended its lead and rolled to a 13-1 win.

I’d like to see more coaches manage in this fashion. Don’t think just because you put up some crooked numbers early in the game that it will happen again. Play for one. Those insurance runs can really drain the opposition emotionally. Do you agree?

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