Junior Dylan Nedzwecky called for a fastball and got a curveball — to the neck.
“That is just the life of a catcher,” he said.
While most of the attention in baseball goes to the pitcher, the catcher is the unsung hero on the field. The catcher is the most important position and is involved in every play.
Pitchers get all the attention and get asked how their arm feels after throwing 85 pitches in 4 innings. The catcher not only has to catch, block, and predict what to do after the pitch, but makes more than double the throws of a pitcher.
Nedzwecky makes more than 250 throws during a game. Including throws back to the pitcher, warming up the pitcher between innings, throws to second and third on steals and warming up a new pitcher, he throws a baseball nearly three miles, or the distance from Thomas Basin to Alaskan & Proud.
Nedzwecky said he feels it is more work on his body than what most people think. He estimates that roughly 75% of his throws back to the pitcher come from his knees; catchers typically throw the ball only from their knees to get the ball back to the pitcher as soon as possible.
“I think it is more wear especially because I am using primarily my arm without being able to throw the ball with my whole body,” said Nedzwecky.
Life as a sidekick
A hard part about being looked at as a ‘sidekick’ is feeling like catchers don't get the acknowledgement that you deserve.
Junior Paige Boehlert catches for the Lady Kings varsity softball team and somewhat agrees with Nedzwecky.
“Catchers aren't necessarily in the pitcher's shadow, but I feel as if people don't acknowledge the catcher as much, even though we put in a lot of work,” said Boehlert. “Catchers squat for almost half of the game.”
From the outside looking in, the hardest part about being a catcher is blocking the ball on a bad throw, but being in that position it is not the most important thing on your mind.
Boehlert said that blocking the ball is not the hardest thing as a catcher, but the pressure of making an easy error is a haunting factor when sitting behind the plate.
“The worst thing about catching is not blocking the ball,” said Boehlert. “There is a lot of pressure that comes with being a catcher because a lot of the time when you make an error the team has to pay for it. It makes me feel like I have just let the team down.”
Nedzwecky said he’s fine with being in the shadows, but would like a little more appreciation. He feels that it is hard not getting the recognition all catchers deserve, but acknowledges the most important position in the game is the pitcher.
”People are always saying ‘pitcher did this, pitcher did that’, I feel catchers don't get the recognition they deserve and live somewhat in the pitcher’s shadow,” said Nedzwecky.
But for Nedzwecky the hardest thing for him is feeling the weight of the game on his back when making an overthrow to third to guarantee that runner scoring.
“I think throwing to second is the hardest because there is a small window for error and if you mess it up it can cause your team big,” said Nedzwecky. “It makes me feel like I did not do my job well enough and the weight of the game's outcome is on my shoulders.
In a game of baseball or softball, anything could happen when the opposing team comes up to the plate. A huge duty for a catcher is holding the pitcher accountable, but also keeping the pitcher’s head up and trying to spread positivity throughout the field.
Boehlert and the Lady Kings main pitcher, Hannah Moody, have been friends since elementary school and it translates onto the field.
“We are a duo, when we are out there we can trust and comfort each other when we are frustrated,” said Boehlert. “As a catcher I think that knowing the pitcher well and being able to trust them helps a lot. It makes it more fun for the both of us.”
Boehlert said each time she goes up to comfort the pitcher the conversation goes differently, but the main goal is to keep the pitcher positive so they keep doing their job.
“It really depends on the pitchers mood, your approach to them is different every time. If I don’t know the pitcher as well, I would approach them in a more positive kind way, just try to cheer them up and tell them to shake it off,” said Boehlert.
Nedzwecky agrees with Boehlert but said if you are close with most of your pitchers the approach does not change as much as you think.
“I think I know all of my pitchers pretty well so the approach is somewhat the same, I try to comfort them if there is an error and try to be their friend,” said Nedzwecky. “The approach does change depending on the situation and I have to adjust to it.”
Tyler Slick is a senior at Ketchikan High School. This feature story was written for the Kayhi journalism class.