DUNEDIN, Fla. — If baseball’s catchers were school-age students, they would be seated at the front of the class.
Toronto Blue Jays minor-league catching prospect Mike Reeves said as much Tuesday at the Bobby Matticks’ training facility in Dunedin, Fla., when he acknowledged that players in his position often make good coaches and managers.
“They say catchers are like player/coaches,” said Reeves. “They call us player development.”
Reeves, a Canadian first drafted by the Jays out of high school, credits several of his past and current coaches for his success in the game, and his understanding of how to direct and control the pace of the game.
He has been at minor league camp for a month and has even spent a few days up with the big-league camp.
Catchers spend a great deal of time at spring training, receiving pitches and absorbing more coaching than the average player, he said.
“Busy’s a good way to describe it,” Reeves said.
The Peterborough, Ont., native attributed much of his ascent in baseball to mentors and coaches like his father Greg, a former hockey player for the University of Pennsylvania; Sal Fasano, former major league catcher and current Blue Jays catching instructor; and Dan Bleiwas of the Ontario Blue Jays.
Reeves said he still speaks with Bleiwas on a weekly basis.
“(Bleiwas is) keeping my mind in check,” he said.
In college Bleiwas would help with his mechanics, Reeves said. Now the emphasis is on building relationships with pitchers in order to get them comfortable as efficiently as possible.
It’s all part of his education in catching. Under Fasano, that process has sped up.
“For the past two and a half weeks (Fasano’s) been here, I’ve learned more about catching than I have my whole life,” said Reeves. “If you went into the clubhouse right now, I’m pretty sure half the coaches were old catchers.”
Last season, Reeves played with the Vancouver Canadians and put up a .275 batting average along with a .984 fielding percentage in 55 games.
Catchers are like directors on the field, taking responsibility for communication and having a unique perspective on the field of play, he said.
“A pitcher has one goal: to throw strikes,” he said. “A catcher has to know everything.”