DUNEDIN, Fla. — Being behind the mask at the home plate of the baseball diamond, Zack Sardellitti of Maple, Ont., understands his crucial role of catcher on and off the field.
The Canadian National Junior Baseball team began their training in sunny St. Petersburg on Monday where players and coaches gathered to get ready for the international championships in Seoul, South Korea.
The role of the catcher is important because he not only controls the pace of the game, but he’s the only player on the field who can see everything that goes on and must be able to communicate with all of the players.
“They [catchers] control the pitchers’ pitches and try to predict the outcomes,” said Sardellitti while sitting in the dugout. “They control the pace of the game and almost everything else.”
Sardellitti’s teammates, all under 18 and from across Canada, agreed on the 17 year old’s grasp of the game and his ability to foster a close relationship with the pitchers and the coaches.
“Half the pitchers here I’ve played with before on a different team. The relationship between me and the pitchers is so important,” he said.
For Sardellitti, it’s important to be a leader in the clubhouse as well as on the field. His teammates say that in the real world he’s shy and unassuming, but as soon as he enters the clubhouse he is a different person; he puts his game face on and you can measure his intensity.
A large part of that passion is the on-field chatter, something Sardellitti believes is crucial to pulling the squad together.
And those verbal communication and leadership skills shine through and have caught the eye of scouts from Division I schools who have tried to lure him. In November, Sardellitti decided to throw in his lot with Central Arizona College.
Central Arizona is one of the top baseball schools in the United States and Sardellitti hopes he’ll bring some depth to the squad.
Sardellitti believes he has a realistic shot of making it to the majors and his leadership behind the plate will help to carry him there.