What Got Me Started With the Best Position on the Field
People ask me a lot when or why I started catching in the first place and it’s a pretty unique story especially considering I was 6 and catching was most definitely not cool when I was kid, like it is now. But I fell in love with the position and never looked back.
I asked my mom to move me up to 8U after my first year of T-Ball, I was over that stuff and I wanted to see real pitching. So I was 6 years old playing with 7 and 8 year olds, the smallest on the team and my skills weren’t really that great yet. But I loved it and I wanted to get better.
I still hadn’t dipped my toe into the catching pool yet, you could usually find me in right field not getting much action. Until the day that everything changed because of two very important details: Jenna Stark, and my mom was my coach.
It seems silly now considering I catch pitchers that throw about 70 mph now, but at the time, Jenna threw HARD. The hardest in all of 8U actually. So you can imagine the panic my mom experienced when our catcher was crying before the start of a game saying “Jenna throws too hard.” So my mom being who she is, pulled me over and said “Aubree do you think you want to try catching?”
Jenna’s mom who was also a coach was so concerned for me, she said, “Denise you can’t put her back there!”
To which my mom replied in true Denise fashion, “well I can’t put someone else’s kid back there.”
It wasn’t an issue because I was more than willing to try. Honestly, I thought the gear looked cool. So in the opening of the dugout my mom clipped on my shin guards and chest protector, placed a mask on my head and gave me my sister's hand-me-down glove. As I waddled (because the gear covered every inch of my body) I’m pretty sure she said something like “just keep your glove up.” And then she told Jenna not to be careful because she also looked scared for me.
The first pitch of the inning sailed right passed my glove and hit me right in the stomach. My mom and Jenna’s mom came rushing out of the dugout asking if I was okay, to which I replied, ”Whoa, I didn’t feel a thing. This is awesome!”
In that game I caught TWO balls. The rest I deflected with my body or chased around the backstop. But you would have thought I caught every ball if you saw me practically skipping to the car probably with a Capri Sun in my hand. At the end of that season Jenna’s mom gifted me my very own pair of shin guards and I couldn’t have been more excited. I fell in love with the position that year. I had no idea where it would lead me but I knew I had found something special.
So when people ask me how I got into catching I usually tell them, “The other catcher started crying and I was the only person my mom could force back there because I was her kid.” It’s true and I love that that is how I started because I may have been put back there in a pinch that one day, but I fell in love and chose this position over and over again over the last 20 years without ever looking back.
I’m so grateful my mom put me back there that day because in one game I saw the it from a new perspective that made me want to be involved in every play. It made me want to make a difference on my team. It made me want to be as tough as I felt in the gear. I already said this but I really had not idea that it would one day lead me to Team USA and the Olympics because I was just a kid who loved what she did and wanted to be the best at it. I wanted to perfect the craft because it was typically under appreciated and no one really cared about it back then. Fast forward 20 years (because now I’m 26) and now it’s a day with it’s own national holiday. February 2nd. Get it? 2/2/2020, it’s awesome.
So to all my fellow C’s put there, I hope you enjoyed this February 2nd because to be honest we don’t always get a ton of recognition. But I think that’s the beauty of it, our position is about being selfless and it’s about being whatever our team needs. So take the encouragement when you can get it and continue to be the best you can be for your team and know that what you bring to your team every day matters. You have an important role. Own it today on #NationalCatchersDay and everyday.