The Braves spent their first of two first-round picks on Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers earlier this week.
In the spirit of adding a young catcher to the system, Braves veteran backstop Tyler Flowers recently explained the art of catching with Atlanta media.
Here are some of his thoughts on the position and memories of his own development:
On why can it be difficult for young catchers to develop:
A: There’s definitely a lot of facets to it. You’re expected to perform both sides. When you get to this level, the game really changes on you. Maybe it’s changed a little bit in the minors since the last time I was there, but the majority of your game-planning and scouting is between you and the pitching coach on whatever team you’re playing that you played a couple weeks ago. That’s what you base most of your game plan off of.
“So maybe now it’s more in-depth, but obviously up here it’s extremely in-depth. Every count, every situation, home-away, left-right, umpires; there’s a lot of things you have to be aware of, recall in the midst of 30,000 people screaming with a runner at third and one out. It’s just a lot of things that can run through your head. It takes time to be able to simplify and slow those things down, retain all that information that you’re relied on to have in a game situation.
On the leadership required from the position:
A: It’s definitely different because you have to be able to relate to 13 different personalities and help them help themselves at times with whatever tough spot they’re in. Pitchers tend to live a little more life and death with every moment, every pitch. That’s typically not the reality. You find a way to relate to each one of them and help them realize we’re just going to execute a pitch, get a guy out and do it again.
On how a catcher’s personality can rub off on a team:
A: You look at some guys out there that are super high energy, really bouncing around. I personally don’t believe in doing it quite that way, but you can see how that team tends to be more that way. You see some guys who are a little more lax, I think Mac (Brian McCann), where he’s pretty relaxed and everything – unless someone bat flips and he stops them before they get home (laughs). But that’s how he’s viewed, very calm and confident. He’ll jump on you when he needs to. I think that carries over to the whole group to some extent.
So is leadership the most important trait for a young backstop?
A: If you say yes, then how do you evaluate it? The complete rah-rah kind of approach from some catchers, albeit more at the collegiate level, it’s not my style. I don’t think it’s a style that’s necessary. I think it can work. Look at more of a Buster Posey college-style, I think he was more lead by example. As far as the quality of his at-bats, getting runners over, his demeanor behind the plate, his communication with the pitchers – that stuff can be more valuable than necessarily being rah-rAh. (Leadership) is definitely part of it, but everybody has an opinion on what kind of leadership you want from a catcher.
How long did it take you to grow comfortable managing a pitching staff?
A: I got thrown into it early in my career, but I had a mix. Three of my guys (with the White Sox) were veterans, a Cy Young under their belt, and the other two were rookies. I got up before they made it up, and I controlled more so what they were doing and the plan of attack. So I got both ends of the spectrum at the same time. It’s something that can be beneficial, seeing Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy, you get a better understanding of certain things, sequences. Even just the communication between the two of us. It’s stuff you can take and use with the younger guys and in how you communicate with them.
I got lucky to have both ends of it from the beginning. It takes a little bit of time, just depends on who you’re working with, whether it’s someone of the same age, same time in big leagues, it’s a very even, open dialogue. But when I was working with Jake Peavy, he did most of the talking. I rarely was going to be like ‘Eh, I think that’s a bad idea.’ Whereas with younger guys, it’s me doing most of the talking and sharing my thoughts on it.
A: It has helped, yeah. I had a lot of young pitchers in Chicago and in the bullpen as well. And my Spanish got pretty strong as well. We had a lot of Spanish speaking guys there as well. That’s a whole other thing too. That’s part of the game now. Julio (Teheran) is kind of the exception that speaks perfect English. I think about (Arodys) Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez that we’ve had. We had a number more in Chicago that didn’t speak English. ... That’s part of the game, too.
Does it help when a player has caught for three years at a high level of college ball? Does it translate?
A: Experience translates. That’s part of it. (Langeliers) has caught guys who have sinkers, breaking balls. It’s not going to be a whole lot foreign. Maybe the consistency of those pitches. Different zones to work with. Those are the adjustments you have to make. I don’t think there’s as much reliance on pitching coaches at this level as far as mechanically cleaning it up in the middle of an inning or in between outing. You’re a little more independent in that regard. You’re the one who has to communicate with them in the midst of an inning or outing if you see something different and help them correct what it is. There’s a lot going on. We could have this conversation another hour and we wouldn’t cover it.
Obviously you have to deal with a lot more pitchers, plus if you’re on a team like ours which is young, we have somewhat a revolving door with relievers that adds to it. We have five other guys we have to know because they could be up here tomorrow. Not to mention you still have to try to hit major league pitching, which is rarely fun. Signs, everything with that, those are getting more complex as we go. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
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