PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Brett Sullivan enters his first spring training in a place he didn’t expect to be: behind the plate.
The Tampa Bay Rays 17th-round selection in the 2015 draft isn’t totally unfamiliar with being a catcher, as he was a full-time backstop throughout his high school career.
The 22-year-old is quite excited with the change of position.
“At the end of last year, I got moved back to catcher,” the former shortstop explained. “I feel like that’s the most natural for me.”
The University of Pacific alum is in a unique situation, as most organizations transition younger players out of the catching position and into another area on the field. The catching position is an extremely difficult one to excel at, especially for younger players.
“It’s still a lot of hard work catching all these guys with such good stuff,” Sullivan said. “Everyday you just got to work at it.”
Sullivan knows success can be achieved behind the plate.
“Catching, it feels good and natural,” explained Sullivan. “I love being into the game as a catcher you’re into every pitch.”
As a somewhat older player in camp, Sullivan understands the importance of leadership within an organization.
“You’re calling pitches and you have to stand up and be a leader and I feel like that fits me good,” Sullivan said. “I’m vocal, I feel it’s the best one for me.”
Sullivan was drafted by the Rays for his electric bat speed that led him to hit .275 with 11 doubles, five triples, seven homers, and 28 RBIs in 207 plate appearances at the University of Pacific.
The former infielder batted .260 with 20 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, and 31 RBIs in 265 at-bats in his rookie campaign with the Princeton Rays last season.
“Growing up in Northern California I was the biggest (San Francisco) Giants fan so I loved (Buster) Posey,” Sullivan joked. “He was a catcher but he was known for his hitting and I feel like that goes into my game.”
If the Tampa Bay Rays get anywhere near Posey-like production from Sullivan, then the Rays will have pulled off one of the most difficult position changes in the game.